Welcome to Summer Camp: Nicole Kidman and Writer Paul Rudnick Talk about Remaking the Stepford Wives in an Era When "Traditional Values" Are Scarier Than Ever
Duralde, Alonso, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
From a gay man's satirical take on traditional marriage to some sexy gay romances, The Advocate's annual guide to the season's most intriguing films
If Walking Tall and The Punisher and all the other vengeance movies this year have been Hollywood's response to 9/11, then the new remake of The Stepford Wives just might be the gay mafia's response to the current debate about "protecting traditional marriage." Out mogul Scott Rudin teamed his In & Out writer Paul Rudnick with Nicole Kidman, the Oscar-winning star of Rudin's The Hours, in this reinterpretation of Ira Levin's spooky novel (originally adapted to film in 1975) about a Connecticut suburb whose veneer of "perfect" wives hides a disturbing secret.
Rudnick, who previously blended laughs with chills in the Addams Family films, saw this as a remake ripe for someone with his wicked gifts. "I looked at a Pauline Kael review of the original film," he says, "and site said she felt that the comedy was so inherent in this material that she wondered why the earlier film hadn't brought that out to a greater degree. So I felt emboldened." And on the heels of such serious epics as The Hours, Dogville, and Cold Mountain, this sci-fi satire gave Kidman an all-too-rare chance to show the comic chops that won her such acclaim in Gus Van Sant's To Die For. Kidman and Rudnick's mutual admiration was evident in a phone interview with The Advocate.
Given the look of the film, I have to ask you both: Did you play with Barbies growing up?
Kidman: [Laughs] Paul? You want to go first?
Rudnick: We did have this discussion, I think, on the set one day that there is something very Barbie-like about the Stepford Wives. I always think it's because they're a combination of something that's very alluring and very scary at the same time.
Kidman: That's a good way to put it, because I was forbidden to have a Barbie as a child.
Kidman: I had a strong feminist mother, and so she said that to have that as an ideal given to a young girl was wrong--you know, the whole political reason. So I wasn't allowed to have a Barbie.
Rudnick: But did you have a Barbie anyway?
Kidman: I loved Barbie! I didn't care! I went to the supermarket once and I took one, and she made me take it back. When she realized I'd resorted to stealing a Barbie doll, then she actually bought me one, because site said, "OK, a political view shouldn't be imprinted on her just yet."
In a time when gays and lesbians are fighting for the right to get their own taste of whatever you think of as traditional marriage, this movie draws on the notion that if you're really talking tradition, you're talking about wives as property.
Rudnick: Yeah, it's different, isn't it, to have a frighteningly traditional community with a real twist? I think there is a certain yearning for what's considered the ideal small town, and what adds the darkness is that the women in that ideal small town are usually baking something at all times. It's interesting--I remember from the early days of planning on Stepford Wives we were discussing what the wives themselves would wear, what the look and the aura would be. We had this genius costume designer, Ann Roth, and there was tiffs sense that if you pushed it too far in the male-fantasy direction, they'd become hookers, they'd become showgirls. There was something more Connecticut and suburban that we were after.
Kidman: Also, they almost become more powerful. Because I originally saw it as the ideal sort of sex bomb, the Pamela Anderson--type look. And in a weird way, that is almost more powerful than wearing an apron.
Rudnick: Exactly, yes, we were going for something more submissive and genteel.
Kidman: Right. Yes.
Sort of like "burkas by Laura Ashley"?
Kidman: That doesn't threaten at all.
Rudnick: Right. But still sexual in a certain sense: the nice girl in the apron who's still at the beck and call of her lord and master. …