KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 — “Divine”.
That is how Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman sums up what it’s like to work with ‘90s heartthrob Hugh Grant in one word.
In the upcoming murder mystery thriller The Undoing, the high-profile stars play a married couple in the six-part HBO limited series.
It’s also their first time working together.
“He’s so wonderful, he’s so funny — he keeps me on my toes but he also makes me laugh and he is incredibly disarming and I would just love to work with him again.
“I’m crazy about him even though in the show he’s awful to me,” Kidman said during a Zoom interview last Friday from Sydney.
The Susanne Bier-directed series is based on the Jean Hanff Korelitz novel You Should Have Known and centres around the blissful lives of Grace (Kidman) and Jonathan Fraser (Grant) which are shattered overnight by a violent death that sparks a devastating chain of events.
With only praises for her on-screen husband, the Aussie actress said there’s a reason why Grant, the star of beloved rom-coms such as Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral, is such a big star.
“He’s masterful because he’s able to come in with this appeal and this charm and then he thinks and works on everything and he brings an enormous amount of intellect.
“He pretends like he’s sort of winging it but he’s so prepared and he’s really just wonderful to work with,” she said.
As Grace Fraser, Kidman once again steps into the shoes of a complex and tortured character, something the award-winning actress has been drawn to of late with projects such as Big Little Lies and Killing of a Sacred Deer.
“[The biggest challenge was] trying to probably stay in the psychological state of the character as she traverses the whole emotional gamut in relation to her relationship, her family, her life being taken and turned upside down.
“That was the stamina it took to make it,” said 53-year-old, who also sang the opening credits.
She described the role as a rollercoaster and the demise of a relationship.
“It was a really uncomfortable state to exist in because it wasn’t the place I wanted to be and obviously it’s much nicer to be doing something where it’s all filled with joy and love and this was not,” Kidman added.
But the burden of taking on an emotionally-taxing role was eased by the experience of working with great actors, a hands-on director and a fantastic writer, David E. Kelley.
“[David] had worked out this intricate psychological map of this woman and to have the opportunity to put that on screen for six hours was really exciting to me.
“I’m really interested in human nature and the way in which we can kind of force ourselves to believe things that are actually not there,” she said.
On working with Bier, the director behind The Night Manager and Bird Box, Kidman said the Danish filmmaker had a strong vision for the series and knew what she wanted for its leading lady, right down to outfits and physical appearance.
For example, Bier was particular about the character’s fiery locks and didn’t want them pulled back from Kidman’s face.
The hair, skin, red eyes and outerwear all played a part in the storytelling.
“I’ll be like ‘My eyes are so red, Susanne’ and she’ll be like ‘I want that red because that’s stress, that’s the stress she’s under, that’s where Grace shows her stress through her eyes’,” she said.
The seasoned actress added that it was fun working with a visual director but noted that not all directors are visually driven.
“Some won’t even come to the wardrobe fitting.”
“Susanne is very much about the vision, Stanley Kubrick was very much about how you looked because it was so much a part of his storytelling,” Kidman said.
It was the same case for Jane Campion who wanted Kidman to have fuzzy brown hair in Portrait of a Lady to frame the face, she added, comparing the various directing styles she has experienced.
“Whereas Yorgos Lanthimos is ‘I couldn’t care less what you wear, I just want to make sure your hair is curly and no makeup’.
“I really love when you work with these directors that have such strong opinions and visions.
“What I don’t like is when someone is directing you and they don’t have a clue what they’re doing, then that’s terrifying,” Kidman said.
The Undoing debuts same time as the US on Monday, October 26 at 9am exclusively on HBO GO and HBO (Astro Ch 411 HD), with a same-day encore at 10pm on HBO.
Subsequent new episodes premiere every Monday at 10am with the same day encore at 10pm.