During a recent press interview to promote her current film Paddington, actress Nicole Kidman touched on Selma director Ava DuVernay’s exclusion from the Oscar Best Director nominations and whether women are struggling to find opportunities in Hollywood. As an Academy member, Kidman was very upset not to see a best director’s nomination go to the woman behind the film Selma and said that DuVernay absolutely belonged there.
DuVernay’s film has been celebrated as an achievement in film-making and for telling an important tale about the work of Martin Luther King and his colleagues working in the civil rights movement, an aspect of King’s story not delved into by other filmmakers before. The film was a a big movie, with a $20 million budget made by an African-American female. It was not without its controversy, including claims of discrepancies in famous character portrayals, particularly President Lyndon B. Johnson, and stories about the studio sending out review copies to Academy members very late in the selection process, which might have contributed to the film being overlooked in that category. Nonetheless, it is arguably a terrific film and will be remembered as such.
About to board a plane to head to the Sundance Film Festival to support another female director’s film she has a major role in, Kidman told contributor Holly Rosen Fink that it all comes down to “women supporting women”:
“The only way we can move forward, I believe, is women supporting women. I literally am going … [to Sundance] to … support a movie (Strangerland) that was directed by a woman who’s never directed a film before. And people were saying to me, ‘My Gosh, why are you going to go and take such a risk and do a movie with someone that’s never directed before?’ And I was like, ‘Because I believe in her and I want to give her a shot.’ And if ever there’s a chance to support people, I’m in the stage of my career where I can take risks. I can play. I can get behind people and support them who maybe other people won’t support. And that’s incredibly satisfying to be able to do it.
“But at the same time, you’ve got to have talent. I always say to girls who want to be actresses and want to be directors, ‘Work hard. You’re going to have to work hard. It’s a really tough world and it’s a tough industry, and nobody’s going to give you anything.’
“And I think that’s really important that we keep that as part of the conversation, is the need to really apply yourself and be willing to put in the extra time and the extra effort and all of those things if you really want to have a great career.”
Having started in the film industry at age 14, Kidman has witnessed the evolution of female roles over time and believes the tides may be turning in favor of women. She added:
“I think there has been a resurgence for females in films. As a woman who’s now in my 40s, working and raising children and having a marriage that is an absolute priority to me, it’s always about pulling on my own experiences to try to find the things that I’m experiencing now that I want to put out in the world. Luckily, I’m in a position where I can produce movies. And I get to discover young directors and I get to support young directors. And I don’t know if years ago that was as available to women. So, that’s a great thing, to be able to have access and to different financing and be able to finance my own movies and support new directors.
“I’m about to go to Sundance … and promote [the movie Strangerland] that was a very difficult movie. It’s about a woman who loses her teenage daughter. And that’s a pretty heavy subject and it’s very subject matter in the way in which it plays out in this movie. But, it’s a first time female director, and it was interesting to me. And it was a very low-budget, and I was lucky to have that opportunity. And I want to keep pushing into places I haven’t been before.”
We hope you do, Nicole Kidman.We hope you do. And we wonder — who will be the next big name among Hollywood women to join in?
Holly Rosen Fink is a marketing consultant, publishing executive, freelance writer and theater producer living in Larchmont, New York.