Nicole Kidman is weeping. As she stands on the cliffs high above the early morning waves of Australia's Bondi Beach, Kidman's startling blue eyes fill up with tears. She is talking about the death of Stanley Kubrick, the reclusive genius who directed Kidman and her husband, Tom Cruise, in the $65 million psychosexual thriller Eyes Wide Shut. Kubrick's thirteenth and final film, due on July 16th, is said to contain scenes of unprecedented erotic intimacy only hinted at in the much-talked-about teaser trailer, which shows a nude Kidman, in front of a mirror, being passionately kissed and fondled by Cruise. No one speaks. The only sound is that of Chris Isaak singing "Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing."
Just how bad remains to be seen. Over the next several hours, Kidman will talk frankly about growing up red-headed and wild in Sydney, her marriage to Tom Cruise, their children and her own sexual evolution. But it's the loss of the best friend and father confessor she found in Kubrick — the seventy-year-old director died of a heart attack on March 7th in his home near London, just days after the Cruises first saw the finished film — that Kidman returns to often. "Nic's never lost someone so close to her," says Cruise. "I'd been through it with my own father, and it really hits you hard, takes you up short."
At her suggestion, my first day with Kidman begins very early indeed. We are to meet at dawn on Bondi Beach to watch the sun come up over the Pacific. So here I am, at 6 A.M., standing in the nearly deserted parking lot adjacent to the surf, watching a few ghostly figures run along the cement boardwalk. Per instructions, I'm searching for a blue BMW. Fifteen minutes later it pulls up and a tall (five feet ten), laughing redhead, whose luminescent white skin virtually glows in the mist, emerges.
She's dressed casually in blue jeans, a black sweater and running shoes; there is little about Kidman to suggest the femme fatale of such films as To Die For, Batman Forever and Practical Magic, much less the bombshell whose soul- and skin-baring performance in the London and Broadway hit The Blue Room prompted one critic to dub her "theatrical Viagra."
"I must say I wasn't offended by the term," says Kidman, who arrives today on less-seductive duty, her famous red ringlets tucked under a baseball cap. She's ready for fun, especially at her own expense. "Driving here, I suddenly thought that saying, 'Meet me in the middle of a parking lot at sunrise' was maybe too vague," she explains with a grin. "After all, it is the other side of the world."
Sydney is also home to Kidman, the city where she grew up and has now returned with her husband and their two adopted children, Isabella Jane, 6, and Connor Anthony, 4, to live for a year while he films the sequel to Mission: Impossible and she stars in two Australian films: Jez Butterworth's Birthday Girl and Baz Luhrmann's musical Moulin Rouge.
Mr. and Mrs. Cruise are ensconced in a harbor-view home bought and decorated by Kidman. Nearby live her parents — Janelle, a nurse-educator, and Antony, a psychologist-biochemist and college professor who is the author of several self-help best sellers, including Managing Love and Hate. Kidman's only sibling, younger sister Antonia, also lives in Sydney, where she is an entertainment reporter for the local Fox affiliate. Antonia is married to a sports agent and is the mother of five-month-old Lucia — a niece much adored by her aunt.
"I haven't really lived here for nine years," says Kidman, who is exceptionally close to her family. She had planned to be with Antonia during the birth of Lucia, but the baby arrived a week early. Still, says Kidman, "I was with Antonia by phone from New York the whole time." Now she's reveling in this year of being home. "I'd come back to visit, but to actually stay here, be able to go over to my mom's place and have a cup of jasmine tea, which is what I used to do at eighteen ... well, it's great to be doing it again at thirty-two."
All the Kidmans share her joy. "Last Sunday, Tom, Nicole, my husband and I went out on a boat, fishing for the day," says Antonia. "Tom is such a good dad, so involved, so much enthusiasm. Nicole has a big life, but the way she deals with it, you don't notice it's big."
Though Kidman's life has changed dramatically since she left these shores for America at age twenty-two, somethings will always stay the same. Like her struggle for simplicity. Any special attention makes her visibly uncomfortable. And because she doesn't act famous, she is not treated that way — at least in Australia. As she and I stroll from the boardwalk up into the cliffs overlooking the beach, no one bothers us. The occasional jogger, recognizing the lanky star, merely nods and lopes on.
But then, on Bondi Beach, Kidman is sanded gentry. "I came here all through my life," she says, surveying the beach and its sprinkling of cafes. "You'd get fish and chips, eat them with Mom and Dad, and go for a swim in the afternoon. There'd be the shark alarm — you'd have to run out of the water — a loud blaring that is still so vivid."
Kidman still swims with sharks — the Hollywood variety. But the girl from Down Under's early training served her well. She made her film debut at fourteen, in Bush Christmas (1983). Three years later, the miniseries Vietnam made her an Aussie sensation and garnered her several awards. Though her parents allowed Nicole to leave high school to pursue her career — "My mother said, 'So few people know what they want to do, go ahead'" — her childhood had been filled with literature, theater, opera and free-spiritedness. It took another gift from the sea, a 1989 film called Dead Calm, to bring Kidman to the attention of American audiences — and, most important, to Tom Cruise, who asked her to audition for his carracing epic, Days of Thunder. Kidman won the role — and Cruise, whose marriage to actress Mimi Rogers was faltering. A year later, in 1990, Cruise and Kidman were married.
