Q: Was it the script or was it working with Lee? What made you sign on?

I think it was the combination. I loved ‘Precious.’ I think it was the combination of Lee and the character.  And there were great characters throughout the whole thing. It’s not a plot driven film. It’s a character film.  And that as an actor is really appealing and the strength of the character. I’ve never been offered a role like that before and there is something really beautiful about her tragic kind of journey and the damage. Yet, she’s tough and she’s always pushing through and trying to survive.  I find that very endearing.

Q: You and Matthew and John have all made pictures somewhat of this scope, but Zac has never made a movie like this.  

No, it was luck [Lee cast him] and he was so good and he was up for anything.  I think he’s got so much ahead of him.  He obviously has a beautiful face, but I loved the quality he brought to the character and in the scene where he comes to the door he’s suddenly a man. [His character is] like, ‘Hey, you can be with me’ and ‘I want you to be with me’ and I’m like, ‘No, no.’ I loved what he did with the arc with it. I think he’s a really strong actor and I just hope he gets the opportunity to shine.

Q: What made you pick your current project ‘Grace of Monaco’?

The director again, I get devoted to my directors. Olivier Dahan (‘La Vie en Rose’), I really wanted to work him and the script really was really interesting to me.  It’s only a certain part of her life. It’s only a six-month period of her life and what’s it about is really interesting. And it’s a French crew and a French director and that’s different for me. I’ve never done that before.  

Q: You’ve played historical figures before, but was this daunting or…?

It’s daunting, but at the same time where we were shooting people new Grace and we were shooting in front of about 500 extras and they were very, very supportive.  They really said, ‘Oh, you remind me of her.’ And that was nice to hear because I was terrified, of course.

Q: Not just with ‘The Paperboy,’ but ‘Fur’ and even ‘Rabbit Hole,’ you’ve made very challenging films over your career. Does that give you the confidence to look at a project and go, ‘Yes, this scares me, but I know I can do it’?  Or is there always a measure of fear when you take on a new project?

I dunno. I suppose it’s just the fear, it’s more…Y’know, I always harken back to drama school, because in drama school you do everything. You do every role. You do all ages.  You could play a male, that’s what you’re being trained to do. And, I try and approach my career like that.  I try not to get too overwhelmed by it or try to think in terms of the magnitude of the world and just think, ‘I’m gonna try this.’ And I think that’s just from lessons of people who’ve had long careers.  I try to stay curious and I try to stay brave. That’s the way I approach it. I never think of pleasing people.  Is this something that sparks my curiosity?  Everything else? The analysis of it doesn’t really interest me that much. I really try to stay in a place of simple curiosity.

Q: That’s refreshing in many ways. I know with many actors they feel that they need to mix up the indie films and commercial films.  Do you ever find yourself thinking that way?

No, not now. I used to, probably earlier in my career. But, no, no [not now]. (Laughs.) I probably should, it just doesn’t feel right.

Q: Are you having more fun than you’ve had in the past?

I feel more stretched if that makes sense.

Q: In a good way?

Yeah, yeah.  I don’t want to get complacent in my old age. In my career or in my life I think complacently is one of my biggest fears.

Q: As someone who has been the awards season game yourself many times over the years do you have any favorites?

Amour.’ ‘Amour.’ I am just in love with that film. I love Michael Haneke.  That film to me is just a masterpiece.  Have you seen it?

Q: Yes, oh yes.

I’ve only seen it once because it was so powerful it went into part of my psyche. I think just to do with the subject matter and how he handled it. And the performances are blindingly good.

Q: And Emmanuelle Riva in particular is quite good.

Oh, yes! I start crying when I think of her. I hope people see it because it’s one of those things where it needs [exposure and publicity] for people to see it. I know it won the Palm d’Or and all that, but those sort of films need people to go.  I’m a huge, huge fan of his and I think this is one of his best movies.

After our call ended with holiday pleasantries, I kept reflecting on how refreshing the conversation had been.  Let's consider this for a moment: Does anyone from “The Paperboy” have a genuine shot a nomination over the next few months?  Does Kidman think she’ll really land a SAG or Oscar nomination for the role?  Probably not in either case, but she's clearly so proud of the picture she was willing to take the time after a long day on set to talk about it. Because, even if you aren’t a voter. Even if you are and already have your ballot filled out and sent in the mail. Even if you’re a critic who has decided who you’re voting for in your critics’ group year-end awards.  Maybe, just maybe, you’ll finally watch the movie and judge it for yourself.  You may be surprised at what you find.

“The Paperboy” will be released on DVD and Blu-ray January 22.
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With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios and has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times. A co-founder of HitFix, Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3’s on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.