Nicole Kidman is back in movie theaters this weekend, and in Nashville, that isn’t just a figure of speech. Kidman stepped into the Belcourt Theatre in Music City — where she and husband Keith Urban call home — for a pre-show discussion about her new movie, The Northman, for a sold-out crowd that had just learned Kidman would be stopping by just over 24 hours ahead of the screening. PopCulture.com was on hand for the event, where Kidman talked all about making the Viking epic, including some of the highs and lows of starring in such an elaborately made and authentic picture.
She noted ahead of filming, director Robert Eggers, whom Kidman praised as an “auteur,” sent her a copious amount of research, including lengthy discussions on mythology from various professors. The 54-year-old star noted she was “inundated” with all the background. She also noted there was a back and forth over her character’s dialectic, which was ultimately changed despite Eggers’ resistance. Plus, the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with production, adding increased costs as a result. (Kidman notably praised New Regency Productions for sticking with the film, which cost a reported $70-90 million to make.) And of course, leaving your family to shoot a movie overseas during a pandemic is a big ask for any star. However, once Kidman got to Ireland and started shooting, her hesitance soon faded.
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“I arrived in Belfast in the middle of COVID, and I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m here,'” she recalled. “The next day I was on a mountain, riding a horse. It was a very small horse because the Vikings had small horses because they were sturdy horses. But, even my horse was almost blown over by the wind. Luckily I can ride.”
She continued, “I saw villages that he built that were researched, and it was like stepping back in time. I thought I was going to be terrified and exhausted. Instead, my Viking blood came out, and I was exhilarated. And I went over going, ‘Oh my God, I just want to go home to my family.’ And by the end I was calling Keith going, ‘I love it here.’ He’s like, ‘You’ve got Stockholm syndrome.’
“I didn’t want to leave. I was completely captivated by whatever you want to call it, the spirits … I can’t recommend it enough… It’s where they shot Game of Thrones, as well. But to be shooting at 3 a.m. in the morning, dressed in authentic Viking clothes, shoes. Everything was authentic; they’d woven. And it was freezing, and there was like blood and sacrificial things … And I’m like, ‘Yeah!’ So, I have parts of me that will remain hidden to everyone else that are in this film.”
Elsewhere in the discussion, which was helmed by Belcourt Executive Director Stephanie Silverman, Kidman also detailed Eggers’ process for single-shot scenes. While it could be a trying experience, the thrill of working on a project of The Northman’s caliber made it all worth it.
“You’re doing 40-50 takes because you are trying to get the whole scene in a single shot, and you’ll see this in the film. There will be certain shots where it takes time and precision. And, a lot of times as an actor, you are going, you have to lift your level in terms of your stamina because you have to be delivering because you never know, which is the one that he’s going to go, ‘Print, got it.’ And I know on this, a lot of the times, because of the way that we’re shooting it, especially when we’re on the mountains and there’s a one-shot deal, the wind would ruin the camera roof. It would be perfect and you’re getting to the end and then suddenly there’s a gust of wind and the camera moves, and that’s it because it’s on the crane and that shot’s gone.
“And that can be very frustrating as an actor. But, I think because I’ve worked with a number of these directors that do this, (Stanley) Kubrick being one of them. I’m actually working with one now, Lulu Wang — who did The Farewell — and she tries to shoot a lot of the things in one single take. So it’s hair-raising, and you don’t have a backup, anyway. So you’ve got to come in with an enormous amount of stamina, would be how I would put it, and concentration. But it’s exciting and thrilling.”
The Northman, co-written by Eggers and Sjón, is in theaters now. Kidman plays Queen Gudrún in the film. Gudrún is the mother of protagonist Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård), a viking warrior on a quest to avenge his father’s death.