"From the first moment I met Nic, there was that spirit," explains Cruise. "She is so much fun, always up for anything. She's got this excitement about life, all these interests — children, art, music, sports, travel. A lot of the pressures came at the beginning of our relationship. Even though she'd been acting as long as I when we met — and I was used to a level of recognition — all of a sudden we were together and there was that attention. Nic handled it all with such grace and generosity."
Kidman's early years in Hollywood were tough. None of her films reflected the talent she'd shown in such Australian gems as John Duigan's Flirting (1990). "Dustin Hoffman called me after she read for Billy Bathgate," recalls Cruise. "And Hoffman's got great taste in performance. He said, 'Ah, man. Where did she come from?' " But Kidman's blossoming gifts mostly wilted under Hollywood gloss, such as her second teaming with Cruise, in Far and Away (1992), and negligible items such as My Life and Malice.
"The thing about Nic is that she's always had talent," says Cruise. "She's never been afraid to take a risk. Some people can use life to feed a performance; the more sophisticated they get, so do the roles. You either move forward or move back. Nic always rises to a challenge."
Finally, in Gus Van Sant's To Die For (1995), Kidman found her breakthrough role, as a TV weather girl who'd kill to get ahead. She won a Golden Globe for her sharply comic turn and, later, the title role in The Portrait of a Lady, directed by fellow Aussie Jane Campion. But the expected Oscar nomination eluded her. This year, Kidman was also overlooked for a Tony nomination for her acclaimed performance on Broadway in The Blue Room.
If there's one word to use about Kidman, it's underestimated. Many see her as regal, glacial, aloof — a misconception she attributes to her shyness. "Though I'm more out of my shell now, I can still get very, very shy," she says. "It used to tick Tom off. We'd go to a dinner party and I'd hardly speak. He didn't understand it." Perhaps that was because privately she is so different: Smart, funny, warm, spontaneous. In short, a great dame.
Kidman is also "extraordinary" in Eyes Wide Shut, claims Cruise, who rates the experience of sharing the Kubrick master class with his wife as one of the highlights of their lives: "We're going to sit back together at eighty years old and say, 'Remember last century, when we made that movie with Stanley Kubrick?'" Cruise says that Kidman is equally creative as a mother and as a wife. "I've been with her for ten years, and it's never a dull moment, that's for sure," he says. "I feel very fortunate to have the family I have."
Kidman agrees, especially now that she's back near her own family in Sydney. "When I was a little girl, you'd go out early and catch fish," she says, recalling outings with her grandfather. "I didn't catch big fish, just lots of little ones that covered the bottom of the boat. I'd always get very upset about the hooks coming out of the fishes' mouths and cry." And would her grandfather throw them back in?
"Not really," she says with a smile. "A tough Australian guy? He'd say, 'Snap out of it. You eat it, don't you?'" She pauses. "Of course, I couldn't wait to leave Australia, didn't really appreciate it. I only missed it because of my family. Now, when I'm away, I miss the city. I miss Bondi. I miss home."
This is a difficult time for you, since the opening of Eyes Wide Shut is tempered by the death of your great friend Stanley Kubrick. What do you think he wanted the movie to say?
He wanted to make a personal film about a stage in a relationship, about jealousy, sexual obsession and guilt.
And did he?
Stanley made a very, very fine film, and I'm so proud to be in it. Even trying to define it, without Stanley here is ... [her voice trails off]. It's tainted the experience a bit for Tom and me.
But what a compliment to be starring in the last film by the man who directed such classics as Dr. Strangelove and Lolita. And what about that provocative trailer?
Stanley sent it to us saying, "Here's the trailer." And I said, "You're kidding! This can't be the trailer."
Why did it shock you?
Because I'm naked in it, Nancy!
But you knew you were going to be.
But not in the trailer [laughs]. I showed it to my mother, who said, "Wow. I want to see the film."
That is the point of a good trailer, but I'm afraid what most people will remember is that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are nude and making love.
I realized that when the trailer came out. Though to me those are characters up there, everyone else interprets it as Tom and Nicole. And it is revealing. As people, Tom and I aren't exhibitionists; we've never been. It's not in our personalities. We're more inhibited than that. Besides, the film is not just about sex.
Were the nude scenes difficult to do?
At the time? No. Because we were playing the characters.
How many people were on the set?
Stanley, Tom and I. Stanley shot it himself. The music you hear in the trailer was playing. We shot it for a day but set it up for days before.
Was it difficult being that sexually explicit, even with your husband?
Hard to see, rather than hard to do. When you're doing it, you get lost in the character. Though at first it was kind of like ... normal. [She glances back over her shoulder, as if looking at Tom; her voice gets sexy] "Baby. Oh, hi. How ya doing?" [Laughs]
It's said that you and Tom play psychiatrists who are married to each other.
