January 14, 2010

In Defense Of Nicole Kidman...

An article that deserves another reading.

Written by Ben Mendelson for The Huffington Post

No star has faced more wrongheaded attacks over the last few years than Nicole Kidman. For years, she's been chased by the label of 'box office poison', and further cries for her to be tarred and feathered have arisen after the expensive and artsy period picture Australia somehow didn't equal its $130 million budget at the domestic box office (shocker!). The label makes no sense when you look at the facts.

The biggest problem with Nicole Kidman's PR-problems (to the extent to which they concern her at all) is that journalists and pundits lump her artsy movies (Fur, Birth, The Human Stain, etc) with her more commercial choices (The Golden Compass, Bewitched, The Interpreter, etc). Of course Fur wasn't going to make $50 million. Birth, a dark, quiet drama about a woman who believes that her dead husband has been reincarnated in the form of a very young boy, was certainly not made with blockbuster dollars in mind. That would be like saying that Tom Cruise's 90s hot streak ended with Eyes Wide Shut and Magnolia, which 'only' made about about $60 million and $28 million respectively in domestic theaters after a solid 8 years of straight $100 million performers.

The other issue is that said people don't realize that a star's job is to open a movie, not make the movie into a long-range hit. Kidman's purely commercial films over the last few years usually opened to a bit over $20 million (Bewitched, The Golden Compass, The Stepford Wives, The Interpreter). They all had mixed to negative reviews but none of them absolutely collapsed in the long run anyway. Their final grosses are anywhere from $60 million to $72 million. Ladies and gents, in this day and age, anything over a 3x multiplier for the opening weekend-to-final gross ratio is considered having legs. Australia opened over a super-crowded Thanksgiving weekend, which it was forced into when Quantum of Solace took over its original and more optimal November 14th release date (another aftershock of Warner Bros's Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince date change). It opened to a decent $14.5 million and has so far tripled its opening weekend gross. If it can make it to $60 million (possible, but not probable), it will have quadrupled its opening weekend numbers, which is a rare feat in any season.

It is not Kidman's responsibility that Australia cost $130 million, and it sure as hell isn't Nicole Kidman's fault that The Golden Compass cost $180 million (although should we give her equal credit for the $300 million that The Golden Compass made overseas?). And this goes for any actor in question. Unless they are producers and/or somehow contributed to cost overruns, actors are not responsible for the budgets of their films. Kidman would have given the same performance and pulled in the same opening weekend no matter what Australia cost. Is she more to blame because director Baz Luhrmann spent $130 million instead of $60 million?

We don't know how much she was paid for said films, I can guess that it wasn't her normal asking fee (if I'm wrong about that, well, that's what the comments section is for). So if we look at it objectively, we'll notice that at $47 million thus far, the film will make about as much in the US as Moulin Rouge and has already out grossed The Hours ($41 million). Heck, most of Kidman's pure commercial ventures have averaged between $50-70 million, which is just fine if they aren't costing more than $100 million. Not counting Batman Forever or Happy Feat, her highest grossing films were Cold Mountain and The Others, which made $97 and $96 million respectively. So why did anyone expect Australia to magically gross a third more than any Kidman-headlined film has ever grossed before?

Nicole Kidman does not star in blockbusters and thus her films should not be held to blockbuster standards. In fact, she is a rare actress of her fame who fills her career with challenging, artistically worthwhile endeavors as opposed to trying to make money through various overtly commercial ventures. Not all of these artistic gambles are good movies, but she should be applauded for trying to use her star power to make interesting films. Instead she is criticized by unknowing pundits and gossip rags who expect every Nicole Kidman art house project to make Batman Forever level numbers.

And finally, how do we not cry some form of latent sexism when Kidman gets blamed for Australia's failure while Hugh Jackman gets to host the Oscars and emerges completely unscathed? I like Jackman a lot as an actor, and I find his choices interesting (The Prestige, The Fountain, etc), but why was he not equally tarred and feathered when Australia allegedly flopped? Was he labeled 'box-office poison' when The Fountain flopped last Thanksgiving? Was Brad Pitt labeled 'box office poison' after such artsy films as Seven Years In Tibet or Snatch? And how come Daniel Craig didn't get ripped to shreds over the domestic failures of The Invasion and The Golden Compass (he co-starred with Kidman in both)?

As for the article at Reuters that is linked above? Um... Crocodile Dundee's last movie only made $25 million, and it opened to less than $8 million. I bet no one ever calls him 'box office poison'.

Check out the original article for constructive comments.


Anonymous said...

What!? Nicole Kidman has fans? Somebody likes her acting? Come on, which one of you works for Huffington Post?

Anonymous said...

I haven't watched many Nicole Kidman movies, but my husband and I watched Bewitched when it was on tv the other night and it was actually pretty funny and cute. I had told him that I heard it wasn't good and didn't want to watch it, but we watched it anyway, and it was pretty funny. I think she has gotten a bad rap, critics and others just like to pile on and keep the box office poison storyline going.

I saw that the Critics Choice Awards are on tonight on VH1, it said that the cast of Nine will attend, so Keith and Nicole may be there.

Anonymous said...

About time some one setting a few things straight on the internet.

There is a difference between opinon and out and out lies.

Thanks SM.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention SLANDER!

countrycat said...

This was always a great article. Glad to see it's gotten published again. Sad thing is you put this in front a skeptic and they will argue the points till the cows come home. The sky isn't blue it's purple...that sort of thing. God they are dumb.

Post a Comment