Robbing the Cradle

I haven’t paid much attention to the hubbub over the remake of the not-all-that-good-the-first-time Stepford Wives, other than to get a general sense that the critics aren’t impressed. Apparently, though, Nichole Kidman’s follow-on choice was far worse:

The AustralianNicole in hot water

NICOLE Kidman is in for a rocky week if the US supermarket tabloid The National Enquirer is to be believed. [And it is! -ed.]

Her latest movie, Birth – made after the soon-to-open Stepford Wives – see the Australian Oscar winner Kidman play a young widow who falls in love with a 10-year-old boy she believes is the reincarnation of her dead husband.

But executives from New Line Cinema, the production company, are reportedly considering pulling the $US50 million ($72 million) flick because of scenes showing Kidman bathing naked with the young lad.

Sources told the Enquirer that the film had undergone a string of creative battles and rewrites.

Now executives have told the film’s executive producers that the two scenes – showing Kidman and the boy stripping off and kissing in the bath – are “borderline disgusting” to watch.

All I know is that, if this is “borderline disgusting,” I’d hate to see the real thing.

One has to ask: What was Nichole Kidman thinking? She’s beautiful, talented, wealthy, and widely considered one of the best actresses in the business. Can’t she exercise a bit better judgment over script selection?

Hat tip: Kevin Aylward

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. La Femme Crickita says:

    Maybe that divorce from Tom had something to do with it. Kudos for New Line Cinema for having the guts to pull the funding. I definately will keep my eye on them and see if they come up with more family friendly features. They did all right with “Lord of the Rings.”

  2. James Doney says:

    Entertainment Tonight said that it was a movie that had a scene touching on a “taboo” subject.

    It is strange to think that those of us who think that is “unacceptable”, “grotesque”, or “taboo” are made to feel as if we are in the minority and thus wrong in our thinking whereas those perpetuating this are artsy and creative. Ugh.

  3. marc says:

    What type of mentality does it take to sink $72 million into tripe like this.

    Lets think about this for a minute. Michael Jackson will go on trial for things, at least equal to, or worse to what Kidman has done.
    And she did it with a few if not a hundred members of the production staff for the movie.

    I say pull the tapes and charge her and the crew.

  4. David Ross says:

    Kidman’s strong point has always been her willingness to work in fringe pictures: To Die For, The Others, Eyes Wide Shut. It’s one reason why she used to be my favourite actress.

    I’m not defending her; I’m just trying to understand why she agreed to this $50m pedo-pr0n disaster. (I *can’t* defend her. Who’s directing it, Roman Polanski?)

  5. Brian J. says:

    Two words:

    Lo lita.

    Without knowing more about the story of the movie, et cetera, I am not going to work myself into a lather about one purposefully sensationalist scene being sensationalized by the media and the table poundits.

  6. zombyboy says:

    As much as I envy the kid, there really is no reason for any adult to be in a tub naked with a ten year old in even a “pretend” romantic situation. It isn’t appropriate and it isn’t acceptable.

    If I’m wrong about that, then NAMBLA isn’t just a bunch of sick perverts and Michael Jackson probably didn’t do much that was terribly wrong.

    Jesus, what bad judgment on the part of everyone involved.

  7. RebeccaH says:

    What do you want to bet it wins at Cannes?

  8. Raoul Ortega says:

    It’s the Mary Kay Latourneau (sp?) story done Hollyweird style.

    (She’s the teacher from suburban Tacoma who has had two children (one while in prison) by one of her students.)

  9. Brian says:

    I would’ve traded my entire collection of Garbage Pail Kids to make out with Nicole Kidman.

  10. Georgy says:

    I have a better idea: make the movie about a ten year old girl!! That should really shake up the fuzzy-wuzzies.