No, I'm not a psychiatrist. Because we said nothing, it's become a fact that we play psychologists who are having sexual liaisons....
With their patients. But Tom is a psychiatrist?
Nope. That's all inaccurate.
Can you say what he does play?
But you're married in the movie?
No, we have a child.
And you live in New York?
Yeah. Bingo! [Laughs] You've gotten more out of me than anybody else.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Eyes Wide Shut?
People think it's going to be some huge sex romp, and they're wrong.
How do you define "sex romp"?
That, onscreen, Tom and I are having sex for an hour. The sex is such a small part of the story.
The word is that your character in the movie shoots heroin.
Nope. All of that is wrong. There's actually no sex [laughs]. No, I'm joking. But there's no drugs, no Tom in a dress, no psychiatrists.
But the film is based on [Arthur Schnitzler's] novella Traumnovelle, in which the man is a shrink.
The movie is only loosely based on the book. In fact, Stanley wouldn't let us read the book. It's better not to.
About Kubrick the man, then. How did he come to meet you and offer you this role?
Over the years, Tom had been running faxes with Stanley. Then he sent us each a fax and a script, but separately. I was astounded. He said, "I want you in my movie; please play Alice," which is the name of my character.
What did you say?
I said, "I don't even need to read the script [laughs]. If my character's got one line, one word, I'll play Alice." In fact, Tom and I both went into the movie saying, "You have us. All of us. We want to dedicate our lives to making this film."
What did Kubrick say?
He expected it! [Laughs] He wouldn't have settled for anything less. He expects utter devotion, and we were willing to give it.
When did you first meet him?
In his kitchen [outside London]. We had dinner — Tom, me, Stanley and his wife, Christiane. And I thought, "Once he sees me act, he's going to think I'm terrible and want to get rid of me." Part of the rehearsal process for me is getting over my shyness about having everybody watching. It's a strange thing, as an actor, to battle.
What did you talk about at the dinner?
Everything except acting and the film: computers, politics, philosophy.
What is Christiane Kubrick like?
One of the warmest people you'll ever meet. She showed me all her paintings. She's a gifted artist.
Hard to think of Kubrick the family man.
Very close family. The man was a good father, husband, great filmmaker.
Did you leave that dinner feeling you had struck an empathetic relationship ?
No. I thought, "Oh, God. How are we ever going to get to know each other?" But Tom and I drove away so excited about the possibilities. About four months later, we moved to England. We shot for about ten months but were there for three years [laughs].
Kubrick was that rare director who could've tied you and Tom up for three years.
Time is what Stanley bought. And he was always working and never wasted money. He brought the film in under budget.
Kubrick had the reputation of seeing actors as the least important part of the process.
Tom and I had a different relationship with him than most actors — usually it was about actors resisting him and the way he worked. But we didn't resist. I don't believe he was trying to hurt us psychologically. Nobody was being exploited — that is not Stanley Kubrick.
But he could be very demanding?
He was demanding, so demanding.
In what way?
Of your time, your concentration. He wanted it. He wanted ... you. Wanted you to reveal things, be there for him at all times. I'm in only half the movie, so once I went for a week to Australia, and when I came back, he looked at me and said, very wryly, "Unfaithful woman" [laughs]. He had a great sense of humor.
He sounds quite controlling.
It wasn't controlling; it was wanting you to be dedicated.
Did he deal with Tom in the same way?
Because Tom is in every scene in the movie, they had a different relationship, a very private one. Stanley really understood Tom. And me. He said that Tom was a roller coaster and I was a thoroughbred. When I wasn't working, I'd go sit in Stanley's office for hours — just knock on his door, drink coffee, read books, talk to him. He loved that. On a set you wear a bathrobe, and I'd hang around in mine. Even when I wasn't working, I'd wear my bathrobe and go sit on the office floor. I liked being around him. He also directed us very differently. He allowed me more freedom. He and Tom worked very closely together on the character, while with me he'd say, "You can ad-lib." He loved to improvise — then he'd go write it. With Peter Sellers in Lolita, he'd have two cameras going, because he said you'd only get it a couple of times and you better have the cameras on. He was like that with me, too. He'd say, "Now you can play." And I would.
Kubrick was known for endless takes.
Stanley rehearsed a lot. His lighting, framing, finding the thing between the actors were very important to him. Sometimes he'd do ten takes, sometimes a lot more. But I'd always ask him for another. He'd say, "Nicole, you're the only actor I've ever worked with who's asked for another take."
Was Kubrick a father figure or a friend?
Both. Stanley was so different from how everyone perceived him. He was so nurturing toward me. Gentle.
Why was Kubrick different?
I loved his true belief in the power of film. That's what he did with his life. He lived in his house, made his movies, didn't play by the rules. He was seventy years old and still not cynical about the process — even though his work could have a cynical viewpoint. His belief in mankind wasn't strong; he thought we were destroying ourselves.
