Hollywood Movies

Meryl Streep Was Traumatized Watching Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies

April 28, 20246 Mins Read

Nicole Kidman was honored with the 49th AFI Life Achievement Award on Saturday night, as an A-list group of her friends and collaborators looked back on her long Hollywood career.

Reese Witherspoon, Morgan Freeman, Naomi Watts, Zoe Saldaña, Aaron Sorkin, Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Joey King, Mike Myers and husband Keith Urban all took the Dolby Theatre stage throughout the event to pay tribute to Kidman. To close out the evening, Meryl Streep presented her with the award.

Streep — joking after a clip was shown, “did anyone notice that [costume designer] Ann Roth gave her my nose in The Hours? You’re welcome” — took the time to reflect on working opposite Kidman in season two of Big Little Lies.

“For me, the very, very hardest part of being incessantly called the greatest actress of my generation,” Streep teased as the audience roared, throwing her hand theatrically over her head, “What is the hardest part? Oh! The hardest part is when you come up against, or you’re acting with, another person who is also really, really, really, really, really, really great. That’s difficult.”

“It’s like somebody who you work all day with and you go home — ‘That was a great day, great day,’ and you go home and you go, ‘How did she do that?’” the star teased as she pretended to pour a drink. “‘I could do that.’ ‘No, I don’t think I could.’ ‘Yes you could!’ ‘No, no, you couldn’t do that,’” miming downing the drink.

Miles Teller, Reese Witherspoon, Lee Daniels, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Zac Efron attend the 49th AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Nicole Kidman

Miles Teller, Reese Witherspoon, Lee Daniels, Nicole Kidman (in Balenciaga), Meryl Streep and Zac Efron

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for AFI

Looking back on Big Little Lies, Streep recalled, “That’s the time when I really came within breathing distance of the formidable gifts Nicole has, and her process and her seismic bank of emotion she’s got locked up inside there and her stamina and her drive to be an artist and her discipline.”

She remembered when Kidman chose to shoot a very emotional screaming scene on the first day and do it over and over with equal passion. “I haven’t recovered from that first day, I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” Streep added. “For me, it was traumatizing because I thought this woman is a Valkyrie. How is she able to sustain that? Never letting up, never letting down.”

Upon accepting the award, Kidman gushed, “Meryl Streep, I just love you, I’ve always loved you; I don’t know what it is but you’re a beacon of excellence and warmth and generosity but you’ve been my guiding light, so to receive this from you, you have no idea. My husband will attest, my parents will attest, it’s always been you, and no one can touch you.”

In her speech, Kidman reflected on her journey to Hollywood stardom, which started in Australia and with her sleeping on friends’ floors and sofas while she tried to book jobs. She spoke about her love of actors and learning from them along the way, noting, “some of them you may never meet again and some of them you do meet again. Some of them you have incredible laughter and jokes with and you cry with; some of them you fall in love with, some of them you marry,” seemingly referencing ex-husband Tom Cruise.

Kidman celebrated the many directors she worked with, saying that filmmakers, “take you in, they teach you, they take you under their wing and then they blow your mind. I have so many directors who were so good to me, and I’d like to thank them all,” before listing off all of her previous directors and thanking them. She also expressed gratitude to “the audiences that have stuck by me through everything — I just want to say thank you because there’s so many little weird films I’ve done and I know there’s people out there that go and find them and watch them. You’ve stood by me and stuck up for my weird, weird choices and I’m so grateful for that.”

She also shouted out the “loves of my life,” in Urban and their two daughters, who she noted made their first red carpet appearance alongside her earlier that night. “I like to think that I’m just getting started, but it’s not true, because really, let’s just hope I’m in the middle — I’ve got my fingers crossed. There’s so many more exciting young directors and voices that are completely original and need to be heard, and they have a lot to say. We need to give them a chance to say it and to hear them, and I am here, I am ready to roll up my sleeves,” Kidman concluded. “I am here always to support those voices.”

Urban’s portion of the program was particularly emotional, as he recounted getting her number at an event in 2005, and then four months into their marriage went to rehab for drug and alcohol addiction. “I had no idea what was going to happen to us, and if you want to see what love in action really looks like, give that a whirl,” the country star told the crowd. “Nic pushed through every negative voice, I’m sure even some of her own, and she chose love, and here we are today, 18 years later.”

Morgan Freeman also brought the laughs when he kicked things off with a spoof of Kidman’s famous AMC Theaters ad, where he sat in a theater and watched just her movies. On top of the star power in the room, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Jimmy Fallon, Russell Crowe, Jane Campion, George Miller and Baz Luhrmann all appeared virtually to express their congrats to Kidman, who became the first Australian to receive the AFI honor.

The event raised over $2 million, with all proceeds from the AFI Life Achievement Award supporting the American Film Institute as a nonprofit organization. The tribute special will premiere on TNT on June 17 and on Turner Classic Movies on June 27.

Later in the evening, Kidman (who glittered in a gold metallic Balenciaga dress with a long trained, paired with an Omega timepiece) and Urban attended the event’s official after-party at the Sunset Tower Hotel, where they mingled with guests who included AFI CEO Bob Gazzale, AFI founder George Stevens Jr. (the creator of the AFI Life Achievement Award) and Lily Rabe.

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