AACTA Member Spotlight: Mandy Walker – Cinematographer

Mandy Walker on the set of AUSTRALIA

Mandy Walker knew she wanted to be a cinematographer from the tender age of 13. It was the only profession that united her deep loves of photography and the cinema so completely. As a child, Walker’s mother nourished her artistic tendencies with trips to the art gallery while her father whetted her appetite for foreign films with regular outings to the State Film Theatre in Melbourne.

Walker now lives and works predominantly in Los Angeles, but over the years she has shot a wide suite of Australian and international content, ranging from feature films to television shows and commercials. Her work includes: Australia, Lantana, Australian Rules, Love Serenade and Shattered Glass and advertisements for big name brands like: Chanel No. 5, Dior, Nike, Bonds, Telstra, Audi and BMW. Walker is enthralled by the collaborative process and loves working alongside talented and inspired directors who push her outside of her comfort zone.

Walker has been nominated and has won multiple awards for her craft both locally and internationally. In 1996, she won the AFI Award for Best Cinematography in a Non-Feature Film for Parklands and in 1997 was nominated for the AFI Award for Best Achievement in Cinematography for The Well.

Still a strong believer in the qualities of film as a capture medium, Walker has also embraced the digital revolution with open arms. When asked what advice she’d give up-and-coming cinematographers, her answer is simple: never stop learning, and be brave. Her favourite period of Australian filmmaking is perhaps indicative of this advice; she cites such films as Picnic at Hanging Rock, Breaker Morant and Gallipoli. These films had a unique cinematic style that went on to redefine Australian cinema internationally.

Read on for more insight into Walker’s early career moves, her working methods and her inspirations. It’s clear she’s been an incredibly self-motivated professional who’s kept extending her skills. Her answers also give great insight into the way each project can lead on to other opportunities.

Mandy Walker is one of our highly regarded AACTA members. We are proud to have film and television makers of this calibre as a part of the new Australian Academy. In coming months, we look forward to sharing more of these profiles as we turn the Member Spotlight onto more performers and practitioners – both those working at home and abroad.

AFI | AACTA: Whereabouts did you grow up and what impact (if any) do you think this has had on the style of your work?

Mandy Walker: I grew up in Melbourne but I don’t think that it has affected the style of my work. I feel like I’ve been more influenced by photography, art and cinema from all over the world. My mother had taken me to galleries from the age of two, and my father to foreign film screenings at the State Film Theatre, when I was at High School. I do think that growing up in Melbourne has influenced my approach to my work. In general, I find most Australians have a great work ethic. They are quite confident yet humble in their attitude towards work, and working relationships.

AFI | AACTA: Where do you predominantly live and work now?

Mandy Walker: I now live in Los Angeles. Most of the commercial work I do is here in town, with some projects overseas. The movies I have shot have been in Australia, and Canada. However, I did recently shoot a telemovie in Boston.

AFI | AACTA: What is your most vivid childhood memory?

Mandy Walker: The most vivid childhood memories I have are of holidays at Australian beaches with my family.

AFI | AACTA: When did you know that you wanted to be a cinematographer and what training did you undergo?

Mandy Walker: I knew from the age of about 13 that I wanted to become a cinematographer. I had always loved photography and the cinema. So for me it was an obvious choice to combine the two. I had a small black and white darkroom that my father set up for me in the back shed and I made a few Super 8 films at High School. In my final year at Preston Technical College, I studied Cinema Studies.

Eventually, by ringing Film Victoria, and a number of producers shooting films in Melbourne, I got a job as a runner on a feature film. I made everyone on that project aware that all I wanted was to get into the camera department. Through these contacts and working for free as a camera assistant on a couple of documentaries and music videos, I got promoted to being a clapper loader and then focus puller on dramas and documentaries. In about five years, I was shooting small projects myself. Looking back, I’m really glad I moved up this way, as I was able to learn from the cinematographers I was working for and develop my own skills alongside them.

AFI | AACTA: You worked as a camera assistant for seven years before gaining the opportunity to shoot docos and short films. How did you get your first big break as a cinematographer and what was the first major project you cut your teeth on?