Just human nature. Stanley was quite a moral man, though not judgmental. He had a cynicism but also a hope, an emotional attachment — particularly to animals [sighs]. Cats and dogs. He'd always come to work with cat hair on him [laughs]. One of his cats passed away while we were filming, and he was very upset.
Did he seem ill during shooting?
No. That's why his death was such a horrible shock. The night before he died, he left a message saying, "Nicole, call me. Can't wait to talk to you." We'd seen the film six days prior, and I'd sat there dumbfounded. And then I watched it again straightaway. It was a hypnotizing experience. But I'd lost my voice, and though I wrote to Stanley, we couldn't speak. I normally talked to him three or four times a week. Tom had talked to him, which really got me because I couldn't. Stanley was so happy that we liked the film. Anyway, my voice finally came back, and I was to call him. I'd just finished baking for the kids — chocolate croissants, which I'll never make again — and I got a call from Leon, Stanley's assistant, saying he was dead.
Was Tom with you when you heard about Kubrick's death?
He was in Australia; I was in New York. I called him immediately and we kept saying, "no, no," and crying, crying, crying. Couldn't stop crying. For days. I never had that happen before. [Suddenly, Nicole, looking anguished, tears up.] Stanley's imagination is such a loss to the world. I was so close to him. I can't believe he's not around. I loved thinking of him over in England, conjuring up things.
How did you get through that first day?
I went to St. Patrick's Cathedral [in New York] that night, alone. I wanted to light a candle for Stanley. Basically, I spent time there. I felt comforted.
When did you finally see Tom?
He flew in the next day. He'd gotten on a plane from Australia to New York, which is twenty-four hours, to pick me up and fly me to London. I wouldn't have been able to go by myself. I was a mess. Sobbing. So we flew together. Stanley hated funerals [laughs]. I'm surprised he didn't will himself out of one. But it was really for Christiane and the girls. I found it quite traumatic. I went to Princess Di's funeral — Tom knew her; I'd only met her a few times — but I'd never been to a very intimate, private funeral.
What did Kubrick teach you about you?
He was always encouraging about me as an actor and as a woman. The shock for Tom and me is that nobody knew us the way Stanley did. Not even my mom and dad. Nobody. It was three years with just the three of us. He knew us.
You had to tell him everything about your relationship?
Yeah, but he also saw the machinations, the way we operated with each other. He'd help me. He'd say, "Come here. I've been married for all these years, and you can't say that to a man." [Laughs] He was our friend. So strong, but intense. Tom would make pasta and salad, and Stanley would eat lunch with us every single day. He'd never been that close with actors before. He said that. He wrote me a beautiful note.
Is this the first time you've dealt with personal grief?
When my mother was going through her cancer, I was eighteen, and there was that grief — feeling, "I'm positive she won't make it." A constant weight on your shoulder. With Stanley, it was so abrupt. It was like, "Ooh" [deep sigh].
Recently you filed a libel suit against the Star tabloid for reporting that for Eyes Wide Shut, sex therapists had to be hired to teach you and Tom how to make love for the camera. Why sue?
Because not one tiny element of that story is true. There were no sex therapists. What happened onscreen happened because the three of us worked on this together, with no outside people coming in. In fact, we have a legal affidavit from the two therapists [named], saying they never did a thing. From now on, Tom and I will fight things. We'll sue.
How do you think people will respond to Eyes Wide Shut?
I don't care. For us, it's about Stanley and happiness. He's not here, and he was our leader — the guy who headed it up, the Man. In a sense, it is not us, not ours. So we're flailing about.
Kidman and I are speeding down an avenue in downtown Sydney, lost and laughing. We've left Bondi Beach for my hotel on Kent Street — a destination that eludes us. Before deserting her childhood seaside haunt, we'd stopped into Aquabar, a postage-stamp-size cafe that serves, quite possibly, the best porridge (with bananas) in existence. The owner, a friend of both Cruises, frequently plays host to the couple, who bring their kids to play on the same sands where their mother grew up. When we walked in, other breakfast aficionados barely acknowledged the presence of one of the most recognizable women in the world. After Kidman chowed down on porridge, Turkish toast and cappuccinos, we piled into her car and head toward town.
Minutes after reaching Kent Street, Kidman and I move into the hotel's deserted bar. It is 9:30 A.M. and we've already been talking for close to four hours, which makes us both grin. The world is just getting started and we're ready for our third breakfast (she, too, having caught a snack before sunrise) and more conversation.
You were born in Hawaii, returning to Sydney at age four. In between, your family lived in Washington, D.C., where your father studied at the National Institutes of Health. Do you remember living there?
Yes. When I was two, my parents took me to a protest march against Vietnam. They were involved in a lot of movements there during the late Sixties. Great social consciences, both of them. I was carried around to demonstrations.
How did they meet?
On a blind date. They were both twenty-one. Thirty-eight years later, they're still married. So the blind date worked. It's great when you have parents who are still married, because it gives you a belief in the institution of marriage. My parents are great friends and still make each other really laugh. Their humor is so alive. My mom was the same age as I when she married.
