Nicole Kidman talks 'Swamp Barbie'

The Paperboy actress on white shoes, authentic costumes and Lee Daniels' latest film.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Zac Efron and 'Swamp Barbie' Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy
Zac Efron and 'Swamp Barbie' Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy
The Gala Tribute for Academy Award-winning Nicole Kidman at the 50th New York Film Festival was followed by the US premiere of her latest film, The Paperboy, directed by Lee Daniels.

Kidman has her heart on her sleeve, or on her false eyelashes, as the brassy blonde, beaten Charlotte, who writes to prisoners for love and stumbles through a world that has no room for her.

Nicole Kidman listens to her introduction by Richard Peña
Nicole Kidman listens to her introduction by Richard Peña
She wears a tight, bubblegum pink mini-dress, golden Lurex pants with a tiger shirt, a pastel floral Sixties bikini and an orange head scarf for a scene on the beach with Zac Efron (Jack Jansen) and a jellyfish, the scene that galloped through the press before anyone had seen the movie.

When she dances in the summer rain in bright yellow pants and a see-through shocking pink blouse, with Efron wearing nothing but white Jockey shorts underpants, you can almost feel the polyester scratching and scraping the wet skin. Kidman gives Charlotte a walk, that is overly sexualised and, ingenuously, trying to find firm ground to stand on at the same time.

It all began with the right shoes...

Anne-Katrin Titze: The costumes are fantastic. I don't think there exists a Swamp Barbie, but you created one.

Nicole Kidman: I like that. I'll take it! Swamp Barbie!

AKT: Could you talk a little about the costume design? How these Sixties, Seventies Barbie clothes helped you create the character of Charlotte?

NK: Once again, limitations are a great thing. There was no budget for the wardrobe. So you're going and looking at these kind of odd shops and, you know, vintage stores. Anywhere that you can get things for five bucks, so everything was authentic. The costume designer (Caroline Eselin) was fantastic.

I walked in there and there were those white shoes. And Lee has a thing about shoes. You gotta have the right shoes! So, okay, I'm gonna get those shoes. And as soon as we scuffed them up, I said this is it. These are the perfect shoes and then we started to sort of trying stuff on me. It was easy.

Everything she put on me worked, we [would] just polaroid it, and show it to Lee and he'd just go: 'Yeah, yeah, yeah'. Which is rare but it's great when you don't have any money in your costume department.

Nicole Kidman, looking a far cry from 'Swamp Barbie' at her Gala Tribute
Nicole Kidman, looking a far cry from 'Swamp Barbie' at her Gala Tribute
You have to ferret around and find these things that other people would be sewing and making and trying to dye. And, you know, these things are just real from that time period, found in stores down in New Orleans. Perfect.

"Nicole Kidman is one of film’s finest contemporary actresses… Kidman has insisted on finding roles that are complex, bold and demanding. We are excited to honor her with a tribute at the New York Film Festival." said Richard Peña, New York Film Festival Selection Committee Chair & Film Society Program Director for 25 years.

Kidman's performance in The Paperboy is daring and spirited. "I don't see her (Charlotte) as crazy," she said, but as someone "very afraid of intimacy".

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