Mandy Walker: During my time as a camera assistant, I also shot small music videos and student films for students at Swinburne. This was how I really learnt my craft, by actually lighting and exposing film, trying out different ideas, making mistakes, and discovering what worked and what didn’t. Ray Argall offered me my first big break. At that time, he was a cinematographer on features and a cinematographer/director on music videos and documentaries. I had been working on some of his bigger multi camera set-ups for music videos and live concerts as his focus puller and camera operator. When he was to direct his first feature film Return Home (1990) he asked me to be his Cinematographer. I was only 25 years old at the time. I had learnt a lot from him over the years, and it was a great experience to finally step up to the position to collaborate with him as a director.

Mandy and Baz on the set of AUSTRALIA

AFI | AACTA: What is it about the art of cinematography that particularly excites you? What do you enjoy most about your work? What are the worst or most challenging/tedious aspects of the job?

Mandy Walker: I think what excites me most about my job is that it is full of many varied experiences and challenges. I am constantly having to think of new ways to approach ideas or situations and combine them with a certain style, or invent a new one. The worst part of my job is that I am away a lot from home and family. My parents and my sister and her kids, all my relatives, reside in Melbourne. My husband’s family is in Wollongong.

AFI | AACTA: You have worked on a number of critically acclaimed Australian and international films, among them Australia, Lantana, Australian Rules, Love Serenade and Shattered Glass. How do you go about choosing your projects?

Mandy Walker: I definitely have directors that I really want to work with, and that combined with reading a really great script is how I decide. I also never want to pigeonhole myself with a certain genre so I try to read a lot of different ones.

AFI | AACTA: How much input do you typically have in determining the right “look” of a film and how would you describe the communication process between director and DOP?

Mandy Walker: It really varies depending on the relationship I have with a director. I feel I have to be open and adaptive to this. I would never go into a project and dictate to a director: “this is how the movie should look”. Some directors come to me with a very clear idea of their references or vision, which I then interpret into a visual language. It is my job to figure out how I can achieve the director’s vision cinematically, in collaboration with the director then the art department and costume department.

Mandy on the set of a NIKE commercial

Then there are those directors who come to you with a clear idea of what they want to say in the film, but not a very strong cinematic vision. This process involves searching for and trying out different ideas and reference materials that might appeal to their style of story telling. I will glean [from] art galleries, photography and art books, and other movies to find influential images or scenes that I feel resonate with the story, emotions, and journey of the characters in our film. Depending on the project, this collection of references will vary from one or two key elements to a comprehensive list.

Mandy on the set of AUSTRALIA

For other directors it’s about how we approach shooting the locations we’ve chosen. For example, with Lantana Ray Lawrence wanted to use natural available light as much as possible to capture the atmosphere of particular locations. He did not want the actors to feel restricted so we used the minimum amount of equipment and lighting. In some interior scenes, it was just the actors and a camera in the room. For a cinematographer, this wasn’t easy as I couldn’t control the light. I always shoot tests before we start a main shoot just to make sure that our ideas work.

AFI | AACTA: Australia was a big budget Australian epic and Baz Luhrmann is renowned for captivating audiences with visually spectacular films. Was this film especially difficult to shoot? What were the most important elements for you in choosing how you caught the action on camera?

Mandy Walker: Baz is a very inspiring director, and one who has a clear vision of his movies before he goes into pre-production. He and Catherine Martin are extremely thorough with their visual presentations of ideas early on. Their historic locations, costume and character references are always very well researched. The visual language of their project starts there. Baz then brings on myself and other key crew to collaborate. Australia was sometimes logistically difficult to shoot but with careful planning and execution we ensured that we were well rehearsed and properly crewed. Overall, it was an exciting project for me to be involved in, and a very positive creative experience.

Mandy and Baz Lurhmann on the set of AUSTRALIA

AFI | AACTA: You’ve won and been nominated for multiple cinematography awards both locally and internationally. For example, you won the AFI Award for Best Cinematography in a Non-Feature Film for Parklands in 1996 and were nominated for the AFI Award for Best Achievement in Cinematography for The Well in 1997, as well as being awarded a number of ACS Awards and the Hollywood DOP of the year in 2008. How does it feel to be regarded so highly by your peers for your craftsmanship?

Mandy Walker: I am very proud and appreciative of this acknowledgement and forever grateful to the people who have given me all my opportunities over the years.

