The tragic real-life story of Nicole Kidman

Considering she's a timeless beauty with dozens of beloved screen credits — not to mention, a seemingly tabloid-free public image — what's not to love about Nicole Kidman? The beloved actor, who was actually born in Hawaii, but holds citizenship in both the U.S. and Australia, has risen to heights reserved for the upper echelon of Hollywood names. With Academy Awards, Golden Globes and Emmys wins to her name, Kidman has a trophy case to prove she's more than made it in the biz. She may have turned 50 in 2018, but Kidman's career hasn't slowed down, as she has continued to appear in both critically-acclaimed and audience-beloved movie and TV titles.

Kidman's personal life may seem picture-perfect at first glance, too. After all, is there a Hollywood couple that seems more in love than Kidman and Keith Urban? Is there another actor who seems able to defy time like Kidman? But the Big Little Lies star has also overcome a substantial amount of adversity to ascend to the status she's achieved. 

Learn more about the many challenges Kidman has persevered through over the course of her life on her way to stardom and domestic bliss. 

Nicole Kidman struggled with a stutter as a child

Along with stars like Emily Blunt, James Earl Jones and Ed Sheeran, Nicole Kidman is one of the many famous names who struggled with a stutter at one point in their life. Quoted by the National Stuttering Foundation organization from a 2000 Talk Magazine profile, Kidman described herself as "very shy," which was compounded by her childhood speech impediment. "I even had a stutter as a kid, which I slowly got over, but I still regress into that shyness," she said. "So I don't like walking into a crowded restaurant by myself. I don't like going to a party by myself." 

Speaking with Newsweek about her stutter, Kidman said, "I just remember everyone always saying to me, 'Calm down, think about what you're gonna say.' I remember when I was little, just being so excited to get it out and I couldn't. I grew out of it." Kidman also addressed her lifelong shyness in a 2015 TODAY appearance (via E! News), claiming, "As I've gotten older, I've lost some of that shyness."

Kidman's friend and fellow celeb, singer Sheryl Crow, told Elle (via ABC News) in 2015 that Kidman's held-back demeanor can sometimes be misunderstood as coldness. "I think that she has been very poised throughout her public life, and sometimes people will misconstrue that," Crow told the mag of Kidman, adding, "They see her as being an ice queen."  

A cancer diagnosis changed Nicole Kidman's life early on

At 17 years old, Nicole Kidman's star was already on the rise. But her life took a dramatic turn when her mother Janelle was diagnosed with breast cancer, leaving Kidman in a position to have to "help nurse" her mother through the scary ordeal, according to The Guardian. "I think that imprinted on me for the rest of my life," Kidman told USA TODAY in 2004, adding, "Seeing her go through that pain and also seeing her strength and her grace gave me my commitment to this cause for the rest of my life." Kidman has dedicated her time in her years as a successful actress to advocating and donating money to advance breast cancer awareness and research, including her teaming up with Stanford University's Women Cancer Program in 2009 to raise funds for the program's projects.

In July 2019, tabloids reported that Kidman allegedly rushed to Australia to escort her ailing mother to the hospital following a medical emergency, with Janelle having previously been rushed to the hospital in 2018. Yet, Janelle appeared to be on the mend in an Instagram post that Kidman shared in March 2020, showing her sitting with her mother in a smiling photo. "Happy Birthday to my darling Mumma," she captioned the loving snapshot. "I love you so much. This photo is so US!"

An ectopic pregnancy was 'traumatic' for Nicole Kidman

After cozying up to Tom Cruise while appearing alongside him in the 1990 film Days of ThunderNicole Kidman wed the action star on Christmas Eve 1990 when she was just 22 years old. "I was so young when I got married. I look back now and I'm like, 'What?'" she told Red in 2017 about the nuptials. "I had two kids by the time I was 27 and I'd been married for four years. But that's what I wanted."

Unfortunately, Kidman experienced tragedy early on in her journey to motherhood, when she suffered an ectopic pregnancy when she was 23 years old. To make matters worse, Kidman's ectopic pregnancy was misreported by the press as a miscarriage, which Kidman described as a painful experience in a 2007 interview with Marie Claire. "So it's huge news, and (the miscarriage) didn't happen, she told the outlet, adding, "It was incredibly traumatic for me."

Thankfully, Kidman and Cruise wouldn't have to wait long to become parents. The Kidman/Cruise family quickly grew to encompass four people, after the stars adopted daughter Isabella Cruise, born in 1992, and son Connor Cruise, born in 1995.

