When Nicole Kidman glided onto the stage at the 75th Academy Awards to accept the Oscar for Best Actress, it was difficult to reconcile the impossibly elegant actress in the black one-shouldered gown and sleek chignon with the woman who appeared on screen in The Hours. As Virginia Woolf, Kidman had famously worn a prosthetic nose that reportedly took up to three hours a day to perfect, capping off her metamorphosis into the legendary writer.
Physical transformations have always held sway over awards season. Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Winston Churchill, which required a four-hour ritual of extensive makeup, prosthetics, and a wig made of baby hairs and angora, earned him the Oscar for Best Actor last year. Christian Bale, who gained 40 pounds and shaved his head to play Dick Cheney in Vice, is the favourite to win Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globes this Sunday.
Still, there’s something about a beautiful woman modifying her looks for a role that seems especially appealing. Kidman’s fellow 2003 nominee, Salma Hayek, had to adopt a unibrow to play Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. In 2004, Charlize Theron took home the golden statue for her performance as serial Aileen Wuornos in Monster.
Fast-forward 15 years, and not much has changed. Theron is nominated for a Golden Globe for Tully, which required her to gain 50 pounds to play a mother of three, as is Kidman, whose turn in Karyn Kusama’s noir detective film, Destroyer, represents her most ambitious transformation to date. To play Erin Bell, an L.A. cop battling trauma and thirsting for revenge, Kidman changed virtually everything about her appearance, including donning a shapeless, colorless wig, and a bland uniform of wrinkled, seemingly smelly T-shirts and jeans.
One of the people tasked with making over the statuesque Kidman was costume designer Audrey Fisher, whose previous work includes Netflix’s Girlboss, and HBO’s Barry. And to hear her tell it, turning “the equivalent of Helen of Troy” into a crusty, broken down-detective was a challenge straight out of Greek mythology.
This is exactly how she did it.