Kidman Takes A Stand On The N-Word

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by Natasha Greeves
October 4, 2012 10:26 AM
22 Comments
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I thought a short Los Angeles Times piece posed some interesting questions about artist and their beliefs.  In the article they talk about a bit of a stand-off between Nicole Kidman, and actor and Lee Daniels, her director.

Apparently, Daniels had requested that Kidman use the N-word in a scene toward her black co-star in The Paperboy.  Reportedly Kidman was not keen on the idea.  The L.A. Times reports she stated "I didn't feel like it was right for the character,"then after a second, "I have a son who's African American and I just didn't feel it was right. It wasn't right."

Daniels for his part was reportely puzzled by her refusal and weighed it with the producer.  He told the NY Post

"Her character was supposed to say the N-word, and she wouldn't say it. I was angry. My producer tells me, 'Are you serious? She bends over a washing machine [for a sex scene] the first day, she has telepathic sex with Cusack in prison on the second day, she urinates on Zac Efron on the third day, and you're angry because she won't say the N-word? "Give the girl a break.' I said, 'Alright.'"

An actors job is to tell the story as set forth in the script.  They have the freedom to interpret and bring characters to life, but what other rights do they have?  Do you think Kidman had a right to refuse?  What about the producers claim, should we assume the being in a compromising sexual position and peeing were not in the script?   I say this because it begs the question did Kidman not sign-on to play THIS character

I haven't even broached the fiery topic of the N-word yet.  I for one despise its use in everyday vernacular, but within certain context don't mind its use on screen or stage.  It reminded me of similar conversation in a production I was in, where the word was used quite a bit, and the African American actors were expressly asked their feelings on the matter and much discussion was had between the director and producer.  You may recall not so long ago there was talk of editing the work of Mark Twain for use of the word within his novels.  Are we as black people so sensitive that we can't take the word being used even within historical context?

David Oyelowo was quoted in the piece regarding the request  "Daniels feels it is his job to push you out of your comfort zone; he feels the truth will be accessed.” 

While short I thought the piece bought up many interesting questions.  What are your thoughts on the topic?

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22 Comments

  • CLK | October 19, 2012 10:19 PMReply

    i'm black, nigger is a fucking word, the end. sitting around thinking about it so much just gives more credence to the whole "issue" behind it. let the word be and then the drama will go away and it'll eventually mean less and less until the use of the word itself has absolutely no impact, which might contribute to the lessening of the word's use to all of those bleeding hearts too morally affected to stand hearing it. am i just being outrageous by saying this or what?

  • Shawn | October 5, 2012 12:16 AMReply

    I agree with a lot of things you guys said. Personally, I believe that if it's in the script and you signed on to do it, then in most cases, do it! However, as an actor myself, I understand that you discover more things about a character during the process that you may not have known by merely reading the script a time or two. Sometimes something is not in a script but the director wants to add it. It's hard to say one way or another. I think it really just depends on the situation. I think if the actor is coming from a genuine place, a place of integrity, then he/she should be taken seriously if a line or a word becomes a problem for him/her. I'm a writer as well and I know that sometimes a word or line is critical for a character and sometimes it's not. It should never be one way or the other. Theatre and filmmaking are collective art forms. Artists should be able to discuss and work out any business or creative issue pertaining to the project in a professional manner.

  • ALM | October 4, 2012 7:46 PMReply

    I am so glad that Nicole took a stand on this. She is showing respect for her child. What is even more striking is the fact that it has been reported that after the divorce Connor and his sister pretty much disowned Nicole.

  • Donella | October 4, 2012 3:10 PMReply

    If Nicole would not stand up for her own child, then who would she stand-up for? Other actors too afraid (or too willing to fall for okey doke) should take notice. That Daniels had to be told this in strong voice bodes not well for his clarity of thought.

  • getthesenets | October 4, 2012 2:05 PMReply

    I heard that Q-tip advised her not to say it.....but her lips were like an oo-wop as she starts to spray it...

    Good point about Danny Aiello and Spike disagreeing about "Sal's" choice of words...actors always always have a voice to either say something or not. Years ago, Angela Bassett who was SO full of ish when she cited her beef with Halle in that other L.D. film.....did the Stella got her groove film.....and felt NO need to argue against the inclusion of a line about "Haitians and HIV" even though it wasn't in the book. She kept her mouth shut and took the check.

  • sandra | October 4, 2012 2:05 PMReply

    The NAACP has already allotted the maximum quota use of the word to Tarantino for Django Unchained. Mr. Daniels is too late. He should delay the release of the movie until next year and re-apply early. lol

    I'm glad Nicole took a stand. There are too many actors/directors who enjoy using the word under the guise of "acting". On another note, this Paperboy movie and this director, Lee Daniels are doing way too much.

  • Helluva | October 4, 2012 1:50 PMReply

    Some o' y'all are coming off like "he's the (black) Director...if he told you to say it, then say it white actress!" Hahahaha...she pulled rank on his silly ass (over the "N" word, how ironic), as an A-Lister who helped to get the flick made. NO PROBLEM with that, at all...

