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Nicole Kidman's maternal instincts guide latest role

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Nicole Kidman might dress to the nines for the red carpet, but she lives a very casual lifestyle otherwise ­­— and that includes the holidays, which she celebrated early with family in her native Australia.

“I look forward to being home. I’m not a very good cook,” she says. “So we buy a turkey already cooked, and my parents come over, which is nice.”

Then there is the joy of her 2½-year-old daughter Sunday Rose with country-rocker husband Keith Urban. She says that every day is Sunday’s show.

“Oh, she sings, dances and even loves to play with makeup,” Kidman says. “Keith will play the piano and Sunday Rose dances around the living room and sings made up songs.”

Motherhood is on her mind these days in a lot of other ways. In her new movie “Rabbit Hole,” opening today in Chicago, she plays Becca, a happy wife and mother whose life is turned upside-down when her only son is killed in a car accident. Becca and her husband, played by Aaron Eckhart, deal with their grief in different ways, and it tests their marriage.

Kidman, 43, was the driving force behind the movie.

“I just immediately connected with the subject matter,” she says. “I actually read the play and the character seemed so available to me. I could just immediately jump in and feel it.

“I knew it would work on film if we didn’t approach it from an analytical point of view,” she says. “We did it from a visceral place.”

Kidman wanted to explore the topic of grief.

“I’ve been in other films where grief was a topic, but this felt very different. It was more primal. And it’s a topic we can’t avoid because it’s a part of everyone’s life.”

“What we love can turn into something we lose. The fear associated with that loss is a part of our human existence,” she says. “I think that with this film it’s very much about a family, as well, and it’s about how a family works through their pain together.”

Eckhart attended group counseling sessions for parents who have lost children, but when Kidman tried to do the same, she was turned away.

“I was told, ‘Unless you’ve actually lost a child or a loved one you’re not to come into the room.’

“I completely respected that, because they said, ‘It’s just too raw and it’s too dangerous. It’s a very sacred place and we can’t let you in to observe.’

“I’m glad that they didn’t now, because the way that the emotions came to me in the character were through just my own emotions and the rawness of loving my own children.”

Besides Sunday Rose, Kidman has two older children from her previous marriage to Tom Cruise. Isabella, 18, and Connor, 15, live primarily with Cruise in Los Angeles. Kidman, Urban and Sunday Rose live quietly outside Nashville these days, where the paparazzi snap her doing glamorous things like pushing a shopping cart around Target.

“I love being at home,” she says. “My husband and my mother tell me, ‘You need to get out there. Don’t abandon what you love to do.’ But it has to be a project that really touches my heart to leave my family.”

She does have several films in the works: “Just Go With It,” a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler; “Trespass,” a thriller with Nicolas Cage, and the TV movie “Hemingway & Gellhorn” with Clive Owen. She is also excited about her 2011 return to Broadway as Alexandra Del Lago in the revival of Tennessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird of Youth.”

“There’s a rush to being on stage,” she says. “I love that you get the immediate feedback every night from the audience.”

But motherhood is the role she relishes the most.

“There is such a power and responsibility and love that you feel for your children,” she says. “It’s the most profound feeling.”

Big Picture News Inc.

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