Nicole Kidman suffered a miscarriage

Nicole Kidman experienced another loss on her road towards building a family in 2001, when she experienced a miscarriage during her marriage to Tom Cruise. "The loss of a miscarriage is not talked about enough," she told Tatler in 2018. "That's massive grief to certain women. There's an enormous amount of pain and an enormous amount of joy on the other side of it. The flipside of going through so much yearning and pain to get there is the feeling of 'Ahhhh!' when you have the child.'"

Kidman finally experienced that joy for herself in 2008, when she gave birth to daughter Sunday Rose, her first child with her second husband Keith Urban, with the couple later welcoming daughter Faith in 2010 with the help of a surrogate. Kidman told Tatler that, as a mom who took the routes of adoption and surrogacy to expand her family, she believes that society places undue value on biological motherhood. "I mean — whatever, right?" she said. "Whether you're an adoptive mother, whether you're a foster mother, whether you're a biological mother -– it's the emotion of attaching to a child and helping to guide them and rear them [that is important]."

The divorce from Tom Cruise left Nicole Kidman in 'shock'

The same year that Nicole Kidman suffered a miscarriage, Tom Cruise filed for divorce, dissolving their marriage just as Kidman's career was booming. Cruise and Kidman announced they were seeking a divorce in February 2001, with their spokesperson telling People that "the difficulties inherent in (their) divergent careers which constantly kept them apart" compelled them to seek an "amicable separation." The marriage was over by August 2001, and Kidman was left to grapple with the emotional toll of the divorce, telling Tatler in 2018 that the split weighed heavily on her the night she won the best actress Academy Award in 2003 for her role in The Hours. "'OK, what am I actually doing?'" she described her thought process. '"Where do I go from here? What do I do? I'm divorced, I'm on my own, what's next?'"

Kidman found lasting love several years after her relationship ended with Cruise, tying the knot with Keith Urban in June 2006. But in a 2005 interview with Ladies' Home Journal (via CBS News), Kidman was still mourning the loss of her first marriage. "That was a major shock," she said about the breakup, adding, "He was huge; still is. To me, he was just Tom, but to everybody else, he is huge. But he was lovely to me. And I loved him. I still love him."

Nicole Kidman's marriage to Tom Cruise 'protected' her

In the years since her divorce from Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman has largely stayed hush-hush about the details of that relationship and the reasons behind their split. Speaking to New York Magazine's The Cut in 2018, Kidman finally opened up a bit, alluding to the possibly-skewed power dynamic she had with Cruise, and the reasons she entered the relationship beyond just romance.

Kidman acknowledged that "being married to Tom Cruise at 22 is something I'm always reluctant to talk about, because I'm married now to (Urban) who is my great love, and it almost feels disrespectful." But she went on to talk about the pros and cons she experienced of getting married at a young age to a Hollywood superstar. "I got married very young, but it definitely wasn't power for me — it was protection," she said. "I married for love, but being married to an extremely powerful man kept me from being sexually harassed." 

Kidman also shared that "of course I've had #MeToo moments — since I was little! But do I want to expose them in an article? No." Having worked with disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein in the past, Kidman did distinguish that she had not been a victim of his Hollywood harassment. "I always knew Harvey had a lot of anger," she told The Guardian in 2018. "But I would never have thought he was capable of the rest. My parts with Harvey were quite limited."

Why is Nicole Kidman so private about her oldest kids?

Nicole Kidman hasn't shared much about her relationship with the two children she adopted with ex-husband Tom Cruise, son Connor Cruise and daughter Isabella Cruise (pictured above). Fans took notice when, in her acceptance speeches at the 2017 Emmys and 2018 Golden Globes, she thanked Sunday and Faith, the two daughters she welcomed with her second husband Keith Urban, but failed to mention Connor and Isabella

While tabloids have claimed that Nicole allegedly stays in regular contact with Connor and Isabella, Nicole, who left the Church of Scientology when she divorced Tom, told Who in 2018 that Connor and Isabella stayed in the church, and didn't clarify whether she still has a relationship with her two adopted children. "I'm very private about all that," she said, adding, "I have to protect all those relationships. I know 150 percent that I would give up my life for my children because it's what my purpose is." 

Speaking about Connor and Isabella's religious choices, Nicole said, "They are adults. They are able to make their own decisions. They have made choices to be Scientologists and as a mother, it's my job to love them. And I am an example of that tolerance and that's what I believe — that no matter what your child does, the child has love and the child has to know there is available love and I'm open here."