  11. Ray Zacek says:

    I find Kidman a terribly overrated actress. Competent but hardly outstanding. I found her boring in “The Hours”, a dreadful movie (predictable and contrived, too. I joked half way thru that Mrs. Brown’s little boy in sunny Calfornia grew up to be a bitter, HIV pos poet, and by God he did). Her acting in “fringe” movies is probably a calculated career choice, maximizing her limited talent in edgy rolls. Of course, I’m sure my opinion is entirely contrarian; I feel Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe are vastly overrated, too.

  12. stenny says:

    I’m afraid I don’t see whats wrong with it. This is art and must be understood that way. The point of the movie is not perversion but self discovery. In the mind of the character played by Nichol the child is not a ten year old but rather is her long lost husband. If she is trying to rekindle what she has lost then I see no problem with it. I am sure the child will from his experience with her have a revelation and realize who he really is. This sounds like a good love story to me, and I consider myself an expert on love stories.

  13. Ryan Waxx says:

    Oh, yes indeed. Lets also have a movie about a couple of 12-year olds who , in their minds, are adults (not a terribly uncommon attitude), and have them hump away on screen for 2 hours and call THAT art.

    “Art” is a cheap bullshit excuse made by cheap bullshit con artists for pretending that some atrocious, publicity-seeking act is somehow above our ability to understand, judge, and/or criticize.

    Sorry, stenny old pal but we have intelligence and ethics, plus the obligation not to turn them off just because some joker yells ‘Art!’.

  14. Siergen says:

    I recall a movie in the early 1980’s where a teenage boy appeared in a bathtub with topless adult woman. No kissing in the tub as I remember, but they later had a sex scene in bed. I think it was called ‘Private Lessons’

    Didn’t cause much controversy at the time, but maybe the actors weren’t famous enough, or maybe child abuse was still something people didn’t talk about…

  15. Attitudes have changed markedly on underage sex since the early 80s. Recally _Pretty Baby_, where a mother in a brothel, Susan Sarandon, introduces her 12-yr old daughter, Brooke Shields, into prostitution. This was a mainstream movie, which could not possibly be filmed today.

  16. Frawgbreth says:

    Sheesh! Am I terminally schizoid or what? Ask any lawyer what cases make their blood boil, and you’re sure to get several “sexual misconduct” hits in the collage of answers. The insurance juggernauts are hemorraging torrents of cash defending and settling lawsuits over this very thing.
    But, you know what? I think she’s gorgeous and talented and I’d enjoy this one as much as I did “Summer of ’42”.

  17. Anonymous says:

    ‘Private Lessons’ was about a 15-year-old; ‘Pretty Baby’ was controversial at the time.

  18. Brian says:

    Frawgbreth – “The insurance juggernauts are hemorraging torrents of cash defending and settling lawsuits over this very thing.”

    Interesting. Then mightn’t this whole pedophile/child-snatcher thing – which is of course the parent scare of the moment, surpassing even the dreaded Satanic Ritual Abuse of the eighties – mightn’t it just be a press-release driven scam by the trial lawyers?

    Follow the money, as they say.

    Maybe someday soon all their prep work on “Big Food” will pay off with big-money lawsuits, and we won’t have to hear about kidnapping anymore.

  19. How isn’t this sexual abuse of a minor? A 10-year-old getting naked with an adult in the bath tub and kissing? I’d beat the sh*t out of anyone who’d try that with my daughter, even if they were her age.
    And I’d do the same to an adult who tried it with my son, as any good parent would.

  20. Aren’t they supposed to use stunt midgets in cases like this?

  21. Sad For Her Children says:

    Nicole, being a mother herself [even an adopted one], should be shunned. If I were the District Attorney, I would be getting a warrent to investigate her relationship with her children.

  22. lvnv says:

    Memo to Boston Archdiocese:
    Have you tried the “but the alter boy was my reincarnated lover” defense???
    Better yet, any future pedophilia must happen in public view. That way: it’s not buggery. It’s performance art!
    Listen to me and you’d have saved a couple mill.