  • CareyCarey | October 4, 2012 1:45 PMReply

    Come on folks, actors are not robots. They're humans first and for emost. And the written script is seldom the final word. In Spike lee's book on Do The Right Thing, there was several pages of Spike's conversations with the actors in that film. One such conversation involved him and Danny Aiello. They had words on the use of the N-Word and a scene in which Spike wanted Aiello to be dragged down the length of a bar. Well, Aiello refused and threatened to walk off the set. Spike changed the scene. This confrontation between Lee Daniels and Nicole Kidman is in no way about OUR (black people's sensibilities) it's about Ms Kidman reasoning to not say the word. And that's her right. To that point, I believe it was Jug (who's an actor) that said an actor should be aware that many directors will "use" said actor if they do not protest situations in which they find objectionable. In this case, if the word was not needed and/or did not take away from from the overall flavor of the film, throw the shit out. It's that simple. Now WTH was suck-ass David Oyelowo talking about with this bullsh&t-->"Daniels feels it is his job to push you out of your comfort zone; he feels the truth will be accessed." WHAT!?... her comfort zone... the truth? GTFOOH and wipe that brown smudge off your nose.

  • Agent K | October 4, 2012 11:13 PM

    @CareyCarey
    Guess David Oyelowo & Lee Daniels are on some other stuff.

  • CareyCarey | October 4, 2012 8:54 PM

    Agent K, I like talking about that book. It allows me to brag about getting an autographed copy from Spike (In Chicago) :-). It's a wonderful 358p (172 pages of the full hand written script) coffee table book. Loads of pictures and background on the making of the film. Re: David Oyelowo. Man, dude could have kept that in his mouth. That was a straight suck-up move. Come on man, Lee Daniels is accessing the truth by insisting that someone say the N-Word? Stop it.

  • Agent K | October 4, 2012 7:58 PM

    @CareyCarey I had almost forgot about the Do the Right Thing situation. I feel a director shouldn't force an actor to do anything he/she is opposed to strongly. "Suck-ass David Oyelowo"? Damn Carey. I can't help but laugh.

  • hmmm | October 4, 2012 2:12 PM

    lol exactly. If its open for discussion well then it's not neededol David Oyelowo will continue to do the most to secure his next role....

  • amy | October 4, 2012 1:28 PMReply

    It was not in the script. Daniels decided to add it because he experienced racismwhile shootingthe film. Considering that Kidman spent the majority of the film with Oyelowo's character not put off by him, it is a bit much to suddenly become racist, isn't it?

  • JMac | October 4, 2012 12:50 PMReply

    Have no idea what time period or geographic area this movie is supposed to depict - no interest in seeing The Paperboy so I haven't read any other posts about it. Off hand her refusal does seem like a cop out. I have a feeling if her black son ever watches this movie, it won't be that word that'll make him feel embarrassed, insulted, or ashamed. If she is willing to debase herself for sex scenes, it's almost laughable that she draws the line on the n-word. If the script called for a racist slut, then "be" the racist slut. Of course, it's always been acceptable (and award-able) for actresses to push the sexual envelope. I guess when it comes to states of mind, there is a line for some. Seems a bit backwards to me.

  • willie dynamite | October 4, 2012 12:49 PMReply

    In this post "dead nigger storage"(Pulp Fiction) era where filmmakers have used the N-word gratuitously it comes off like a gimmick. Her commitment to the character can't be questioned based on the other things she did. Kidman is a great actor who approaches her roles with a great deal of intelligence. It is probably very obvious that the reason to say the word was not justifiable and the discussion devolved to a "say it because I said so," moment.

  • Inquisitor | October 4, 2012 12:08 PMReply

    "Are we as black people so sensitive that we can't take the word being used even within historical context?" Ot's not only Black people who are not keen on the use of the word. I mean think about the person asking the African-Americans that question. Obviously they're looking for some indirect permission... and they can be any race. Check yourself before you wreck yourself in this "article."

  • regi | October 4, 2012 12:07 PMReply

    in abstract, without seeing the script, we only have her word for whether it's right or not for the character and his for whether it makes for a better movie if she utters that word.
    in the end, i'm ambivalent: her seeming appeal to p.c. via motherhood makes me uncomfortable (art is not p.c.). on the other hand, as a former actor, i think actors should be respected for having brains and sensibilities, otherwise, we should get to building those performing robots right away. i always resisted and resented the notion that i'm hired to make whatever words or actions are in the script come to life: there's not just a character onscreen or onstage, i'm there too. to be "believable" what i do or say has to come from someplace: my imagination, my feelings. if daniels can't come up with a better rationale than "trying to push [her] comfort zone" he's not serving art anymore than kidman's political correctness is.

  • raafi | October 4, 2012 12:03 PMReply

    I think it's great that she didn't use the word. Hollywood films can be flippant about its use, even black directors and producers. An actor of her stature has gained the right to win a few creative battles. If Daniels wanted any-old actress to say that word he could've gotten one, he got Nicole Kidman instead.

  • K | October 4, 2012 11:48 AMReply

    I feel like too many actors are willing to lose too much of themselves for a role. I mean yeah you've got a job to do, but at the same time you are a person. And in this life we can't always say it's just business. Sometimes, certain things are just not well with your soul. I mean as an actor I would personally reject many roles if I had to do things that I didn't want to do because I think as a human being you have to know what is okay with you and what's not. One must not lose themselves in the process of acting. And as much as I studied acting, and want to be an actor I still think we take a bit too seriously. So say no if you must, and don't always be a little puppet.

  • nostradamus | October 4, 2012 11:28 AMReply

    Actors have been arguing that a line of dialogue (or, here, a word) was wrong for their characters forever. Lots of A-list actors change dialogue or argue for it to be changed. This is a non-issue.

  • cacy | October 4, 2012 11:25 AMReply

    I don't think her refusal was weak.she's the mother of a black child who, had she gone ahead and done the scene, would have seen his mom call a black person that word. I think in the context of her job what she did was brave. one less person, real or fictional, saying that word is great.

  • kai | October 4, 2012 11:16 AMReply

    i think using her son as an excuse was weak.... that has absolutely nothing to do with her job...

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