Elegant redhead Nicole Kidman, known as one of Hollywood's top Australian imports, was actually born in Honolulu, Hawaii to Anthony (a biochemist and clinical psychologist) and Janelle (a nursing instructor). The family moved almost immediately to Washington, D.C., where Nicole's father pursued his research on breast cancer, then, three years later, made the pilgrimage to her parents' native Sydney.
Young Nicole's first love was ballet, but she eventually took up mime and drama as well (her first stage role was a bleating sheep in an elementary school Christmas pageant). Kidman eventually dropped out of high school to pursue acting full-time. She broke into movies at age 16, landing a role in the Australian holiday favorite Bush Christmas (1983). That appearance touched off a flurry of film and TV offers, including a lead in BMX Bandits (1983) and a turn as a schoolgirl-turned-protester in the miniseries "Vietnam" (1986) for which she won her first Australian Film Institute Award. With the help of an American agent, she eventually made her US debut opposite Sam Neill in the at-sea thriller Dead Calm (1989).
Kidman's next casting coup scored her more than exposure. While starring as Tom Cruise's doctor/love interest in the racetrack romance Days of Thunder (1990), she won over the Hollywood hunk hook, line, and sinker. After a whirlwind courtship (and decent box office returns), the couple wed on December 24, 1990. Determined not to let her new marital status overshadow her fledgling career, the actress pressed on.
Despite her steady employment, critics and moviegoers still hadn't quite warmed to Kidman as a leading lady. She tried to spice up her image by seducing Val Kilmer in Batman Forever (1995), but achieved her real breakthrough with Gus Van Sant's To Die for (1995). As a fame-crazed housewife determined to eliminate any obstacle in her path, Kidman proved that she had an impressive range and deadly comic timing. She took home a Golden Globe and several critics' awards for the performance.
In 1996, Kidman stepped into a corset to work with her countrywoman and onetime admirer, Jane Campion, on the adaptation of Henry James's Portrait of a Lady, The (1996). A few months later, she tore across the screen as a nuclear weapons expert in Peacemaker, The (1997), adding "action star" to her professional repertoire. She and Cruise then disappeared into a notoriously long, secretive shoot for Stanley Kubrick's sexual thriller Eyes Wide Shut (1999). The couple's on-screen shenanigans prompted an increase in public speculation about their sex life (rumors had long been circulating that their marriage was a cover-up for Cruise's homosexuality).
In conjunction with her success in the film industry, Kidman became the face of the Chanel No. 5 perfume brand. She starred in a campaign of television and print ads with Rodrigo Santoro, directed by Moulin Rouge! director Baz Luhrmann.
Family life has always been a priority for Kidman. Born to social activists (mom was a feminist, dad a labor advocate), Nicole and her little sister, Antonia, discussed current events around the dinner table and participated in their parents' campaigns by passing out pamphlets on street corners. When her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, 17-year-old Nicole stopped working and took a massage course so that she could provide physical therapy (her mom eventually beat the cancer). She and Cruise adopted two children: Isabella Jane (born in 1993) and Connor Antony (born 1995). Despite their rock-solid image, the couple announced in early 2001 that they were separating due to career conflicts.
Kidman publicly supports a variety of charities and causes. She has been a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF Australia since 1994. She has worked to help raise money for and draw attention to the plight of the most disadvantaged children in Australia and around the world. In 2004, she was honoured as a "Citizen of the World" by the United Nations.
Even from a very early age, I knew I didn't want to miss out on anything life had to offer just because it might be considered dangerous.
- Nicole Kidman