AFI | AACTA: You’ve filmed commercials for a number of big name brands (Chanel No. 5, Dior, Nike, Bonds, Telstra, Audi, BMW etc.) and won numerous awards for your work in advertising, including a Bronze Lion at Cannes Advertising Festival and a Clio Silver Cinematography Award. How does filming a commercial differ to a film?

Mandy Walker: I really enjoy commercials as well as films. Commercials are shorter, more intense than a movie, but always varied. I get to work with many different directors and can often try out new gear, film stock, shooting styles and cameras depending on what the job requires. I also enjoy working regularly with a couple of particular directors, who are very talented and inspiring. Steve Rogers is one Australian director that I try to work with regularly, both in Australia and overseas. I have shot most of my best commercial work with him.

Mandy on the set of a MERCEDES commercial

AFI | AACTA: Do you find that you have a greater level of creative freedom to experiment with shooting styles in advertising? Or are you more restricted by branding and/or commercial interests?

Mandy Walker: Again, it really depends on the director and their vision. A director who is talented will be on a project because of their talent. Most agency’s and clients trust them in their execution, and their choice of cinematographer.

AFI | AACTA: What do you think is the greatest challenge or problem facing cinematographers working within the new digital landscape?

Mandy Walker: I think new digital cameras with extra capabilities and an ever increasing workflow is rapidly changing the digital landscape. Cinematographers have to be up to date. We need to consistently be using and testing new technologies to see what the real advantages and disadvantages are.

AFI | AACTA: Do you have a preferred capture medium?

Mandy Walker: It depends on what the project requires. You need to consider what the main objectives and obstacles are; for example, [the need to be] fast and mobile, or shooting in 3D, or the types of lighting required. Basically, I prefer whatever medium best serves the particular “look” that we are trying to achieve. However, I do think that, at this point in time, film is still the most flexible when it comes to creating different looks in-camera. It still has the highest definition, contrast and colour range available, although some HD cameras are now much more sensitive to low light, and are better for night shooting and/or shooting in 3D.

AFI | AACTA: What has been the highlight of your career so far? And is there some other part of filmmaking that you’d still like to try your hand at?

Mandy Walker: The highlights of my career so far would be: being recognised by my peers; being invited into the Cinematographers guild of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; being accredited by the Australian Cinematographers Society and the American Society of Cinematographers; and most recently becoming a member of the Cinematographers Chapter of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts.

On the set of RED RIDING HOOD

AFI | AACTA: Can you tell us what you’ve been working on most recently?

Mandy Walker: The last feature I shot was Red Riding Hood. Earlier this year, I also shot a TV movie for ABC America, and since then I have been working on commercials full time.

AFI | AACTA: If you had to name three mentors or sources of inspiration, who would they be?

Mandy Walker: The first would have to be my Cinema Studies teacher at Preston Technical College, Brian Simpson. He introduced to us a whole world of wonderful films, and taught us about the concept of genre, how a director’s cinematic vision can influence the story and create an atmosphere that affects the audience’s experience of the overall film. I still use the movies he showed me when I was 18 as a point of reference for my own ideas.

The second would be Ray Argall for training me in the camera department and giving me the opportunity to shoot his feature length directorial debut. He gave me a strong understanding and appreciation for the collaboration required between a cinematographer and director.

The third would be Jan Chapman. I was orginally involved in working on an episode of her TV series Naked which was directed by Geoffrey Wright. Jan also introduced me to Shirley Barrett and Ray Lawrence whose films I subsequently went on to shoot. She has always been an amazingly positive and collaborative producer and has greatly influenced my career.

AFI | AACTA: Are you often asked to describe what it is like to be a woman and a mother working in the intense and male dominated craft of cinematography? And if so, how do you respond to such a question? Do you resent it?

Mandy on the set of AUSTRALIA

Mandy Walker: I have never looked at this as an issue in my life or career. I have worked as hard as anybody else in my field and between my husband Stuart and I, we have made sure our daughter Ruby is a big part of our lives and is well looked after. As far as being a woman cinematographer, I see no reason why there are not more of us!

AFI | AACTA: What advice would you give upcoming cinematographers wanting to break into the industry?

