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Over the top, Down Under

Nicole Kidman (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Nicole Kidman (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

Nicole Kidman has won an Oscar (for “The Hours”), been married to famous people (formerly Tom Cruise, currently Keith Urban) and pulled down enormous salaries (how much depends on whom you ask; think eight figures).

But on this particular day, she is riding in a car in Nashville, Tenn., and talking about “Australia,” the new film in which she stars along with Hugh Jackman.

Directed by Baz Luhrmann, with whom she worked on “Moulin Rouge,” it’s part comedy, part drama, part historical piece and all epic.

Kidman talked about her role as Lady Sarah Ashley – an English noblewoman who moves Down Under and experiences all manner of romance and adventure – as well as riding horses and hanging out in the heat.

Q. The sheer sweep of Australia is massive.

A. It was a big film. It was probably one of the biggest films I’ve ever made, in terms of scope. It showcases my country, of which I’m proud.

Q. Lady Ashley certainly runs the gamut of experiences.

A. It was an amazing character to be given. I mean, Katharine Hepburn would be given this role in her heyday. They just don’t write films like this for women.

Q. For one thing, you do a lot of horseback riding.

A. I’ve ridden horses my whole life, but never to this degree. … There’s a photo in the film that I just had to sign recently, and I love it, because I look like a boy. I have short hair and I’m really tanned and I’m riding a horse and I’m really dirty. I felt really good. I embraced my tomboy.

Q. Was the role physically hard?

A. Just the physical stamina needed, it was extraordinary what we had to go through to make it – 120-degree heat at times. That, for me as a fair-skinned girl, that’s pretty extreme.

Q. The film does a nice job of balancing Aboriginal and traditional cultures with white culture.

A. The star of the film is actually this little Aboriginal boy (Brandon Walters). Oprah (Winfrey) saw the film. She thinks he’s going to be a huge star. But he’s magical, as are a lot of the stories that come out of their culture.

Q. The film has the feel of an old-time, big-budget epic.

A. I’d look at (Luhrmann) and say, “We will never be doing this again. This is the last of a dying breed. They’re just not going to make films like this anymore.”

The birthday bunch

Actor James Avery (“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”) is 60. TV personality Bill Nye (“Bill Nye the Science Guy”) is 53. Actor William Fichtner (“Invasion”) is 52. Actor Fisher Stevens (“Early Edition”) is 45. Actress Robin Givens is 44. Actor Michael Vartan (“Alias”) is 40. Rapper Twista is 36. Actor Jaleel White (“Family Matters”) is 32.