But they had rough times. Didn't your mom once leave and come back?
Right. But there was no pretense. It wasn't as if they'd be smiling in front of us and furious behind closed doors. If they were fighting, you knew it.
What are your strongest memories of your parents as you grew up?
Strong opinions and lots of fun to hang out with. I can tell them anything. I've called them Janelle and Antony, not Mom and Dad, since I was eleven. My mom minded, but she also liked it. I thought it was cooler to be at school and say, "Janelle, cut it out" [laughs]. I'm waiting for it to happen with Bella. I take her to school, try to kiss her on the cheek, and she says, "Mom, time to go," and pushes me out of the classroom. She's six and embarrassed.
Were you a rebellious child?
Always — though, actually, I sat in my room and kept a diary, pages and pages of writing where I battled with things ... that I didn't fit into the culture here, wasn't a beach girl, loved reading, acting. I'd hear laughter from next-door, where they'd be playing in the pool, and think, "I wish they'd invite me over," but they never would. I always felt like there was something going on and I wasn't part of it. The classic outsider.
Was the rejection painful?
It was, but I'd read a book and escape. Or go to drama school and play Gwendolyn in Spring Awakening.
Were you brought up seeing theater?
Yes. It's one of the reasons I became an actor. My mother took us to see opera, hear classical music. I do the same thing with Bella. In Australia, at age four, I was taken to see pantomimes. I loved the sound of everyone in a room together, laughing or calling out. The audience participation enthralled me.
What about boys? You started dating at fifteen. Who was your first boyfriend?
And what was Doug like?
A surfer and a carpenter. Men who work with their hands. Hands are very sexy. Strong hands. Arms. You can fall in love with a man's hands.
I've never focused on Tom's hands.
You better be careful [laughs]. I do have a hand fetish. Powerful hands that can be gentle. Oooooh. Girls' hands I don't care about. I can appreciate their beauty, but I'm not interested. Men's hands playing guitar? Watching the hands move on a guitar?
Eric Clapton caressing his guitar.
That guitar — it's hot!
Back to Doug. How long did that last?
Oh, about six months.
Did you date? Go out in groups?
Well, my parents were pretty good. He was allowed to stay at my house.
Yes. My mother was scared of young men who drink and drive, since they have the highest statistics for road accidents, so she much preferred me safe at home.
What was Doug's reaction?
He wasn't in my bed — he had a separate one in my room, like when you had a girlfriend stay. I kept whispering, "Come, get in bed."
Except you slept together?
[Laughs] We're not going into detail!
Will you be as open-minded with Bella?
Given my mother's reasons, the danger of boys and drinking, I think so.
Post-Doug, who was your next beau?
I dated awhile, then I met Rick when I was seventeen — although I had another boyfriend in between Doug and Rick.
Sounds like you dated a lot.
Not really [laughs]. I always had relationships.
Your parents gave you a lot of moral responsibility early on.
Yes. They also gave me respect for who I was, that I was not going to put myself into a position where I felt compromised as a girl.
Because you're so pretty, I'm sure boys were interested.
I wasn't beautiful by any means. I was revolting–gawky, coltish. I had very, very long legs and not much else. I was amazed if somebody looked at me. At camp, one boy was pulled across the floor — "I don't wanna dance with her!" — because I was the last one left. I was so humiliated!
A woman's initial sexual self-image comes through her father. My guess is that your dad — a six-foot-two marathon runner who made you and your sister do push-ups every morning — really adored you.
Yes, but not effusively so. I love my dad, had a good relationship with him, which is why I like men.
And your mother, she used to have you handing out pamphlets at feminist rallies.
I desperately wanted to please her. Even though she could make me angry, I admired her.
She always conducted herself with such dignity and grace. She's warm, very compassionate.
So you were closer to your mother than to your father?
Yes, but only because he was working. You only need one good parent to love you. If you get two, you're lucky, but you really need one. You can survive without any of it, but it's so much harder. If your mother or father gives you unconditional love, even with friction, you feel secure that you were loved. There's no greater gift for a child to start off life.
You said that your mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when you were eighteen. How did it affect you?
It rocks your whole foundation. She found a lump in her breast. I remember the day vividly. I was working on a film [Windrider], and she called me from the hospital where the cancer was diagnosed. I dropped the phone and begged the producers to let me go back and see her. And they said no. Then it was a year in hell.
She was very sick?
Very. She had a lumpectomy, which was new at the time, then chemotherapy and radiation. We thought she was going to die. I moved back into the house. I remember the whole shift very clearly. You encounter something like that and say, "OK, it isn't all going to work out like you want." And now it's so important to be there if my kids or husband really need me; everything else pales in comparison.
Your parents also gave you a love of learning, which you haven't lost. For instance, you're now studying Russian.
Yes, and Tom and I studied Greek art together. I definitely got that from my parents. When my parents heard, for instance, that I was doing the Kubrick movie, they signed on for a two-day film seminar on him. Thirty people in the class. They studied Kubrick for twelve hours a day. Saw all his films. Packed a little lunch every day. They said, "Have you seen the first film Stanley ever made? The one he didn't like?" And I said, "Killer's Kiss?" And they said, "No, Fear and Desire." And then they met him. We all went out to Stanley's.
