The Untold Truth Of Nicole Kidman

This article includes references to mental health issues and suicide. 

Nicole Kidman is known as "one of Hollywood's top Australian imports," and who would argue with that? The blue-eyed beauty from Down Under has been lighting up the screen for more than 30 years, establishing herself as one of the most sought-after women in her field. Along the way, she earned six Golden Globes, two Emmys, and an Academy Award (as of this writing) for her moving performance as fated novelist Virginia Woolf in the 2002 film, "The Hours."

After breaking out in 1990's "Days of Thunder" alongside future husband Tom Cruise, Kidman created one memorable role after another, playing everything from an abused wife on HBO's "Big Little Lies" to a beguiling cabaret singer in "Moulin Rouge!" To date, she has received five Oscar nominations, yet Kidman doesn't really see herself as a movie star. Instead, she prefers to think of herself as a character actor, focusing on the world around her for inspiration.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, she explained, "My job is to stay feeling-centric, and emotional, and committed, and interested, and a seeker." Now married to country singer Keith Urban, Kidman's road to success hasn't exactly been a walk in the park. In fact, she has experienced more than her share of personal and professional heartbreaks, and a few things you would never expect. So, stick with us, because we haven't missed a single beat.

She didn't have an easy childhood

Born in Honolulu in 1967, Nicole Kidman is the daughter of Janelle, a nurse, and Antony, a psychologist, per Harper's Bazaar. At the time, the Australian family of four had relocated temporarily so that Antony could pursue his Ph.D. "When we moved to America, we had nothing. My parents had to go to the Salvation Army and get a donated mattress, which we all slept on," Kidman told Glamour in 2021.

The "Far and Away" actor said that her dad, whose family struggled to make ends meet, paid it forward when he started seeing patients, offering his services for free to folks who couldn't afford to pay. Despite her success, she doesn't take anything for granted. "I've always been aware of privilege because both my parents came from nothing," she added. Kidman noted that growing up in a socially-conscious home helped her "look at the world through different people's eyes" (via Harper's Bazaar).

Outside of the family, Kidman felt very alone, unhappy, and uncomfortable in her own skin, as she told Vanity Fair in 2002, "I looked very different from most of the other people," she said. "I was very, very tall." On top of that, she had super-curly hair, and she was too fair-skinned to sunbathe at the beach or swim in the neighbors' pool. "I had a huge desire to be somebody else. I would think, 'I'm not living the life I want to live."

Her first major role was on Australian TV

Nicole Kidman is one of the most successful actors working today, but there's one recognition she hasn't been awarded — a high school diploma. She opened up about it to "KIIS FM" radio host Kyle Sandilands, (via Daily Mail), who said to her, "I haven't got what it takes to be an actor. I don't have the brains, I didn't even finish year 10, I can't intake all that rubbish." Kidman replied. "'I didn't finish Year 11 and I somehow got there, are we allowed to say that?"

"The Paperboy" star told Harper's Bazaar in 2021 her mom didn't stop her from dropping out of school. "My mother was like, 'Very few people in the world know what they want to do early on, you know? So if there's that passion there, I'm just gonna step aside and let you go.'" Per The New York Times, Kidman worked in theater as a teen, where she caught the attention of "Power of the Dog" director Jane Campion, who later cast her in "The Portrait of a Lady" and "Top of the Lake," per The Guardian.

Two of Kidman's earliest gigs were on Australian mini-series. "'Bangkok Hilton' and [1987's] 'Vietnam,' they were the big things, those limited series rated through the roof," she recalled to The Sydney Morning Herald in 2020. The veteran of over 50 films mused, "Television was where incredible work was being done, right? What's fascinating is that I've come full circle and I'm working in TV again."  

Her marriage to Tom Cruise was a spectacle

It's been more than 30 years since Nicole Kidman met Tom Cruise on the set of "Days of Thunder" and more than 20 since their messy divorce. "I was totally smitten — I fell madly, passionately in love," she told DuJour Magazine about falling for the "Top Gun: Maverick" star. "I was reeling with Tom. I would have gone to the ends of the earth for him." The power couple, who adopted two children, Isabella and Connor, were instantly a gold mine for tabloid headlines.

Then, just before their tenth wedding anniversary, Cruise filed for divorce citing "irreconcilable differences" with his "Far and Away" co-star. Kidman responded, per ABC News, claiming she was blindsided by Cruise's decision to leave and urged him to try to work things out. She also asked for a joint custody agreement for the children. Cruise's lawyer fired back, stating that Kidman "has always known exactly why the parties are divorcing."

Cruise got sole custody of the kids, and the divorce he requested. The "Moulin Rouge!" star noted to DuJour that, "It took me a very long time to heal. It was a shock to my system." On the heels of the breakup, Kidman told ABC News' Diane Sawyer she won't let the pain from her past dictate what happens to her in the future. "I refuse to let it make me bitter, I still completely believe in love, and I'm open to anything that will happen to me."

