Critic David Thomson‘s decision to write a biography/analysis/meditation on Nicole Kidman seems both odd and rather ballsy, given that his previous biographies were of Orson Welles and David O. Selznick, both comfortably canonical and dead. Kidman is very much alive, and proving it by complaining in news outlets (like the Daily Mail) that Thomson only interviewed her once and neglected to inform her that the exchange was for a book he happened to be writing about her:
According to the star’s publicist Wendy Day: "Nicole has never met David Thomson. She has only spoken to him briefly on the phone about her acting processes and various films.
"He’s a well-respected film writer and she accepted the interview only because she was under the impression he was writing a series of film essays."
We’re sure Kidman would never have shared all those filthy anecdotes had she known they were destined for use in a book instead of a film essay series. The London Times has a Tom-centric extract from the straightforwardly named "Nicole Kidman" here. In another piece in the paper, Thomson defends his choice of topic:
I donâ€™t say sheâ€™s the greatest actress ever, or even the best of her time â€” though I think she is the bravest, the most adventurous and the most varied of her age. Just remember these: Moulin Rouge!, Birthday Girl, The Others, The Hours, Dogville â€” that great run. And Birth, which was released two years ago. I know, many of you may say: Birth? What was that? I never saw it. I had better seek it out. Yes, you should, because it is her best, and she knows it went unseen, and forgotten. In Birth, and in a few others, she finds a shining, profound intimacy. But it was a commercial disaster.
We’re generally pretty indifferent to Kidman as an actress, but we’ve got to hand it to Thomson â€” it’s one thing to write about Welles, and quite another to go to bat for "Birth." Over at the New York Observer, Scott Eyman notes
Mr. Thomson has always put himself out thereâ€”heâ€™s one of the rare writers who view criticism as an art form in its own right, and every artist has to reserve the right to fall on his face. In this particular book, thereâ€™s a dream sequence set in a Parisian bordello that verges on the embarrassing, and there are occasional sentences that could have been lifted directly from Photoplay magazine circa 1938: â€œIt is Nicoleâ€™s nature to be sturdy, cheerful, robust, a real person, full of common sense.â€ At these times, the book is simply what my grandfather used to call a â€œmash note.â€
Elsewhere, the new issue of Film Comment has an article from Paul Schrader that is "one of the longest published in Film Comment history" â€” the topic is no less than what makes a film worthy of being considered canonical, and the preface (entitled "The Book I Didn’t Write") and introduction are online here.
In March 2003 I was having dinner in London with Faber and Faberâ€™s editor of film books, Walter Donohue, and several others when the conversation turned to the current state of film criticism and lack of knowledge of film history in general. I remarked on a former assistant who, when told to look up Montgomery Clift, returned some minutes later asking, â€œWhere is that?â€ I replied that I thought it was in the Hollywood Hills, and he returned to his search engine.
Yes, we agreed, there are too many films, too much history, for todayâ€™s student to master. â€œSomeone should write a film version of Harold Bloomâ€™s The Western Canon,â€ a writer from The Independent suggested, and â€œthe person who should write it,â€ he said, looking at me, â€œis you.â€ I looked to Walter, who replied, â€œIf you write it, Iâ€™ll publish it.â€ And the die was cast.
And, via the always reliably trashy WENN, this tidbit from John Leguizamo‘s upcoming autobiography "Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, And All The Rest Of My Hollywood Friends," on the filming of "Carlito’s Way":
"You really have to know Penelope Ann Miller to dislike her. She’s the kind of girl who would flirt with anyone in the world as long as people are watching." Leguizamo and the wardrobe department decided to get even with Miller – by taking in her clothes an inch at a time. He writes, "Every day her outfits are getting a little tighter, a little tighter. She goes on a starvation diet. Watch the movie, you’ll see she gets thinner and thinner."
Lovely, John, lovely.
+ Kidman outraged at new love revelations (Daily Mail)
+ Kidman: the best actress of her time? (London Times)
+ Nicole uncovered (London Times)
+ A Great Criticâ€™s Mash Note: Nicole Kidman Is To Die For (NY Observer)
+ PREFACE: The Book I Didnâ€™t Write (Film Comment)
+ Leguizamo Slams Flirtatious Miller (WENN)