Nicole Kidman Wants to Change the Way We Talk About Aging

Victoria Hoff

In about 28 hours, Nicole Kidman will win an Emmy. I feel very aware of this fact—in spite of the small detail that it hasn't actually happened just yet—as I sit down with the actress for tea on a recent, glorious Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. Like many, I spent a good part of early 2017 absolutely captivated by Kidman's performance in Big Little Lies as Celeste, a domestic abuse victim grappling with the intense love she still has for her husband. My heart broke as I watched her character's careful stoicism begin to fracture, particularly in the scenes with her therapist. Kidman's raw portrayal of quiet desperation made for some of the most gut-wrenchingly compelling television I've ever seen.

The acting in the series was phenomenal, and the "whodunnit" storyline was nothing less than gripping (and at times, darkly funny). But beyond its sheer entertainment value, I also felt empowered while watching Big Little Lies. This wasn't just a show that boasted a cast of strong women but highlighted the characters' imperfections and the complexities of the female experience in a truly authentic way. Their stories and personalities weren't obvious tropes—they felt real. This, of course, is why Kidman and Reese Witherspoon chose to develop Liane Moriarty's best-selling novel for HBO in the first place.

"We need to see real women's experience, whether it involves domestic violence, whether it involves sexual assault, whether it involved motherhood of romance or infidelity or divorce," Witherspoon told reporters recently. "We need to see these things because we as human beings, we learn from art, and what can you do if you never see it reflected?"

Of course, even offscreen, the "real" female experience is sorely, notoriously neglected in an entertainment industry that still unloads impossible standards on women in particular, regardless of their talent or success. Initiatives like #AskHerMore, which encourages reporters to ditch the traditional, trite questions like "Who are you wearing?" and "How do you stay in shape?" during red carpet interviews, mark a (female-led) effort to change the conversation. Even today, though we're technically gathered at an event hosted by Neutrogena to discuss the loaded topic of aging, Kidman has little interest in talking about the fallacy of prevention or even much about physical appearance in general. "For men, [age] has always been far less important," she says straight away, noting that this as yet another blatant example of inequality in Hollywood and beyond. "Men are judged differently."

So while Kidman shares a few wellness tidbits (she loves running outside and despises the treadmill) and mentions her skincare routine (the brand ambassador swears by Neutrogena's SPF and makeup remover wipes, FWIW), the vast majority of our discussion circles around her personal and public mission to completely shatter these tired and unbalanced constructs—whether it's age, family dynamic, or the highly problematic notion that women need a "thicker skin."

Keep reading for Kidman's thoughts on aging from a feminist lens, how she intends to continue defying expectations, and the beauty of saying no.

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