Nicole Kidman

Occupation: Actress
Date of Birth: June 20, 1967
Place of Birth: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
Sign: Sun in Gemini, Moon in Sagittarius
Relations: Father: Antony (biochemist); mother: Janelle (nursing instructor); sister: Antonia (TV reporter); husband: Tom Cruise(actor); kids: Connor Anthony, Isabella Jane (both adopted)
Education: High school dropout


Nicole Kidman on turning to acting as a teenager out of embarrassment over her inability to tan

THOUGH she could claim the dazzling particularity of being a leggy redhead in a sea of leggy blondes right from the start, Australian actress Nicole Kidman might have remained lost in the SoCal shuffle for years had she not forever distinguished herself by winning, at age 22, the heart and hand of Mr. Hollywood himself, Tom Cruise, whom she wed in 1990. Talk about breaking into the biz. Not content simply to remain the envy of women everywhere, Kidman immediately announced that she intended to fashion a cinematic résumé for herself that did not list marriage to her superstar hubby as the biggest accomplishment of her career. True to her word, she freed herself from the stigma of being "just" Mrs. Tom Cruise with 1995's To Die For, in which she delivered a stunning lead performance as a predatory, fame-hungry housewife with an insatiable desire to achieve television fame.

Though she was born stateside in a Honolulu, Hawaii, hospital, and thereafter briefly lived in Washington, D.C., where her father was conducting research on breast cancer, Kidman was raised in Sydney, Australia, from the age of 4 on. The elder of two children, her childhood was profoundly marked by the social activism of her parents. Her ardently feminist mother refused to buy her a Barbie doll  showing an early flash of self-reliance, the willful tot stole one  and young Nicole and her kid sister were frequently charged with passing out political leaflets and were each expected to discuss and debate at least one current event with mom and dad at dinner every night. Exercise was also a point of emphasis in the Kidman household, where dad made his girls begin every day with a regimen of push-ups and jumping jacks. Though she didn't take to acting immediately, the energetic youngster demonstrated an early penchant for scene-stealing when she played the part of a sheep in her kindergarten Christmas pageant. As she laughingly recalled to one interviewer, "I bleated through the whole show and got in trouble for turning the Nativity into a comedy."

Kidman's demonstrable affinity for the stage notwithstanding, it was a youthful obsession with ballet that firmly rooted her interest in the performing arts, and she trained extensively in dance, drama, and mime. Though she was never less than gifted artistically, her pale skin and unruly red curls made her a bit of an outcast among her tanned and fair-haired schoolmates, and matters worsened with the onset of puberty, when she shot up to 5 ft. 9 in. by age 13. Desperate to escape her unusual appearance, she withdrew into the world of acting, and soon became a regular at Sydney's Philip Street Theater. Heartened by the rousing reception her abilities earned  director Jane Campion, then a film student, saw a 14-year-old Kidman perform and sent her a personal letter of encouragement  she diligently applied herself to acting, and in 1983 she made a striking television debut in the Australian film Bush Christmas, which became a national favorite and still airs each December.

With a movie career beckoning and a crisis looming at home  her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Kidman was 17  the rising actress dropped out of North Sydney High to devote herself entirely to film and family. Mom eventually recovered, and Kidman had become a film and TV veteran by 1989, when she made her U.S. debut in director Philip Noyce's terror adrift thriller Dead Calm. By that point, Kidman had added an inch to her already striking height, and the rest of her body had long since caught up to the once gangly arms and legs that had been the trial of her early teenage years. Though Dead Calm, in which she and Sam Neill defend their yacht against the sinister incursion of a high-seas drifter played by Billy Zane, was only a modest financial success, it sparked a mad scramble among producers and directors to spearhead the ravishing redhead's next project.

Eventually, she settled on the car-racing drama Days of Thunder out of a desire to work with Cruise, who later said of their initial encounter: "My first reaction to meeting Nic was pure lust." Following a whirlwind courtship, the two actors were wed at a top-secret Christmas Eve ceremony in the resort town of Telluride, Colo. Friends warned the bride that her career identity would be swallowed up in the swirl of publicity surrounding the charismatic Cruise's every move, but Kidman began laying such doubts to rest just months after the wedding, when she snagged a high-profile lead role opposite Dustin Hoffman and Bruce Willis in Billy Bathgate. The movie opened to mixed reviews, but Kidman drew raves from no less an authority than co-star Hoffman, who phoned pal Cruise during filming to express his amazement at her abilities. She took another step forward when she teamed with Cruise for Ron Howard's sweeping historical epic Far and Away. Though made the subject of massive amounts of hype prior to its 1992 release, Far and Away established a pattern of middling commercial returns and modest critical praise that characterized Kidman's next two efforts, My Life and Malice.

She banished both demons in 1995 with a smart, sensual turn amid the star-studded cast of the summer smash Batman Forever, and proved herself more than capable of carrying a film all on her own with the breakthrough success of Gus Van Sant's To Die For. Given her pick of scripts thereafter, Kidman settled on the lead role in an adaptation of Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady, to be directed by her long-ago advocate Campion, who was riding her own wave of accolades stemming from The Piano. Her transfixing portrayal of Portrait heroine Isabel Archer resoundingly confirmed the promise Kidman had shown in To Die For, and the following year she and TV hottie George Clooney were the superstar tag-team handpicked by producer Steven Spielberg to star in the rogue-nuke thriller The Peacemaker, the first feature film to be released by the mega-hyped DreamWorks studio.

Together with their two adoptive children, Kidman and Cruise split their time between homes in Los Angeles, New York, Colorado, and Australia. A full-blown wilderness warrior away from the movie set, Kidman enjoys hiking  a pastime she and Cruise have pursued even to the hinterlands of Nepal  rock climbing, scuba diving, and skydiving. Hollywood's most famous super-couple ended up devoting most of 1997 to shooting starring roles in legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick's erotic psychological thriller Eyes Wide Shut, which was released in summer 1999. Because her Eyes Wide Shut role was smaller than her husband's, Kidman was able to also film 1998's Practical Magic, with fellow super-cutie Sandra Bullock. Future projects for the stunning carrottop include starring roles in the thriller Criminal Conversation and Ang Lee's planned adaptation of Berlin Diaries.

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