The famously frozen-faced actress gets a Globe nod for "Rabbit Hole" -- and raises new questions about aging
When the Golden Globe nominations were announced Tuesday, one nod in particular stood out as a bravura performance in spite of the performer’s famous limitations. Nicole Kidman — Oscar winner, movie star and the most notoriously frozen face in Hollywood – was singled out for her work as a grieving mother in “Rabbit Hole.” The 43-year-old Kidman, a woman whose body of work includes risky, challenging roles ranging from the singing courtesan of “Moulin Rouge” to the murderous weather lady in “To Die For,” has in recent years become as known for her unnaturally taut visage as her stunning turns in “The Others” and “Dogville.”
Kidman steadfastly maintains her face is “completely natural” and “I have nothing in my face or anything.” Given her often inappropriately startled expression, it’s a line that stretches her credibility almost as much as her eyebrows. Her waxy countenance has become a prominent enough attribute that “Rabbit Hole” director John Cameron Mitchell has to address it head on, discreetly telling Movieline recently, “She hasn’t been under the knife. I don’t know anything about Botox, but she certainly wasn’t doing it in our film.” And indeed, the trailer shows her with new, improved furrowing abilities (some outlets have celebrated the return of her facial mobility).
But Kidman is far from the only celebrity who seems to have gone the freshening up route. Some, like Courtney Cox and Vanessa Williams, admit to having had “a little” something done. Others, like Meg Ryan and Sharon Stone, tap dance around their mysteriously elasticized faces.
Why would a performer, whose whole business is devoted to expressiveness, elect to have any procedure that would restrict facial movement? As a colleague recently mused, isn’t that like a musician deliberately breaking his hands? I recently sat through “Burlesque,” and while the rules for ordinary mortals do not apply to Cher, I will admit the 64-year-old’s cheekbones seem determined to soar right past her ears these days. Cher likely doesn’t care that she is not going to get those diner waitress roles with her sculpted face, but what happens when entire generations of actors and actresses have now made themselves look like CGI versions of themselves? What happens to the intimate subtlety of drama and comedy when otherwise talented performers resemble something out of an episode of “Thunderbirds”?
Yet this voluntary hobbling surely isn’t pure masochism, or even narcissism. Just look at the steep, incredibly public price extracted from stars who dare to reveal even the slightest crack in the rictus of youth. Step outside without full makeup, a fresh injection of filler, and generous retouching, and prepare to face the scorn of the planet, you crone, you. Even the famously worked-over Cher, who takes plenty of heat for her numerous procedures, received jibes for looking not “quite so camera-ready — or so youthful” in a recent London appearance. A not youthful 64-year-old! Well, that’s news. Madonna’s “flawless skin”? Just a Photoshop illusion. Jennifer Aniston? Did you know she secretly feels “old and ugly”? And that’s just the chorus from the peanut gallery. Try talking to a casting director or agent. A few years ago, when a theater actress friend moved to L.A., her new agent asked how old she was. When she replied truthfully, he answered, “No, you’re not,” and promptly shaved off a full decade. Welcome to Hollywood, sweetheart.
There are performers who seem to have gone for a far subtler nip and tuck here and there. A few months ago I sat in a cafe next to a famously gorgeous, Oscar-winning actress in her 60s, and if she hasn’t had a little something done, she is surely the most genetically blessed woman on the planet. And while Julia Roberts told Elle recently, “Your face tells a story and it shouldn’t be a story about your drive to the doctor’s office,” I find it hard to swallow that her lovely, over-40 face has never driven to any doctor’s office. Fortunately, she remains natural looking enough to be beautifully convincing.
But it’s the extreme pressure for higher, tighter and smoother — the fish bowl environment of entertainment that makes plastic seem the norm — that has got to skew these actors’ version of reality. How else do we explain Mickey Rourke’s face? It’s hard not to cringe when a once fascinating performer turns into something out of a mannequin shop before our eyes; it’s also hard to condemn them for trying desperately to hang on to an instrument that time is changing rapidly. But while Kidman was looking familiarly taut for the “Oprah” show Tuesday, maybe it’s encouraging that she got her Golden Globe nomination, eight years after her Oscar-winning turn in “The Hours,” for showing a little facial movement. It’s heartening to note that it also nominated Annette Bening this year, a woman whose crow’s feet were front and center throughout “The Kids Are All Right.” Getting old isn’t for sissies. But it ought to be an acceptable privilege for everyone — even actors.
More Related Stories
- Ray Manzarek, founding member of The Doors, dies at 74
- Beware of book blurbs
- Did a Salon excerpt ruin Penn Jillette's chance to win "Celebrity Apprentice"?
- Zach Galifianakis to take formerly homeless woman to "Hangover 3" premiere
- Seth MacFarlane will not host Oscars again
- "SNL's" uncomfortable Garner/Affleck moment
- "Celebrity Apprentice" finale ratings hit a new low
- Worst National Anthem fails
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
- Stephen Colbert to UVA: "You must always make the path for yourself"
- "Game of Thrones," season 3, episode 8: A salon
- Bieber booed, Miguel falls on fan at Billboard Awards
- "Mad Men" recap: Love, acid and whores. Lots of whores
- Taylor Swift leads Billboard winners
- “Game of Thrones” recap: “We must do our duty”
- "The Unwinding": What's gone wrong with America
- Michael J. Fox wins: The best and worst of the new fall shows
- First look: The Coens' marvelous folk-music odyssey
- New York's most persecuted subway artist?
- James Franco: "I really felt I was in conversation with Faulkner"
- "Jodorowsky's Dune": The sci-fi classic that never was
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11