Mandy Walker: I think the most important things are to be dedicated, collaborative, amiable, and willing to try new techniques and equipment. Shoot, try and test the ideas you have, discover what works and what doesn’t. Learn from all of this and be brave. You have to grasp each opportunity and never behave like you know everything because no matter how long you have been shooting there is always something new to learn and discover. At the end of the day, you are there with all the other departments to help tell the film’s story.

AFI | AACTA: What are your all time favourite Australian films or television series?

Mandy Walker: My favourite Australian films are Gallipoli, Breaker Morant, and Picnic at Hanging Rock, mainly because I love that particular era of Australian filmmaking. For me they are the original representations of an era of Australian cinematic storytelling.

AFI | AACTA: Thanks for your sharing your time with us.

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Why I Adore… Nicole Kidman

By Glenn Dunks

A person who has a great craving or enthusiasm for the work of Australian actress Nicole Kidman: “Glenn is such a Kidmaniac. He sees all of her work and thinks she should have won at least three Academy Awards by now.

You won’t find the above in the Oxford English Dictionary any time soon, but trust me when I tell you that we’re out there. You may not want to acknowledge us, but we’re there just waiting for you to admit “Yeah, I actually did like Australia,” which is when we’ll make our move and give you a detailed rundown of why Nicole Kidman is “the greatest actor of her generation.”

Those are actually words that I have found myself uttering a lot these days. As Kidman charges through 2012 like a bull in a china shop, her presence in the culture known as pop has reached fever pitch. Last month’s 65th annual Cannes Film Festival saw two Kidman performances – one of which sent Twitter into a yellow frenzy, if you know what I mean – and with several high profile titles within the next couple of years, she is very much “BACK!” on the public radar after years of being punished and shunned by people who have no idea how the movie industry works. (She had Botox you say? It’s as if she’s trying to remain young so she can keep working and not retire before the age of 40!)

Kidman loves burrowing into a character that counteracts social expectations of what a woman should be, and she does so with external strength, dignity and poise.

“But really?” I hear you say. “The best actor of her generation?” Why yes, she most certainly is. And not just because she has the resumé to back up such a statement. No, but because she represents everything that any actor, male or female, should endeavour to be. You just try convincing yourself that your favourite actor could ever go from winning an Academy Award for playing Virginia Woolf in a British period weepie one day, to filming a brutal three-hour Lars von Trier drama set on a barren stage in Denmark, where the actors have to pick fruit from invisible trees. Just try. Still, if you need me to go into further detail then I shall, but only because you asked so politely. No need to get all pissy about it!

Sorry, that article just makes me laugh.

Where does one exactly begin when discussing Nicole? There’s kitsch value to be found in watching the plump-faced, frizzy-haired young Nicole star in Brian Trenchard-Smith’s somewhat-camp classic, BMX Bandits (home of the best sound effects editing in an Australian film ever, fact!). But I’m sure she’d scrunch her face up in horror if anybody ever suggested it.. The Nicole we all know really started on the small screen – an arena she has returned to this year with Hemingway & Gellhorn (2012) to positive reviews – where she received praise and accolades for work on Vietman (1987) and Ken Cameron’s Bangkok Hilton (1989), movies she still discusses in international interviews to this day. Of course, those works and others like them are hard to come by on DVD, which means that sadly few people have seen them.

If her early TV work, coupled with a tenacious starring role at just 18 years of age in Philip Noyce’s at-sea thriller, Dead Calm (1989), had suggested great talent as a dramatic actress, then her role in the film industry satire Emerald City (1988) and as an almost-mean girl in Flirting (1991) announced she also had a deft hand at comedy. Emerald City, for which Kidman was nominated for an AFI Award as Best Supporting Actress, features dialogue about the state of the industry and the plight of actors that perfectly mirrors Kidman’s own outlook. Just watch this video from the 50 second mark and try not to see the parallels.

As boarding school queen bee Nicola in Flirting, Kidman eschews the character’s potential to be little more than a hurdle for the lead characters (Noah Taylor and Thandie Newton) to overcome in their quest for love. Her icy – that descriptor began early in her career, it’s fair to say – performance is filled with delightfully comical vocal deliveries and mannerisms. Her superior, almost regal, posture featured here would go on to become a mainstay of her more cold-hearted characters (see Marisa Coulter in The Golden Compass (2007) and Margot in Margot at the Wedding (2007)).