  23. Sheesh says:

    That has to be the luckiest 10 year old in history.

  24. Dave F says:

    Have any of those foaming at the mouth seen the scene in question? If not, why are they assuming this is somehow pornographic? Diane Keaton went much further in a Bertolucci film, in which she played an opera diva with a druggie adolescent son. In one scene she gives him masturbatory relief (c lothed, but unflinching) and the entire relationship descends into frank incest. It was shocking (the son was played I think, by then teen Matt Dillon) but it was not arousing, nor was it meant to be.

    I’d say reserve judgement till you know what the content and the impact are. Nicole Kidman has two kids and good judgement; she turned down In the Cut, for example, and was pretty restrained by and large in Eyes Wide Shut.

    As for young boys seeing naked ladies, that has been a staple of growing up movies for a long time.

  25. Prolix says:

    “Oh, yes indeed. Lets also have a movie about a couple of 12-year olds who , in their minds, are adults (not a terribly uncommon attitude), and have them hump away on screen for 2 hours and call THAT art.”

    Lets- I remember being twelve, and I remember doing precisely that. It was rather beautiful- you have cheapened it a bit.

    ‘”Art” is a cheap bullshit excuse made by cheap bullshit con artists for pretending that some atrocious, publicity-seeking act is somehow above our ability to understand, judge, and/or criticize.’

    Or maybe you are just stupid. God help us if art is constricted to the narrow range that you find acceptable. Clue for you- Art does exist. You are not competent to judge it (you are probably not competent to tie your own shoes).

    You should all be ashamed of yourselves. I haven’t seen this movie (you have not either), but its premise sounds touching (no pun intended). Your response is shameful.

  26. steve says:

    Imagine the outrage if it were Tom Cruise and a 10 year old girl.

  27. Prolix says:

    ‘Imagine the outrage if it were Tom Cruise and a 10 year old girl.’

    Lets- imagine that someone makes a movie in which a clearly young girl is offered to Tom Cruise as a prostitute… oh, maybe you haven’t seen “Eyes Wide Shut”- Sobieski looked all of 14 in that film (an alliuring 14, but…) Imagine the outrage. Hmm- actually I don’t remember much outrage. All to the good. It was not worthy of outrage.

  28. BRSchafer says:

    When is Hollywood going to get over making “shocking” movies rather than ones that are interesting or even (I remember way back when), well-written, well-acted, well-directed.

    Since “shocking” is about all the hacks in Hollywood can produce (after all, a two-year old can be “shocking”), and making a good movie is more than their drug addled heads can handle, I guess we’ll just have to ignore this sewage just like 99% of the other adolescent idiocy Hollywood produces.

    Nicole Kidman, BTW, just about ruined Cold Mountain with her artless simpering. Since she’s just around for her pretty face and for her strip scene once a picture, can’t she play something that highlights her talents? I’m thinking blowup doll.

  29. submandave says:

    Prolix: I don’t know if you are sincere or intentionally stirring the pot. If you see no difference between a dramatic scene between Cruise and a young-looking but legally-adult Sobieski and romantic scene between Kidman and a real 10-year-old minor I suggest you either aren’t engaging all neurons or would see no difference between “Silence of the Lambs” and a snuff film.

    This is a continuation of a disturbing pattern I only really gave thought to after becoming a parent. Daily, we see dramas or comedies that position children in what would, in reality, be disturbing situations. Sometimes it is done under the name “art” and sometimes with the sentiment of “that’s how it really is for some people”. While one might say that for older children this is acting, for younger children it is “make believe”, and that is a world of difference. I have a 5 and 2 year-old and at that age their “make believe” world is often as real as the one they breath in. What happens when we take a little person like that and put them into a make believe world that includes violence, death, drugs, sex and horror? Yes, there are people for whom that is a reality, but while we recognize the material harm that can come from that environment we seem to ignore the possible impact that may result from immersing a child in that same environment in fantasy. There are things I try to protect my children from (9/11, America’s Most Wanted, etc.) because they are horrors that would , at this point in their development, serve no positive purpose. I sometimes wonder if this is considered at all in Hollywood, or if, like we see in both the article and some comments, the emphasis is on the adult’s “art”, even when it comes at the expense of the child.