Nicole Kidman struggled to have a baby

Coming home to a large family was always a dream for Nicole Kidman, as she told Marie Claire Australia in 2021. "I would've loved 10 kids," she said. But for a long time, "The Aquaman" actor thought she would never carry a child to term, per "This Cultural Life" (via Daily Mail). "I had tried and failed and failed and failed," she said, noting she had an ectopic pregnancy and miscarriages, and underwent fertility treatments. "I've done all the stuff you can possibly do to try to get pregnant."

A few years after Kidman tied the knot with country singer Keith Urban in 2006, the couple announced, per People, they were "delighted" to welcome their daughter, Sunday Rose, into the world. In 2010, the two Aussies stated they were "truly blessed" as they expanded their family with another daughter, Faith Margaret, born via gestational surrogate, per ABC News.

In a 2018 interview with Tatler, Kidman explained she knows all too well how losing a child can affect a woman's emotional health. "I know the yearning. That yearning. It's a huge, aching yearning. And the loss!," she said. Kidman didn't give up, welcoming her second daughter at age 43. "I had so much time thinking that wasn't going to happen in my life and trying to understand that. When it did happen — and for it to be a surprise — that was great" (via Daily Mail).

Nicole Kidman's world revolves around her family

Nicole Kidman's marriage to Keith Urban was put to the test early on, when the Grammy winner checked himself into The Betty Ford Center for an extended stay for abusing alcohol, he told Today in 2007. Ten years later, Urban said having Kidman by his side helped him get clean and sober. "I was spiritually awoken with her," he told Rolling Stone Australia in 2016. "And for the first time in my life, I could shake off the shackles of addiction."

The "Eyes Wide Shut" star says meeting the country crooner was life-changing, telling Gayle King on "CBS Mornings," "I met him later in life and it's been the best thing that's ever happened to me." The A-listers divide their time between their Nashville home and a farm in Australia, where they raise alpacas and chickens. "There's something to be said for going back to a simple form of living — nature and family," Kidman told Elle in 2008.

The Kidman-Urban household routines focus on family. "Our life here probably isn't what you expect. I read at the school. We're a very tight-knit family — we get anxious if we're separated more than two days," she shared with Vogue in 2017. In April, Today's entertainment editor Richard Wilkins, (via Daily Mail), suggested Urban and Kidman were the "pin-up couple for making it work" in Hollywood. Although Kidman appreciated the gesture, she said, "We don't want to be a pin-up couple. We just want to be a couple that has a great life together."

She's a champion for women in Hollywood

At the 2018 Screen Actors Guild Awards, Nicole Kidman broke down in tears as she accepted her first-ever SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie for her work in "Big Little Lies," per Today. She began by thanking her fellow nominees. "I want to thank you all for your trailblazing performances you have given over your career. How wonderful it is that our careers today can go beyond 40 years old."

As it turns out, all five women, including her "Big Little Lies" co-stars Laura Dern and Reese Witherspoon, Susan Sarandon, and Jessica Lange, were over 40. Kidman continued with her speech, "20 years ago, we were pretty washed up by this stage in our lives," she said, adding, "We have proven, and these actresses and so many more are proving, that we are potent and powerful and viable." She closed with a plea to Hollywood decision makers to support telling these types of women's stories.

In the case of "Big Little Lies," it was actually executive producers Kidman and Witherspoon who called a lot of shots on that production, per The New York Times. Under her Blossom Films banner, Kidman and the "Legally Blonde" star optioned the best-selling novel and decided to turn it into a series on HBO rather than a feature film, with five leading roles for women. Kidman said, "Big Little Lies' probably wouldn't have been made — if it hadn't been made for TV."

Big Little Lies took its toll on her

On "Big Little Lies," Nicole Kidman plays Celeste, a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, played by Alexander Skarsgard, per W Magazine. Unfortunately, in the course of shooting some of those violent sexual encounters, sometimes the actor went home nearly as battered as the character she plays. "I felt very exposed and vulnerable and deeply humiliated at times," Kidmans said in the 2017 interview. "I was lying on the floor and I just wouldn't get up in-between takes."

Earlier that year, Kidman told Vogue her real-life husband was disturbed by what he saw when she came home. "At one point Keith was like "I'm going to take a photo of your back because it's covered in deep, massive bruises." But her emotional wounds may have gone even deeper than that. "I would keep on a very brave face at work and then I would go home and I didn't realize how much it had penetrated me. And it affected me in a deep way," she said.