Do you think you and Tom can last for thirty-eight years, like your parents?
I'd be so devastated if we didn't.
What keeps you and Tom together?
We enjoy each other's company. Boy, we have times, we have our times. Believe you me. But we're staying together. I adore him.
More than when you married him?
Oh, yes. I know him now. I didn't when I married him. But happiness is not a constant. It comes and goes. It's something you work at. We are normal people in a relationship, trying to make it work. That some people doubt that just gets you going, pissed off.
Last year, you sued London's Express on Sunday over a rumor that suggested Tom was gay. Why finally take that step?
For years we did like the Bible said and turned the other cheek. But with kids who have to answer questions in the schoolyard, you've got to take a stand. We said, "No more." Everyone said, "Why don't you sue? It must be true, otherwise you would." So finally we did sue and won. It goes back to what my dad taught me: Have your say.
You and Tom have a decade of shared history — that's a lot.
Oh, it's so much! Tom and I have a great need of each other. It's nice to need someone, though it can leave you vulnerable. Now there's a sense of us as a couple and as individuals. Tom loves to fly planes; I like to study Italian. He loves to ski down a mountain at 100 miles an hour; I like to ski, but it's not my passion. We have different things that we love, and then we come together on things that we both love doing. For instance, we both love hiking together. Wild, dangerous hikes.
Why does that appeal to you?
Because that's when we talk. You have a backpack on, and you talk. We've hiked all over the world. You're spending one-on-one time with someone you really like and enjoy. It makes you very close, because all you do is walk all day. And talk — or not talk. And eat and sleep. I love mountains, grass, clouds and smells — the salt air, watching the sun come up over the ocean. It changes me. If I'm depressed, it makes me feel calm — very small in a very big world. It gives perspective, because you are not the center of the universe.
What do you think you've brought to Tom's life?
He'll say that I made it really complicated [laughs]. He calls me the wild Aussie. I shake things up. I'm so embarrassed to say. I would hope, humor.
How did making Eyes Wide Shut change your relationship?
There's a lot of c'est la vie in our relationship now: "That's life. You get through it." Also more pragmatism.
That wasn't there before?
It's developed. I don't know if it's because of the film or getting older or having gone through so much together — deaths, people taping phone conversations of us supposedly fighting. Taking one sentence from one conversation and this from another and putting them together. My God, it's so invasive. There are other things we won't discuss, but it leads you to say, "We're still here and still together." Tom is a very kind man, and kindness is a very big thing. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body. You can always appeal to his heart.
Most girls in their early twenties wouldn't have appreciated the importance of kindness. At that age most girls are still into dangerous men.
Well, Tom was dangerous because of who he was. In a fight, he might say something to me, but he doesn't have that ...
No. Which is very unusual for a guy, a man in that position. He has desire, ambition, but he'll back off, too.
I think your cultural differences help.
Oh, he'd be suited to an American girl — an athletic one. I mention certain American girls to him all the time — "You guys would be great together" — and he goes, "Quiet. I'm with you."
Tom seems to like being married.
He loves being married. He likes his haven — his nest, I call it. But Tom loves all women. He's a big appreciator of us [laughs]. I always say, "You're such a flirt." He's a beautiful flirt — which is an important thing to cultivate. You must encourage the sexuality in your partner. As long as you trust the person, there's no need to be threatened. Tom once said he fell in lust with me and then he trusted me. Lust and trust! [Laughs]
I sense that he's very protective.
Tom's very masculine in that way. He took care of his mother and three sisters — he'd get in fistfights if anyone said anything about them.
People forget that Tom had such a tough childhood.
He did — four kids and a father who left them, Tom the only guy in the family, no money. He really made it on his own. They struggled for years — even to get food on the table. It was horrible. He had a mother who battled to keep them together, working two or three jobs. She's a special woman, very warm, religious — Catholic — with a great sense of who she is. Same with his sisters. I always say to her, "Mary Lee, I don't know how you did it." Sometimes when I'm with him, I still feel like an outsider, because Tom and the three girls went through so much together. You can feel their bond. I hope Tom, Connor, Bella and I have that same intensity of love.
But your children will have an abundance.
Exactly. But they have to do chores to earn money. They see a toy and we say, "It's really expensive. Do you have enough money?"
Do they know what you do?
The kids come up to Bella at school and say, "Your daddy's Tom Cruise" — and then it's so weird when she talks about us in the third person. And I say, "No, we're Mommy and Daddy, and we happen to be actors." She, of course, wants to be an actor already.
Have they seen your movies?
No. Neither of them. She sees us in magazines and says, "Look how lovely you look," and walks away.
Is Bella pretty?
