By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—As a girl growing up in Australia, Nicole Kidman had her various toys and books. One of her favorites stories involved Paddington Bear, an adorable little Peruvian bear who arrived on a London train platform with a note around his neck that read: Please look after this bear. His many adventures sparked her imagination.
As a mother of four, Kidman has shared Paddington author Michael Bond’s stories with her own young ones. So it was something of a no-brainer when producer David Heyman and director Paul King asked her to star in the big screen adaptation of the beloved “Paddington” story.
The family adventure comedy, mixing live-action with animation, follows the misadventures of a young bear that travels to London from his remote South American forest in search of a new life following a devastating storm that destroys his home. Alone and lost at Paddington Station, he begins to fear the wondrous stories he’s been told about the city by his aunt and uncle were fantasy. That is until he meets the Brown family. They read the label around his neck and offer him tea, a name and a roof over his head for the night.
They also promise to help him find a friend of the family that might take him in. That promise turns into an all out quest when the origin of Paddington’s hat leads them to an exclusive explorers’ organization. Though Paddington’s unfamiliarity with living among humans leads to some messy mishaps, his sweetness and lovability also endear him to the Browns, bringing the family closer together.
Kidman plays Millicent, a sinister taxidermist with her eye on Paddington for her collection. When she kidnaps the bear, it is up to the Browns to rescue him. She stars alongside Hugh Bonneville (“Downton Abbey”), Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi and Ben Whishaw, who provides the voice of Paddington.
The Oscar winning actress (2003’s “The Hours”) got a chance to do some stunts, including some tricky wirework as she sneaks into the Brown home to pinch Paddington.
Q: How much fun was it for you to camp up to play this villain? We don’t see you play this type of character very often. And the Paddington books, did you have a chance to read them to your girls at all? How much do you like Paddington books yourself?
Kidman: This was awesome to do. I had the best time. Yeah, my kids have now read the books, but I grew up with Paddington Bear, so reading the books and wanting my own little Paddington Bear. So finally, I got one.
Q: What was it like really camping it up for this character?
Kidman: Was I camping it up? (She laughs.)
Q: Was there any research for your role?
Kidman: I did learn to throw knives, which they subsequently cut out of the film. I just remember (producer) David (Heyman) going “It’s a children’s movie!” So I throw one knife now. I’ll save my knife-throwing technique for another film.
Q: You play the villain, but you have two little kids. Were you concerned that one might say, “Oh, mom, it’s so scary?”
Kidman: Well, it was good because they were on the set. Initially they were like, “Oh, no, no, no. Please don’t be the one that wants to hurt the bear.” But now they understand the behind-the-scenes and strangely enough now, my six-year-old really loves the villain character, which kind of worries me. (She laughs.) She’s also like, “Oh, I love the blond hair.” That was her main position. But it was really great because I got to watch the film with my mom, who is 74, and my four-year-old and my six-year-old and all of them were laughing at the same things. That’s amazing. So I just love that I’ve made a film that my family can enjoy.
Q: As an actress, how did you use your character’s distinctive “look” (blond wig, severe outfits etc.) to create your villainess? She’s bad but she’s also fun.
Kidman: Yeah. Well, I was lucky because they had a pretty strong vision for it when I came in and they created me. They put me upside down on these wires. I sent a photo to my family in Australia. They were like, “What are you doing? Are you in the circus?” And they always say if you have a great time making a movie, the movie isn’t going to be any good. But this movie is good and we had a really good time, so that refutes that.
Q: Have your kids have seen the film?
Kidman: Yeah. They love it.
Q: Do they have toy Paddington Bears?
Kidman: They do.
Q: Do you still have your original?