Nicole Kidman Praises Filmmakers Like Jane Campion and Gus Van Sant at Her AFI Tribute

“Film is forever.”

Nicole Kidman, the 49th recipient of the prestigious AFI Life Achievement Award, made her acceptance speech on the Dolby Theatre stage on Saturday, April 27 about the filmmakers who’ve shaped her career — and her love for movies and storytelling.

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The Academy Award-winning actress was joined by presenters including her “Big Little Lies” co-stars Reese Witherspoon and Meryl Streep, a past AFI recipient who handed Kidman the honors at the night’s end. “Can I just say, Meryl Streep? I just loved you. I always loved you. I don’t know what it is. You’re a beacon of excellence and warmth and generosity, and you’ve been my guiding light. To see this from you, you have no idea. My husband can attest, my parents can attest, it’s always been you, and no one can touch you.”

Kidman’s opening remarks set the tone for a 15-minute speech dedicated to her collaborators. She is “friends for life” with Jane Campion, one of her early champions and the director who cast her in “The Portrait of a Lady.”

“You go where the work is and where you can earn a living. You try and you try and get a role, and you hope that someone’s going to cast you in their film. I was lucky, I was incredibly lucky. I came to America,” said Kidman, who was born in Honolulu, but sees herself as an Australian through-and-through.

She celebrated Australian filmmaker Phillip Noyce, who cast her in her breakout role in 1989’s “Dead Calm.” She also singled out Gus Van Sant for casting her in 1995’s “To Die For” as a weather reporter with secrets. “You were amazing because you gave me that role when I had shown absolutely no skill that would make you believe I could do that,” she said.

Then, she said, “Stephen Daldry, you were by my side for the most vulnerable time of my life. You held my hand, you got me through it, and you won me an Oscar.” Daldry directed Kidman in her 2002 performance in “The Hours” as Virginia Woolf, a role that came around the time of her divorce from Tom Cruise.

She also thanked “Lars von Trier, Alejandro Amenábar, Jonathan Glazer, Noah Baumbach, Mimi Leder, John Cameron Mitchell, Rob Marshall, Lee Daniels, Jonathan Levine, Philip Kaufman, director Park [Chan-wook] … thrilling, wild amazing people in this list. Yorgos Lanthimos, Werner Herzog, Garth Davis, Susanne Bier, I mean come on. Sofia Coppola, Karyn Kusama, Ryan Murphy, and Aaron Sorkin, thank you.”

Kidman also honored the filmmakers she’s worked with who’ve passed away: Tony Scott, Joel Schumacher, Sydney Pollack, Nora Ephron, and Anthony Minghella.

She said, “It is a privilege to make films,” and continued to thank “the storytellers who allowed me to run wild, be free, and play all these unconventional women. Thank you for making me better at my craft and giving me a place, however temporary, in this world. Thank you for inviting me into your movie families and thank you for my childhood dream that became a reality. And to the audiences who have stuck by me through everything, I just want to say thank you. There are so many little weird films I’ve done, and I know there are people out there … who stuck up for my weird choices, and I’m so grateful for that.”

Kidman, who is now in her career working with many promising young filmmakers, closed by saying, “I’d like to think I’m getting started, but it’s not true, because, really, let’s just hope I’m in the middle. I’ve got my fingers crossed. There are so many more exciting young directors and writers and voices that are completely original and need to be heard, and they have a lot to say… I’m here and ready to roll up my sleeves.”

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