To me, she's the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. I can't understand why people aren't falling on the street [laughs]. I love children. Bella said something so embarrassing, so rude, recently [laughs]. We were in a car with a driver in Vienna, a promotional thing. And she says, in front of everyone, "My mommy has a vagina." I go, "Yes, all right. We don't talk about that now." And then she says, "It has fur on it. Some vaginas don't have fur, and some do." The driver started laughing. You just want to die. Another mother and I were talking about children's fascination with genitalia. Connor was sitting at the table; he's always got girls around him — my sister, his sister, a girlfriend of mine — and he says, "Well, I'm the only penis at the table." That's the way he defines it: six vaginas and one penis at the table.
He's a wild man. He can bat his eyelids and get what he wants from anybody. And he knows it. Scary.
Both your children are adopted. How does that affect them and you?
With adoption, you're not saying, "This is me. I see our traits." It's more the discovery of what their personalities are. We talk to them about it all the time. They say, "I'm adopted; I'm special." We have adoption in our family. My mother's sister is adopted.
Connor happens to be biracial. Obviously, that was your specific choice.
I can't talk about it, because I don't want him reading about it someday. But it'll be interesting to hear him discuss what it was like to be raised by us. We saw this baby who, through the circumstances, was meant for us. I couldn't imagine Connor being anybody else's, anywhere else. He's Connor [laughs]. The Connor I know from changing his diapers every day.
Did motherhood transform you?
Hugely. For a while you've got to battle becoming absolutely obsessed with your child, shutting out everything else. I remember Tom coming to me and saying, "What about me? What about our bond?" You've got to find a way to somehow take care of your baby and your husband.
How do you do it?
I'm still grappling [laughs]. I love acting, but it's so much more fun to take the kids to the beach or the zoo. I could not work tomorrow and be fine because I have the children.
Does Tom have the same feeling?
Yes. Just as much. Believe me, between flying planes, taking care of his kids and our family together, yeah, he could easily stop. He'd miss acting, but he's been doing it a long time.
Will you have more children?
Don't know. Two's a lot. You worry so much already. They're at school now, and I'm thinking, "Did I put an apple in Connor's lunch this morning?" I want them to have nice lunches because I never used to. My dad made sandwiches and never cut them up properly — just chunks of butter and vegemite. And I was always hoping for more. I like my kids having something in their lunch that says, "Someone thought out what you're going to have for lunch today."
In retrospect, did you understand when you married Tom Cruise that you'd be giving up your anonymity?
No. I didn't realize the extent of his fame. I fell in love with the man. Tom would pick me up in his car and we'd go driving, listen to music and talk. It could have been the guy next-door. When I looked at this whole world around him, I thought, "I can cope with this." Then, a year later, I thought, "Oh, this is tough." I gave up my country, moved to another, couldn't see my friends because we were always traveling. I gave up a lot of what I was to be with him because I wanted to be with him.
What happened when you first met Tom?
He took my breath away. I don't know what it was — chemical reaction? Hard to define — hard to resist.
But he was married to Mimi Rogers.
Yes, so I said, "Out of bounds." And I was also in a relationship.
So it was complicated?
Well, it wasn't really, because he was separated a few weeks after that. Their marriage wasn't working out.
Did you ever meet Mimi?
I've met her about four times, but not then, because they were breaking up. I knew he really wanted Mimi to be taken care of, which I thought was a very good sign. And he was very private about it. They gave each other a lot. I know he has no regrets about that relationship. She's very happy now, is in a relationship and has a baby.
What was your parents' reaction to Tom?
They were down-to-earth, if suspicious. But then my mother came and stayed with us in New York for two weeks. And when she saw Tom and me together, she said that we were like two peas in a pod. She said, "You're two people who have always been looking for a best friend." But I was lucky in that I was also attracted to my best friend. I wouldn't want to marry my best friend if I weren't attracted. Need a little chemistry in there.
Was Tom's fame a problem the first time you brought him home?
It was frightening. I'd given my apartment to my sister, so we had to stay in a hotel. I'd told him, "There's no paparazzi in Australia. We'll be fine." But we were followed everywhere. I sat in my hotel room crying: "This isn't my life, is it? Not being able to walk down the street, to show you my city and not see it from the window of a hotel room?"
What was Tom's reaction?
He was slightly embarrassed. He wanted to say, "We can go out, it's OK." And I'd say, "No, we can't, because everyone is going to come up to you." But now Tom and I can walk Bondi Beach with nobody bothering us.
Why? If anything, you're more famous.
But it's not that kind of fame now. He's still really big, but Tom's been around a long time, and he's so much more relaxed with fame. Tom says, "I'm going to do what I'm going to do." And when you have kids, that really has to happen. We're going to a big barbecue at school on Saturday. There'll be a spit roast, maypole dancing — Bella really wants to go, so we will. We'll sit around with the other parents, and nobody will make a big deal out of it. It's when you're rude or think you're better than anybody else that you get into trouble.
You've clearly matured over the years.
Yes. We've obviously grown, changed in our ideas, what we believe in. We have opposing opinions, but we allow each other space and time to ourselves. But I still want to go away alone with him. I love to be alone with him.
To do what?