Still, she says she loved playing Celeste on the HBO series. Stepping into the shoes of a beautifully-written character alongside an actor like Skarsgard with a director who "totally wanted to go there," Kidman said is what every actor wants. "But at the same time, when I walked away from it, I remember thinking that was the deepest I've gone in terms of finding and losing things."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

On The Hours she dealt with depression

After Nicole Kidman's contentious divorce from Tom Cruise, she was feeling particularly vulnerable. Taking on the role of a suicidal character in "The Hours" at the time made her an "open vessel" to the darkest thoughts of novelist Virginia Woolf. "I think I was in a place myself at that time that was removed, depressed, not in my own body," she told "This Cultural Life" (via Daily Mail), about her mental state at the time.

In the film, which earned Kidman an Oscar, Woolf is shown carrying out her suicide by drowning in the River Ouse, and the actor insisted that scene be shot with her and not a stunt double. "I don't know if I ever thought of the danger, I think I was so in her," she said. The star added that immersing herself in the role this way, "I was open to understand it, which I think is probably the beauty of life as an actor."

Kidman admitted experiencing mental health struggles in the past. Speaking about her years of struggling to conceive, she said, "Every woman who has been through all those ups and downs knows the depression that comes with it." But the Oscar winner has no intentions of taking it easy on herself in the future. "I definitely don't want to shut down as I get older. I want to become rawer, and more open, more available and freer," she said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Her role in Being the Ricardos was difficult

After Nicole Kidman signed on to play Lucille Ball in "Being the Ricardos," she wondered if she made the right decision, per The New York Times. She wasn't the first choice for the role. Another Australian actor, Cate Blanchett, was originally attached to the project, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. After the trailer featuring Kidman was released, angry fans flooded the internet, claiming "Will & Grace's" Debra Messing was robbed of the part.

The film, helmed by writer-director Aaron Sorkin, centers on a crucial point in the relationship between Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz in the backdrop of the "I Love Lucy" show. Kidman wasn't confident she had the comedy chops to pull it off. "I've got to be funny, and funny's hard," she said, although she welcomed doing Lucy's slapstick shticks. "The way she moves and falls, every part of her physicality, you go, oh, I can be an absolute doofus playing her."

Kidman came to realize that the key to the movie wasn't about getting a laugh. It was about showing who Lucille Ball really was. "Lucy's a character — that's not Lucille," she explained. "Lucille is extraordinary because she was knocked down, got back up and just doggedly kept at things." Just like the actor who played her. Kidman received an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe Award for her performance.

She suffered from 'debilitating' stage fright

Nicole Kidman has taken on projects that made her nervous, but something she did in 2020 really shook her up. On "The Two Shot" podcast, the actor admitted she had "debilitating" stage fright while appearing in a production of "Photograph 51" in London's West End, although it was "not to the point where I wouldn't go on." Kidman played this role before in London, back in 2015, but in a much smaller theater.

"It was not what I recalled," she said. "It was almost like 'oh, good after two weeks this will go away.'" The fear didn't stop. The "Bombshell" star explained she stuck it out, listening to her heart pounding on stage night after night. "I don't know if it was age, or hormones, or what, it was but it was something, it was really really bad." In a 2021 interview with DuJour Magazine, Kidman said during the show's first run she "almost had a heart attack doing that play."

Kidman, who appeared in "The Blue Room" on Broadway in 1998, pointed out, "The stage fright gets more intense as you get old. Everyone said it would get less scary. It did not." Kidman faced a different kind of fear after that experience. When she first got the script for "Being the Ricardos," she told DuJour, "I was so frightened," yet that worked out fine. USA Today called her work in the film, "terrific," and Variety described Kidman's performance as "wry perfection."

Nicole Kidman's hard work has paid off

In 2020, Forbes named Nicole Kidman to its "Highest-Paid Actresses" of the year list, with "The Prom" actor clocking in at number 7, raking in $22 million in acting jobs alone that year. As of 2022, according to Celebrity Net Worth, her net worth is estimated to be about $250 million. Over the course of at least the last twenty years, Kidman has consistently remained one of the highest-paid performers in the world, with acting jobs alone accounting for $350 million in income.

Some of her top pay days on the big screen have included $15 million each for "Cold Mountain" and "The Stepford Wives" and $17.5 mil for 2005's "Bewitched." She also banked some serious cash for her roles on TV. According to an article in 2018 by The Hollywood Reporter, sources said Kidman and Reese Witherspoon were likely to be bumped to $1 million per episode each for Season 2 of "Big Little Lies." The "Nine Perfect Strangers” actor garnered that same fee for her role in the Hulu series, per Variety.

HBO matched that salary for Kidman's turn as Hugh Grant's wife in the psychological thriller, "The Undoing." Besides acting, Kidman also has some lucrative endorsement deals. According to Vogue, in 2004, Kidman was announced as the new face of Chanel's No. 5 perfume. According to reports, she was paid $12 million for her work in a three-minute TV commercial for the company.