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‘Margot’ helps Nicole escape the funk

Nicole Kidman volunteers that she was in a funk as far as acting was concerned.

She rediscovered her love of acting, though, while making “Margot at the Wedding.”

Writer-director Noah Baumbach‘s dark comedy – with a touch of Ingmar Bergman – is about wedding plans that go awry with the arrival of Kidman as the bride’s older sister. Kidman plays a writer who can’t help speaking her mind whether it’s about the groom-to-be (loser), her quiet young niece (clearly autistic) or the bride herself (why doesn’t she look you in the eye?).

For Kidman, it was another character who throws verbal bombs while putting on an innocent face and thus was reminiscent of her suburban wife willing to kill to achieve fame in “To Die For,” the 1995 satire that signaled she might be more than the sexy chick of her early roles or celebrity spouse of her first marriage (to Tom Cruise).

Next up? Kidman returns home to film Baz Luhrmann‘s WW II-era “Australia.” She becomes a German palm reader in Stephen Daldry‘s “The Reader,” and she’s in Chris Weitz‘s upcoming fantasy “The Golden Compass.”

“I’ve worked since I was 17 and you go through ebbs and flows,” Kidman said. “You know, the balance between your actual life and your working life … ‘Margot’ came at a time, I think, when I was just ready to be awakened as an actress.”

When producer Scott Rudin sent her Baumbach’s script, she didn’t think she was right to portray the spoil-sport older sister, a Manhattan author. Then she saw his “The Squid and the Whale,” also about a dysfunctional family, “and I said, ‘All right, I’ll just kind of jump in.’ “

They filmed it at a seaside home in the Hamptons. Younger sis Pauline – played by Baumbach’s real-life wife, Jennifer Jason Leigh – is supposed to marry Jack Black, who plays a would-be artist who spends his days writing letters to newspapers.

Kidman said the hardest times were when Margot turns on her son, criticizing how he walks. Baumbach had to remind her to stay in character when she corners the boy by a staircase.

“He’s like, ‘Mustn’t cry. You mustn’t touch him.’ … I said, ‘Yes, but you can’t make this woman one-dimensional. Promise me that you’ll feel her pain, that you’ll feel her heart.’ “

The spotlight on Kidman’s family life inevitably has focused on Cruise and second husband, country singer Keith Urban, and after that her younger sister, Antonia Kidman, a TV personality in Australia, with whom she speaks daily.

One way Kidman found to become allied with her character in “Margot” was to see her as making trouble for her sister out of love.

“I’ve got to save her from this man. This isn’t good enough for her,” Kidman said. “I mean, how many of us have had people in our lives say that?”

The birthday bunch

Actress Brenda Vaccaro is 68. Actress Linda Evans is 65. Country singer Jacky Ward is 61. Actor Jameson Parker is 60. Actress-singer Andrea Marcovicci is 59. Comedian Kevin Nealon is 54. Singer Kim Wilde is 47. Guitarist Kirk Hammett of Metallica is 45. Actor Owen Wilson (“The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Zoolander”) is 39.



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