  30. morganwinn says:

    this movie. If it doesn’t appeal to you then don’t see it. As for me, I’m reminded of Interview With The Vampire and a 12 year old Kirsten Dunst kissing 30some Brad Pitt. Admittedly this scene sounds a bit more risque, but it’s not as if any of this is new. Not to mention, Kirsten seems to have survived the experience.

    More importantly, to compare the act of pedophilia to what goes on in a movie is just assinine. There is no correlation. A child who is being sexually abused is, above all else ALONE and uncomfortable. But this is with countless people in the same room, probably including the kid’s parents, and the knowledge that at any time he can stop what’s going on simply by saying so! Geez, I can’t even begin to see how that could be anything like actually being sexually abused.

    The movie might cross a line, but that merely means people who are offended don’t need to see the movie. As for me, I hope it hits arts theatres at least, because the premise sounds interesting, and I’d like to see how the movie’s done.

  31. Rachel says:

    It’s a brave 10 year old actor who stops a scene–the kid is usually the sole support of his/her family and knows that being difficult on the set breeds a whole world of trouble. Abuse with a camera, a boom and HMIs is still abuse. Jodie Foster was 12 when she made Taxi Driver and she doesn’t recall the experience fondly. Read Nancy Rommelman’s piece on Jena Malone.
    This sounds like a terrible idea, and Kidman should have known better.

  32. Brian says:

    For those of you who defend the scene (as described) as a beautiful art scene, is there a limit to what you would allow Kidman to do with this 10-year old boy within the confines of producing this film?

    Do you believe that it would be ok for Kidman to actually have intercourse with the boy?

    If no, can you please describe what limitations should be placed on the actors in this case?

  33. Gilbert_Sundevil says:

    Michelle Malkin said it best:
    “As for Nicole Kidman’s sick new movie stunt, three words: Jumped the shark.”

  34. Fester says:

    If Mohammad can marry a 6-year-old, Nicole can bathe with a boy of 10.

  35. jack says:

    Think before posting.

    Do you really think that Kidman is actually bathing nude with the 1o year old?

    I bet you’re all wondering where those giant elephants come from in LoTR too.

    Effects people, effects. A chroma-blue or chroma-green bathing suit could be easily taken out later.


  36. Narniaman says:

    Let me see if I have this right. . . . .

    A delusional adult has sex with a 10 year old and that is an artful touching story?

    This reminds me a little of the discussion about the proper and improper way to blackmail someone.

    If, for instance, you had sex with an adult when you were 10 years old, it would be blackmail for you to contact the adult later and say something like “Unless you give me a million dollars, I’m going public with this.”

    However, if you retain a lawyer who contacts the adult and says that you need a million dollars or you are going to go public by filing a suit against the adult — than that’s the legal profession in all it’s glory.

    If you’re an adult and you get naked with a 10 year old in a hot tub and smooch for a while — that’s pedophilia.

    However, if you’re an adult and you get naked with a 10 year old in a hot tub and smooch while people are watching and cameras are going — that’s art.

  37. jack says:

    “However, if you’re an adult and you get naked with a 10 year old in a hot tub and smooch while people are watching and cameras are going — that’s art.”

    It’s a movie. There are lots of things in movies that appear to be real that actually aren’t. The bad guys in the movies, the ones commiting crimes, you know? Well sit down okay, they really aren’t. It’s all faked.

    What is wrong with you people?

  38. realitycheck says:

    Bathing suit or none – if any adult is making out with a kid – period – nevermind any activity beyond that – it is pedophelia! On the screen or off. The fact that the child is paid makes it prostitution. The parents are criminally liable if they have condoned it. Ask any local prosecutor, esp. those engaged with the Boston Archdiocese!

