Sitting in a meeting room in Milan’s Palazzo Parigi hotel, Nicole Kidman is taking a few days off from performing in the acclaimed new play Photograph 51 in London, her first return to the stage in 17 years. With her porcelain skin, sky-high black patent Christian Louboutin sandals and Giambattista Valli skirt and blouse, the willowy Oscar-winning actress is disarmingly warm and funny. She’s in Milan to celebrate luxury watch brand Omega’s traveling exhibit of vintage timepieces, “Her Time,” at the Triennale (it will travel to the U.S. later this year) as well as the launch of several of the house’s new Ladymatic watches. Kidman has been an ambassador for the brand for 10 years, almost as long as she’s been married to musician Keith Urban, with whom she had an early, whirlwind romance and now has two daughters, Faith and Sunday. The Sydney native calls Nashville home, but this fall, she’s ensconced in London with her family. She is also relishing her producing projects, which include Big Little Lies, a television series for HBO with Reese Witherspoon that will go into production in January, and the Jason Bateman-helmed film The Family Fang, which just debuted to positive reviews at the Toronto Film Festival.
Omega is currently focused on expanding both its women’s watch offerings and appealing to the growing demographic by introducing a new website called Time For Her, which will boast guest editors including blogger and illustrator Garance Doré. But the guest of honor in Italy was Kidman, who values her relationship with Omega as well as her time, which she gave generously when she sat down to talk to DuJour.
What have you learned from your ambassadorship?
There was a time when women weren’t encouraged to wear watches, and there was even a time when the only way they really wore them was hidden in necklaces or underneath things. I love watches, especially those from the 1950s. I’ve always collected vintage jewelry and when I started working with the brand, I asked if they had vintage pieces and they did.
As a woman, what drew you to the brand?
A lot of times, watches are for men, but Omega is very engaged in their female watch buyers. They want women to wear watches, not just because it’s elegant and functional, but also because it’s in support of our lifestyle and wanting us to manage our time.
What do you love about wearing a watch?
I’ve collected watches now for years. Omega has just done this exhibition, which has their line of watches all the way from 1902, which I love. I’ve worked with them for a decade now and I’ve always been like ‘You’ve got to show your vintage watches, because they’re exquisite and they show the history of the brand.’ I love to wear a watch. I love to know exactly what time it is. I think there’s an elegance and a sophistication to wearing watches. They’re beautiful, beautiful pieces.
Do you have a favorite?
I love it when it can be worn as jewelry. Then I love sports watches, because I’m athletic. I like a watch that can give me a lot of data, I love a seconds hand, so I can tell how much time I’ve spent on certain things. I also love to meditate, so I use my watch for that.
What’s your relationship with time?
I’m very punctual. I so appreciate punctuality. It’s such a great thing when people actually show up on time and run accordingly. Being on time is a form of respect and good manners.
How do you spend your free time?
With one minute, I’ll daydream or meditate. I love just sitting quietly meditating. With an hour free, it depends. I love getting down on the floor and playing with my kids. I read an article that says it’s so important to actually get down on their level and play with them for an hour a day. So I do that, and I love that. It brings back the child in me. For a day? I love breakfast; it’s my favorite meal. So a long leisurely breakfast is just beautiful to me. I’d read the papers and go for a swim. If I was in Sydney, I love the beach. Even though I’m incredibly pale, I put on these terribly long unattractive rashies, and people laugh at me. My kids laugh at me. But that’s what I would do.
How was it returning to the stage after 17 years?
It was terrifying. When I said I’d do it, I actually didn’t realize how much fear I would have. Seventeen years ago I don’t remember having that sort of fear. I think when you’re younger you have that sort of laissez-faire attitude.
You’re now playing DNA scientist Rosalind Franklin. What is it about that role that interested you?
I think I’m just attracted to complicated women, and with Photograph 51, it’s a female playwright, and it’s got a lot of humanity to it. I wanted to play Rosalind because I read the story and I felt I just loved her. I love the way she was very prickly, very fierce, but totally altruistic and dedicated. And she’s not about personal glory. She was just absolutely one of those people that was born into quietly pursuing what she thought was her passion, which was science. And I wanted her name to be talked about, and I wanted her to be acknowledged in a sense of history.
Does the jet-setting lifestyle exhaust you?
I’m lucky that we have such a strong family unit. I have an incredible husband who is so willing to get on planes and fly places, even if it’s for a night. I had an opening of the play three nights ago, and he’s in the middle of a tour in the States. I said, ‘It’s too much for you to have to fly all the way back, don’t worry,’ and he said, ‘I’m flying.’ He flew 10 hours to come and be with me for the night, and then he flew back and did a gig. That for me is love in action. That’s extraordinary. But I would do the same for him and that’s what we’ve committed to as a couple.
Let’s talk about your humanitarian work, particularly as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador.
The work I do with UN Women has always been about violence against women, equality for women and changing laws around the world so that different countries uphold the laws as well. Omega been very influential and helpful behind a lot of fundraising, always asking ‘how can we combine events to put light onto these issues?’ And it’s so helpful when we have a brand that is very much about women’s rights.
Have you ever thought about directing?
There are times when I go, ‘there’s a story in here that I know I could tell,’ but I’ve worked with the greatest directors in the world and it’s incredibly intimidating, and I’ve also seen that they’ve done it since they were children. Most of them have been telling stories with a camera in their hand since they were little, so the idea of me suddenly starting? If I wrote it, I think I’d be able to direct it, but to bring it back to time, there just isn’t time. But producing is very satisfying because I’m able to champion small projects.
What about writing?
I’m in the midst of writing screenplays. I’ve written short stories my whole life. I’ve started a couple of screenplays, I have one that I’ve almost finished, it’s just that I don’t have the time right now. It’s a whole different set of skills that’s required. It’s certainly not laying around during the day, writing. But one day, I’d love to.
How do you choose your roles?
Based on instinct. I’m at a time when I still have incredible curiosity about the world, and about people, and working with different directors and writers. I’m incredibly fortunate to have a found a partner who I have enormous synergy with, and love with, and we’re raising our girls together with the boundaries, and the same ideas, and the same morals.
What was your experience like acting in Secret in Their Eyes, and why did you choose the project?
Billy Ray, who wrote and directed it, is a very good friend of mine. We’re writing something else together. I really like him, and Julia [Roberts] is a really good friend of mine and she sent me an email asking, ‘Will you do this with me?’ I thought it would be really cool to do something with a woman who I really admire. I feel great camaraderie with her.
What’s your relationship with the Internet and technology?
I have four children, so to stay in touch with them is very important. I’m definitely engaged in it but I don’t let it rule my life. My husband and I never text each other. We never do. Once in a blue moon, we’ll text. But mainly we say, ‘I want to hear your voice.’ That’s very unusual but we’ve been together for 10 years. We started like that and we haven’t changed it. We don’t email each other either. So it’s about trying to keep it as intimate and personal as possible.