Her work in Flirting is even more impressive than that of Emerald City. With a deep-felt monologue towards the film’s end instantly adding layers of pathos to Kidman’s performance, Flirting becomes a great early example of what Kidman would go on to perfect. She is stunning at playing women (or, in this case, a girl) who grapple with the balance of the internal and the external, not succumbing to the role that society expects.

Consider her role as Becca in Rabbit Hole (2010), another perfect example of this very issue. Kidman loves burrowing into a character that counteracts social expectations of what a woman should be, and she does so with external strength, dignity and poise. Even if she secretly wants to shed this skin and show to the world that she is as vulnerable as the next person, her characters choose to expose their feelings in private. In Flirting it is only Thandie Newton’s Thandiwe Adjewa who knows the true secret behind her character. In Rabbit Hole it’s a devastating breakdown on the side of the road as she witnesses the teenage boy (a superb Miles Teller) who was responsible for her four-year-old’s death heading off to his senior prom, something she will never see her own child do.

As her characters struggle to act publicly in ways that people expect her to – girly and frilly, highly strung, emotional, on the verge of a crying meltdown – so too does Kidman. So frequently described as “cold” and “icy” by detractors because she all but refuses to adhere to Hollywood standards of what an A-lister should be like. She has admitted to taking on roles dictated by her stardom that she found little artistic merit to, but no other actor of Kidman’s stature has such an impressive ratio of daring, auteur-driven films to multiplex fare. When she should have been making a sequel to her Sandra Bullock witchy romcom Practical Magic (1998), she was working with Stanley Kubrick on Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Her reluctance to discuss her family life, her willingness to dive headfirst into the creative abyss with directors she respects despite the high risk of failure (Steven Shainberg’s Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (2006) for instance), a public image of shy awkwardness, and a healthy dose of localised Tall Poppy Syndrome make her an ‘unlovable’ person and, as sad as it may be, likeability is something which lot of mainstream audiences think makes for a great actor.

In quick succession Kidman demonstrated her gift for dark humour, literary romance, sexual devilishness, coquettish delight and femme fatale sizzle.

Kidman didn’t always possess the chilly and calculated persona perceived by so many today. With the release of Dead Calm in 1989 came international exposure and the promise of a Hollywood career. Her marriage to Days of Thunder (1990) and Far and Away (1992) co-star, Tom Cruise, resulted in her career being put on the backburner. She worked – semi-arthouse Billy Bathgate (1991), domestic thriller Malice (1993), superhero flick Batman Forever (1995), the sort of roles people expect from an emerging young star – but the uneasily pigeonholed actress was finding her American work was not rising to the standard set by her Australian work.

It was in 1995 that saw Kidman’s career took its greatest leap forward. By being cast in Gus van Sant’s cruelly satirical To Die For as power-hungry Suzanne Stone Maretto, Kidman finally unleashed the creative energy that had been sidelined by marriage and family. It’s a fiercely devoted performance by Kidman, and one that 18 years has failed to diminish. Openly sexual, villainous and morally unhinged, the role seemed to have clicked something within Kidman. Her desire to emerge out of the shadow of her movie-star husband and away from her role as glorified Hollywood arm-candy, to work with directors for whom the auteur theory was seemingly devised became more and more obvious. She won her first Golden Globe Award for her portrayal in To Die For and her first real taste of artistic integrity on a grand scale.

With the creative cobwebs well and truly blown away thanks to that guffaw-inducing dark comedy, Kidman immediately embarked upon a sort of global whistlestop tour of famous auteurs that continues to this very day. Porcelain-fine in Jane Campion’s The Portrait of a Lady (1996) as, yet again, a woman confined by society’s expectations; eyes so piercing as Tom Cruise’s brittly domestic wife on the periphery of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999); an all-singing all-dancing dying courtesan in Baz Luhrmann’s masterpiece Moulin Rouge! (2001); the tormented, yet simplistically hopeful, mobster daughter of Lars von Trier’s Dogville (2004); a widow confronted with reincarnation in Jonathan Glazer’s Birth (2005); the unflinchingly dry and toxic Margot in Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding (2007). The list goes on: Sydney Pollack (The Interpreter, 2005), John Cameron Mitchell (Rabbit Hole), Lee Daniels (The Paperboy, 2012)… even some of her disasters were taken upon good faith in directors like Oliver Hirschbiegel (The Invasion, 2007), Nora Ephron (Bewitched, 2005), and The Stepford Wives (Frank Oz, 2004). She was even set to work with famed Chinese director, Wong Kar-wai on a remake of The Lady from Shanghai, just one of many long-gestating projects of Kidman’s that never got off the ground.

