Anyone who’s seen Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies — or any of her projects over the last 35 years — knows that she pulls inspiration for her characters from a number of sources. But while she admits to being mostly ruled by the heart in a new interview for Marie Claire, she also says that she and her husband, Keith Urban, have a game they like to play when it comes to determining how other artists are inspired in their work.
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An example: “When I say to him, ‘What kind of guitarist is that person?’ we do this,” Kidman said, then patted her head, patted her heart and made a motion below her waist, per Marie Claire. “Head, heart, or— It’s a great way to describe different artists, right?”
She admitted that she’s a “pretty even mix,” but added that she’s “probably dominated” by her heart. “If you don’t come from a feeling place, you just end up with an enormous amount of technique,” Kidman said. “I have [my head], but that can be overruled. It fluctuates too. I have a strong sexuality. It’s a huge part of who I am and my existence.”
That combination has allowed Kidman to sink deeply into the characters she plays — and sometimes, it can really affect her real life. “I get to live my life, but I get to go into other people’s lives too. They’re transient, but I absolutely live those lives,” she explained, going on to add that her level of empathy for her characters is so deep that Urban sometimes worries, like he did in her upcoming film Destroyer, in which she plays a detective who has to reckon with bad choices from her past and which has gotten her noticed for the way she has tackled her character: “That was a hell place to exist. I was completely in pain, to the point my husband was like, ‘I cannot wait for this to end.'”
Per the expansive Marie Claire interview, we also learned other interesting tidbits about Kidman’s inner life and history, including that fact that she traces her feminist ideals back to the 1970s, when her nurse-educator mother would ask her and her sister to hand out political pamphlets advocating women’s rights.
“We’d get teased at school: ‘Oh, your mom is so radical,’” Kidman said. “At the time, we’d roll our eyes and be embarrassed. But my sister and I are both advocates now. It was an incredible gift to be given.”
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These roots have helped grow Kidman into an outspoken feminist today, with examples of that including her work as a Goodwill Ambassador for U.N. Women and working behind the scenes for women’s rights. In her acceptance speech for best female actor at the Golden Globes in January, she thanked her Big Little Lies castmates and crew for centering women in their own stories: “I do believe, and I hope, we can elicit change through the stories we tell and the way we tell them. Let’s keep the conversation alive. Let’s do it.”
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