Nicole Kidman has had some experience playing late, notable women who made a difference in pop culture through one form or another. Her portrayal of Grace Kelly next December will be the fourth historical woman she’s played in her film career next to Martha Gellhorn, Diane Arbus, and Virginia Woolf, with only the latter of those utilizing an overly obvious, prosthetic nose. Kidman ultimately looked the most like herself in “Hemingway and Gellhorn”, despite having very little resemblance to the latter, iconic journalist.
Now Kidman has the major task of trying to duplicate the iconic beauty of Grace Kelly who really has no doppelganger to this day. But you can argue that Kidman comes the closest of any A-list actress to possibly convincing us she possesses the same facial characteristics as Kelly. Based on production photos, the only thing that doesn’t look similar is that the Princess had a slightly smaller nose.
Of course, we know about capturing the essence of notable people in biopics. There shouldn’t be any doubt that Kidman will do that and will most likely gain an Oscar nomination for her performance. It may also set Kidman up for perhaps being one actress who can portray notable women without having to disguise herself to the point of being unrecognizable.
Can Kidman set such a precedent for all other actresses and actors? The biggest hurdle that perpetually bothers most audiences in biopics is the lack of resemblance to the person being portrayed. The argument of capturing essence seems to be a losing theory when what we physically see helps in the suspension of disbelief.
Kidman was fortunately born with a face that seems to be conformable to many different notable women without much aid of makeup. Even though her physical resemblance to Gellhorn was a miss, she was able to resemble Diane Arbus considerably in “Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus” without anything more than hair dye and certain expressions. Kidman’s regal poses also seem to be helping her resemble Kelly more than Cheryl Ladd did in a 1983 TV movie.
Utilizing those acting elements is much tougher, seemingly, for male actors. Had Anthony Hopkins put on natural weight, he could have resembled Alfred Hitchcock without the non-believable prosthetic makeup used in this year’s partial biopic on the director. In more recent years, it seems Jamie Foxx has proven to be the only one capable of playing a notable (Ray Charles) merely by wearing sunglasses and physical mannerisms.
Whether Kidman keeps adhering to the philosophy of going natural to portray famous woman remains to be seen. After that horrific Virginia Woolf nose, she possibly learned a lesson on how prosthetic makeup can throw off nature to a point where it becomes unintentionally funny rather than serious. Not that we want to see her take any pains in making her features smaller as she could have done with her nose to portray Grace Kelly.
In that scenario, CGI could eerily step in to shorten facial features rather than adding on. Kidman, though, is perhaps reminding her peers that practicing in front of a mirror to look like someone else is where the origins of real acting truly come from.