    Who cares what precedence has been set by Hollywierd? Wrong has always been and will always be wrong. It is gross for adults to portray child prostitutes – reality-based or not. There is a lot of tragedy in the world – do we have to see it literally portrayed on-stage or on-screen to get it? No. But we are offered it because the sick and depraved crave it.

    Fine. Art is art. That doesn’t make it right. I pity the fools who call evil good and good evil. Enjoy your life while it lasts because if you stay the course you’ll curse hindsight all throughout your after-life. …and spare your energy with retort – I know you don’t believe that. More the pity.

  39. chicago says:

    Uhm, am I the only one who knows that celebrity journalists make things up? Kidman almost walked off The Others set because the director wouldn’t drop a child abuse scene, so I question the veracity of this. The New York Daily News quoted New Line spokeswoman Marion Koltai: “It’s entirely possible there’s a bathing scene in the film, but I don’t think there’s any passionate kissing. That doesn’t happen.” I went to a Roger Ebert event in Chicago where he and Kidman talked for an extended interview about her movies, nothing about personal life, and she was quite a surprise. Very, very articulate. Not an intellectual but she had a smart, commonwealth style. I don’t often hear vocabulary I’m unfamiliar with except when reading something philosophical or technical, but I remember being stumped by her several times at this event. More to the issue, her movies tend to be morality tales, if provocatively told. Eyes Wide Shut is basically as scathing in its attack on our anti-marriage culture as Dr. Strangelove was about the arms race, hence its bad reviews. If we don’t want bad people doing bad things in our movies one of us has to unseat Shakespeare as the center of gravity in our dramatic imagination. Good luck. Shakespeare didn’t singlehandedly wreck Elizabethan morality! Though he may have been somewhat corrupting, and otherwise enobling. The real issue is relativism vs. real values.

  40. bg says:

    I’m baffled by this. Don’t you think if it sounds shocking, it might be meant to shock you? It’s how that shock and (presumably) disgust affects your evaluation of the character and your interpretation of the movie and what that interpretation says about reality that matters.

    Sometimes art is perverse. But there’s usually a reason for it. If there isn’t, well, that’s poorly made art. People call that trash.

    “if any adult is making out with a kid – period – nevermind any activity beyond that – it is pedophelia!”

    Don’t you think that’s a bit oversimplified? Do you actually think Kidman is turned on by little boys? From what you’ve heard, do you think her character is turned on by little boys?

    “The fact that the child is paid makes it prostitution.”

    Now you’re just being silly. The child is not paid to have sex with Kidman. He’s payed to play a character who takes a bath with Kidman’s character. I doubt intercourse is involved.

    Not only am I baffled, but I just realized I’m bored too. Some people can’t tell the difference between art and reality. Yawn.

  41. mike says:

    I am I wrong here in assuming that the boy is not actually ten years old, but in fact is playing a character that is ten years old? That’s how I read it.

  42. guarden says:

    Though says the boy is played by Cameron Bright born in 1993, I agree that there must be some camera trickery. The same way that lion attacks are filmed with the animal playfully batting a trainer with snarling overdubbed… a closeup of a child’s hand on flesh might be assume to be on a breast due to the way the camera was panning before but could just as easily be on a leg. I think it should be seen before everyone gets up in arms.

  43. guarden says:

    See comments by the boy’s acting coach by clicking here.

  44. Dave F says:

    I have a factual correction to make regarding my earlier post. The actress involved in the Bertolucci incest movie was Jill Clayburgh. Sorry for the mistake. I suppose I could argue that I got confused because it was a shock a Waspy, “no nudes” actress (which Keaton is too) would do such scenes.

  45. Mom of two, thank you says:

    With online child porn being increasily accessed around the world, we are seeing a cultural shift back to a time when incest/sexual abuse was considered “ok”, “normal”, “educational”.