Nicole Kidman lost her father in a sudden accident

Nicole Kidman's biochemist father, Antony Kidman, died suddenly in 2014 at age 75 after suffering a fall. Nicole recalled her painful grieving process in a 2019 Tatler interview (via the Irish Examiner), remembering how her daughter Faith tried to comfort her. "My three-year-old said, 'But you're not going to be sad like this tomorrow, are you?'" she said, adding, "That's when you realize (that) you have to be OK. Because they need to know that they're safe, that their mother isn't going to fall apart ... Inside? I was beyond shattered. But I had to rally."

Nicole's mother Janelle was dealt with "terrible grief" following Antony's death, Nicole told Red in 2017. "They were together for 50 years. It's awful to see, so sad. She's in Australia, which is why we all go back four times a year. In your forties you are grappling with all those things: trying to be the mother and the daughter. It's a lot."

When Nicole appeared in the play Photograph 51 on London's West End in 2015, her performance as a biochemist was inspired by her late father, and she was often brought to tears during her curtain calls by her memories of him. "Every performance was for him," she told Red. "Literally every time I was about to go on I would speak to him. I had this photo of him when he was young in a lab coat with his curly hair."

She endured bruises and emotional distress for Big Little Lies

Nicole Kidman won multiple acting accolades for her role on the HBO drama Big Little Lies, including awards for best lead actress at the 2017 Emmys and 2018 Golden Globes. But playing the troubled role of Celeste, a survivor of domestic abuse who endured multiple on-screen beatings, was far from easy for the star. Speaking to Vogue in 2017, Kidman described her husband Keith Urban's somewhat odd reaction when he saw the bruises caused by her intense scenes depicting domestic violence. "I would go home at night sometimes and be in a lot of pain, and I had to take things like Advil because I was being thrown around physically," she said, adding, "I was really bruised. At one point Keith was like 'I'm going to take a photo of your back because it's covered in deep, massive bruises.' He was devastated seeing it, but then he would say, But I have an artist wife!'" 

Kidman told Tatler in 2018 that playing Celeste left her "distressed" and out of sorts, and she declined to answer whether she ever experienced a relationship similar to Celeste's abusive situation. "I would come home and cry after doing Big Little Lies," she recalled. "I would cry alone. I would sit and I would have a bath and cry."

Dark roles sent Nicole Kidman into dark places

Nicole Kidman has opened up about her mental health on numerous occasions, sharing the times in her life she's experienced depression. Kidman told Who in 2012 (via Yahoo) that her divorce from Tom Cruise left her in a dark state. "I married (Tom) really fast and really young, but I don't regret that because it got me (Isabella) and Connor, and I did have a fantastic marriage for a long period," she said, adding, "Then when it didn't work out, I had to really dig deep and find my way through depression, but I have no regrets about all of it. It was all a part of growing up."

Kidman has also struggled with difficult feelings as a result of her film projects. In addition to the difficulties of playing abuse survivor Celeste in Big Little Lies, Kidman also recalled that her role in 2018's Destroyer, in which she played a troubled detective, left her in a precarious mental state. "I was very, deeply depressed," she told Variety of the role in 2018, adding, "It was the point where my husband was like, 'When the hell is this going to end?'" 

Kidman, who wore prosthetics on her face to alter her appearance for her Destroyer role, remembered that Urban was disturbed when he first saw a version of the film. "He was weirded out," Kidman said, adding, "Wouldn't you be weirded out if you were married to one person, and they show up looking like that?"

Nicole Kidman's home was threatened by Australia's bushfire crisis

The catastrophic bushfires in Australia that ravaged the country in early 2020 nearly claimed Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban's home. As is that wasn't stressful enough, the star allegedly fond out about the potential damages while she was participating in events for the 2020 Golden Globes. Us Weekly reported that Kidman was in tears at an event on January 4, the night before the Globes on January 5, and had just heard the news that her home was in danger. Kidman reportedly stopped during her red carpet interviews, saying, "I'm so sorry. I'm so distracted right now with everything that's happening in Australia." 

That same day, Kidman and Urban both shared on their Instagram pages that they would donate $500,000 to the Rural Fire Services, the firefighters who were fighting the blaze in Australia. "Our family's support, thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the fires all over Australia," Kidman wrote, thanking the workers who were "giving so much right now." Speaking to Extra at the Critics' Choice Awards one week later, Kidman confirmed that her home had been spared. "It's been under threat, though," she said, adding, "It's been under enormous threat, and the surrounding areas have been very, very badly burned."