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Interview with Nicole Kidman, Martha Gellhorn in 'Hemingway and Gellhorn:' Part Two

HBO

Do you feel like Martha Gellhorn would have become the war correspondent she was without Hemingway?

Nicole Kidman

Probably not. I think there's something in her that was pulling her towards it, but the question is: How do you get there? Would there have been someone else who helped her forge the path? Probably. But what he released in her might not have been released the same way. And even though she doesn't write the same way he does, I think he inspired her. He pushed her. And I think the competitiveness between them was something that helped her raise the bar on her own writing. When you're with somebody great who's sort of in the same field, you either cave in, or your rise to the occasion.  It's the same with acting: If you're in a scene with a great actor, you're going to get better. All of the things that Hemingway brought into her life - including the turmoil - all of those things propelled her. We all need our mentors, our people who are going to challenge us to grow and change. She just happened to be in a love affair with hers.

HBO

It's been said they were one of the first celebrity power couples.

Nicole Kidman

I suppose they were. In that age, you could get away with a lot more. You could be pretty tempestuous and drink heavily and cause a ruckus and nobody knew about it. There is that one scene I love where Hemingway gets completely furious and goes on the attack and tables are flying and they are photographed. I'm sure that happened many times over. They were big drinkers together.

HBO

Gellhorn said about Hemingway: "We were good in war and when there wasn't war, we made our own." 

Nicole Kidman

It's so fabulous and can be so true of so many relationships. Whether it's war, or doing our art. I think so many couples can relate to that but for them it was actual war and when they went to war, that's when they came alive. And then when they came home, to domestic life...she'd have to stir the pot.

HBO

Still, she eventually left. She wasn't caught as many are in these kinds of tempestuous relationships.

Nicole Kidman

I'm sure she was caught for awhile. We've had to present it in a more streamlined way but he was behaving badly for quite a long time. As soon as she went away - they have those periods apart where they write extraordinary love letters to each other. But there's that thing of missing someone when you're away -- and then coming home and facing the reality of what it is. I think when she finally did leave him it created a scar. And you see in later interviews she doesn't want to talk about it. I believe she was passionately in love with him.

HBO

But she was also battling being in his shadow.

Nicole Kidman

Yes, being the type of people they were. Because another couple might have been able to nurture one another. There are creative couples where it works. But with his personality and domination it was difficult for her. He was tough. And she became tough - he taught her to be tough. As Phil loves to say, "She out-Hemingway-ed Hemingway." When he first said that to me, I thought "Well that's sort of an obscure phrase." But now I totally get it. She did toughen up and approach the world in a very "Hemingway" way. As an older woman she lived her life the way Hemingway wanted to. To the very end of her life.  Like Marie Colvin - this performance is also dedicated to her because they're of the same blood. They're cut from the same cloth. She was an amazing woman and was influenced by Martha Gellhorn. To the very end of their lives they both stayed true to their calling.

HBO

Was it challenging to work with all of the green screen and archival footage?

Nicole Kidman

I've worked with green screen before but never in this capacity so that was a little tricky. But I thought it was a great device. To be able to sit there and talk to Eleanor Roosevelt? Come on, I loved it! In that sense I found it very exhilarating. We would shoot it and look at it and see what we could do differently. I'm not someone who usually watched dailies or playback but I had to on this - just so you could see where your head goes. It's a bit tricky, but I've done films like Dogville' with Lars von Trier where you have no sets and you have to pretend there's a door. So that's where acting class comes in handy. All that mime work that you think is useless and you'll never use - suddenly you're using it. So to all the actors: All those classes they make you take in drama school can have relevance.

HBO

Any favorite scene?

Nicole Kidman

Playing her old and looking back was distressing. And exhilarating too, because of the life she was reminiscing about. And I really took on the age. I just kind of became old. I was smoking feverishly and had a very deep voice that's not my voice. I don't know where it came from but it felt right. That's a lived-in voice, which I don't have. It's funny how things in a character aren't analytical choices, they just happen. And thank God. It's a blessing when they do.

HBO

How much time did you spend as the older Martha?

Nicole Kidman

We only shot that in a day but I spent an enormous amount of time preparing. It's an enormous amount of dialogue. We shot for about 12-13 hours straight. I was pretty ragged. Which was good: I'm meant to be ragged. I loved that it wasn't her dying. You see her still going: "I'm not dead yet, you f**k."

Hemingway & Gellhorn

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