    So while some people will claim this is “art”, others will claim they are “bored” with the discussion, others of us must fight to stop this trend before it is too late for our kids.

    This is spoken passionately because my family’s life was shattered because of one man’s obsession with child porn and his subsequent “acting out” of what he saw. No, I’m not bored with the discussion. I’m disgusted, and if this is in fact true then Nicole Kidman, her producer, and anyone else responsible should be held responsible.

  46. What about nudist colonies?

    Is everyone there a pervert? Sometimes they even swim together.

    Mom of two? Does the reaction here make you think that we’re falling down that path.

    It will never happen again. People know what the damage is and are more often willing to tell people about it. People who have survived such painfail ordeals as you mention are also now seen more often as successes – and people can look to them.

    I’m more worried about accepting violence in all its forms as a way of life.

    PS – how is this discussion part of Outside THE Beltway?

  47. Wayne says:

    The people who are attacking this movie before even seeing it all need just to take a break, go out and breath some fresh air. Ok, so what! I mean so friggin’ what!? This morning Tony Snow was ranting about this film. His callers, all, sort of reflected the general tone of this site.

    But then, this is what you get when you so-called “Christian Conservatives” encounter any artistic expression that goes against their little, close-minded realities. I mean, you are praising the name of Jesus one day, and gay-bashing the next! You are talking about God’s love one day, and trying to starve poor people the next.
    If I believed in Evil, I would call this sort of thought that neo-con/neo-fascist religion today propagates the very harshest form of Evil, because it gets into the heart of simple people and turns their souls to stone. I know this sounds like I’m ranting, and I am to some degree, but there is truth in what I say. My sister is one who has “fallen” (shall we say) victim to this sort of thought. At an art showing the other day there was a painting of a boy in a “seductive” pose and she just went nuts; she could not comprehend the artistic merit in the piece–and believe you me, it was a awesome work of art. Her mind has so been dried and prune-ified by anti-artistic/anti-intellectual thought, that she no longer can experience the deeper feelings that good art can produce.
    And that is exactly what is happening around this move “Birth”. I give the proven racist, Bill O’Reilly, two days before he starts a boycott on this too. Hell, he could boycott France AND Nicole Kidman at the same time. Surely you all who hate France can find enough room to hate an actress.

    All you religious folkies out there are going to start shouting child porn, etc. Guess what, it’s not. OK. It’s called cinema, it’s called acting, it’s called art. OK? Get it? I mean, there is no evidenced, there is no science, there is simply no basis to even claim that acting in this movie would harm a child. But in your righteous indignation you will huff and you will puff and you will try to destroy another piece of art. Why? Because it is easy for you to do. Because it doesn’t take half a brain to be a FOLLOWER of those moral police who want to protect the world against a constructed enemy. You will rant about this and about your interpretation of what is right and what is wrong, then you will take your own 10-year-old sons to a rally against same sex marriage and teach them how gays are going to hell. I know this because I have seen the products of your callousness in my classroom many, many times.

    This why I became a teacher. Because at home you poison your children to love Hate. You teach them that to hate is good, because, again, you are a simple person and such thought comes easy to you. But every day in the classroom I work to undo what you have done. I show my students how gays are not wicked people, I show how love pierces even the darkest spectrum. I hint that, oh my Lord, sex is, in fact, not bad when practiced responsibly, that it can be a thing to celebrate and joy-giving. And as to this movie, I will end up teaching how simple people want to destroy art because what art provokes in the stone souls of these religious crusaders is the antidote to their own Hatred and they fear that. I’ve had to do it with the novel “Lolita”, with the paintings of Gauguin, and eventually I’ll have to do it with “Birth” and other movies like it.

    This is where I stand, and here is where I defend the freedom of expression. Art is my sandbox, and your children are my students. Here it is my duty to set them free from whatever bondage they are in at home.

    Thanks for reading. Yes, a rant, but I feel it needs to be said.