We play. My mom calls us puppies [laughs]. We play and wrestle, and play and eat. Then we sleep, eat more and play again. We're like puppies. He'll kill me for saying this!
And Tom always liked your being a jock.
Oh, yes. Before we were together, Tom saw me playing tennis and, seeing my serve, he says he went, "Wow, I like this chick!" [Laughs] He couldn't believe how hard I could serve the ball. I'm proud of that.
And sky-diving — how many women would do that, even for Tom Cruise?
Tom loves planes. To relax, he does Cuban eights [flying straight toward the ground and pulling up at the last minute]. I say, "You seem a little stressed. Go fly your plane." When we went sky-diving, I'd do arabesques on the wing and jump off.
You got out on the wing of the plane?
Yeah. You stand on the wing, holding on, then jump backward. The plane keeps going and you stay in your arabesque, straight into your sky-dive.
Doesn't that scare you?
It does. That's the point. Sure, I worry about dying, but that's part of the adrenalin rush. Your whole body is resisting, saying, "No, no, no, this isn't right," but you do it anyway. It sounds mad. I haven't done it since we've had children.
Do you always take risks like that?
No. But even when Tom's racing cars, driving really fast, and I'm in the passenger seat, I don't feel frightened. Strange.
What does scare you?
Losing somebody I love. Emotional pain. I'd be very frightened to be dependent, not to have my own life, though there's something so wonderful if you can give yourself over to that.
What worries you about your life as a family?
Well, Tom and I move around a lot. But we sit down every night together to have dinner. And on Sundays, we always have a big dinner with extended family. I love to cook and love to eat. I'm a different person when I'm in the kitchen. Serene. Cooking grounds me. I've got strong maternal instincts — like my mother. As a kid, when I was sick, she was a goddess, sitting beside the bed, bringing beautiful, warm porridge with cream and brown sugar. And she'd massage me. I massage my kids now. Get the oil out when they're watching TV. They love it.
Your family life sounds fulfilling. But in your work you seem to be exploring the exotic side of female sexuality.
In your thirties, you have a sense of who you are. You're freer. You talk about your sexuality more with your girlfriends.
Because it's not about, "Let's go in the car and make out" anymore. In a long-term relationship, you start to deal with things together, and it can hurt — particularly when you say, "I prefer to hear about everything and to have this journey together." Love is complicated, fascinating, addictive.
What happened when you turned thirty?
I said, "OK, I've got two kids, and I've got a husband. But I still want to work; I still have this desire to explore other people." And that's what it is — exploring other people, the human mind.
Is creative exploration of your sexuality enough?
For me it is. I find it really compelling — just as I find my marriage really interesting and compelling.
A compelling element, to the outside world at least, has been your involvement in Scientology. Are you devout?
I was raised Catholic. So I still pray. My father took us to Mass every Sunday. My mother became Catholic to marry him but turned agnostic. My father became an atheist, and my sister went to a convent school. Our family is a mishmash. I'm a whole bunch of religions. It's not one defining thing. So, there's a bit of Scientology, Catholicism, Judaism and the Eastern philosophies. I take a bit of each; I'm a hybrid.
Did you have to embrace Scientology in order to marry Tom?
No way. I would never have married him if that was it. That would've been forcing me to do something I didn't want to do. He and I allow ourselves to be who we are. Am I someone following one philosophy? No, but there's parts of Scientology that are great.
How do you deal with your celebrity?
I get embarrassed by being famous. On a film set, I hate ostentation — don't want the biggest trailer. I hate it if someone says, "Come to the head of the line." I think everyone is going to say, "Who does she think she is?" Because unless you're Nelson Mandela, unless you've done something active in the world to change it, you're not worthy of special attention.
One could argue that your art changes the world.
I don't give it that credibility. I demean it in a way, whereas Stanley didn't — and I shouldn't — put it down. But, please. I can't write like George Eliot or Dylan Thomas or Coleridge, who could write The Rime of the Ancient Mariner on opium and be brilliant! [Laughs] I can act. You don't have to have genius for that.
Where do you see yourself eventually?
[Smiles] Living in Tuscany in a farmhouse, with lots of kids and grandkids running around. Big kitchen. A little opera. Drive into Florence. [Pause] But then I like a city life, too. Being able to go out at midnight, drink margaritas, dance a little salsa.
Can you and Tom do that without being bothered?
Yeah. Yesterday we did a dance class — jive, Fifties style. Spins and stuff. And a little mambo, too. It's very good therapy. Learn to mambo. It's sexy and fun. Take a few dance classes, listen to music, move your bodies together. That's my marriage tip [laughs]. You have to keep going back to the simple things. Just holding hands, walking down the street. Or spooning, if you're lying in bed [laughs]. Spooning can make you feel very contented.
It sounds like you and Tom have a life plan.
We do. I've married a man I love, and I am loved back. So what's your prediction — are Tom and I going to be marathoners?
I'd put money on it.
We'll shake on that one. [She reaches over and grabs my hand.] I hope you're right. I hope you're a prophet.