David Thomson’s Nicole Kidman is not the usual biography filled with juicy details. Instead, Thomson, with a background in film studies, writes intensely about Kidman’s career as an actor and how each of her endeavors, whether it be film, theater, talk show appearance, or magazine interview, has served the sole purpose of further advancing her career. Some criticized Thomson’s biography. Reviews were quick to note his apparent obsession with Kidman, specifically his continual references to her sex appeal. His biography could easily be seen as an attempt to exploit her, but his concern and respect for her come across as genuine. Moreover, he offers insights not only into the star in question but also into the film industry and related actors that give the biography substance.
This is not the first biography written about Kidman to follow a pattern of describing her life through her films. Other recent biographies follow a similar and predictable storyline, discussing her childhood, education, early interest, and start in acting, complete with the expected inserts of glossy photographs. A distinguishing feature of Thomson’s biography, however, is the scarcity of photographs. Along with his thoughtful text, Thomson includes a few selected black-and-white photographs of Kidman in various roles or settings that serve to enhance the biography and to tell her story in a artistic way that is separate from the text.
As with most published biographies of Kidman, the book is arranged according to the chronological order of her films. Her marriage to Tom Cruise is discussed, again through film, but this seems appropriate, given that they are both actors who met during a film and have starred together in several films. Thomson does seem to offer a new perspective on the Kidman-Cruise relationship, as well as some critique of Cruise himself. It is possible that Thomson’s adoration of Kidman spills over into his analysis of Cruise as an actor, as he makes it clear that Kidman was destined to be the larger star all along.
While Thomson provides necessary biographical details about Kidman and follows a similar pattern of recounting her career and life through her films, he goes beyond that to provide a fresh perspective of the actor and her work. Kidman has been written about and portrayed in the media as someone who is insecure and timid outside an assigned role, possibly even hiding in the limelight of her overly famous former husband. Thomson, however, gives readers a new Kidman, someone who has taken calculated risks to further her career and achieve her present level of notoriety. He portrays Kidman as a professional, career-minded woman. She has been cast in some great roles that have won her acclaim, while at the same time she has taken on roles that were anticipated to be great but fizzled at the box office. Thomson’s background in film affords him the ability to analyze the success or failure of Kidman’s oeuvre, from her acting ability to other factors such as the director, script, and other actors cast in costarring roles.
While Thomson weaves together the story of Kidman’s acting career, he is selective in the films covered, perhaps to focus on those that have had the greatest impact on her development as a successful actor. Thomson provides a brief description of each film that he covers, how Kidman came to the role, and how much she was paid, which shows a progression of her success with each film. Thomson goes on to offer fascinating details and commentary about the film and the key players such as writers, directors, and other actors involved. This not only provides the reader with a glimpse of Kidman’s life but also puts each film into the context of what was going on around her and demonstrates how the events and people involved in each endeavor have helped to shape her as the famous and talented actor known today.
Thomson notes that Kidman’s greatest films were Dead Calm...
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