Kidman will no doubt continue to suffer a career that compares eerily well with those of the golden era like, for instance, Katherine Hepburn, who was once denounced as “box office poison”. Her continued perseverance with the weird and the wonderful of cinema will surely continue to confuse as many as it awes…

These roles, complex and layered each, are all starkly different and brilliant. In quick succession Kidman demonstrated her gift for dark humour, literary romance, sexual devilishness, coquettish delight and femme fatale sizzle. Still, by 2000 she’d still not quite become a name among the greats. Cue 2001 and what can surely be described as one of the greatest ever coming out parties of all time. Descending the ceiling of Baz Luhrmann’s glitter-bombed, hyperactive, modernised rethink of the classic Moulin Rouge nightclub in Paris, didn’t just bring with it a worldwide star, but a performance that deserves to rank as one of the most definitively cinematic ever given. As Satine, the lovestruck courtesan emerging in jewels to “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”, Kidman helped usher in a new dawn for movie musicals and in a double-whammy alongside Alejando Amenábar’s haunted house tale The Others proved that 2001 – not to mention the press revolving around her divorce and those infamous “I can wear heels now!” comments – was The Year of Nicole. She’d successfully blended the art with the mainstream and it was glorious. An Academy Award soon followed for The Hours, although it’s telling that she finally won for a performance that was very good, yes, but hardly the sort of artistic stretch that had come before and after.

Kidman’s penchant for taking roles that sit outside the preconceived box of what an “American Sweetheart” should take, proved the public love affair with this goofy, lanky, somewhat exotic beauty was short-lived. Misjudged romcoms and a bombastic epic, Cold Mountain (2004), brought about a swift end to Kidman’s reign as Hollywood’s highest paid and most sympathetic star. Still, arguably her two greatest achievements followed in arguably her two most difficult films.

As muse to Danish provocateur Lars von Trier, she took to the cinematic stage of Dogville (2004) less than 24 hours after accepting her Oscar. Von Trier calls upon Kidman to be the victim of horrible crimes and, by film’s end, make a devastating moral decision, which is hardly the stuff of megastars. Playing Grace, she of whispery voice and persona as fragile as vintage lace, Kidman is truly astonishing. It is quite literally a performance the likes of which we have never seen before. It’s just not the thing for actors of Kidman’s stature to do, not now, not ever. Contrary to what Heidi Klum has to say, fashion isn’t the only arena where “one day you’re in, the next day you’re out” is true. For decades actors, especially women, have been forced to navigate the whims of public discourse and the idea that one failure can send you back to the dole queue.

If Kidman were doing this sort of bravely unflinching work in films with no artistic merit and made by filmmakers with no vision then I’m sure I wouldn’t be talking about her the way I am now, but the fact of the matter is that when many other so-called great actors are out there taking work with little element of risk (ahem, Meryl Streep), Kidman has been stepping out of the comfort zone for nearly two decades now and she reached the apex (for me, anyway) one year later with the haunting, honey-lit identity horror of Jonathan Glazer’s Birth (2005). Sumptuously made – Alexandre Desplat’s score is perhaps the greatest in several decades – this Kubrickian adult fairy tale about a widow and the boy who claims to be her reincarnated husband is not only Kidman’s finest work to date, but a truly awe-inspiring achievement. To try and find a single scene with as much intensity and heart-breaking, gut-wrenching power as the single-shot opera sequence is to embark on a foolhardy mission. That single close-up of Nicole’s Anna, as she quietly contemplates the very real possibilities that have been laid before her, is like witnessing a cinematic miracle.

While it seemed everybody was turning their back on Kidman, we Kidmaniacs remained steadfastly devoted. A powerhouse performance in Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding, a deliciously evil turn in Chris Weitz’s The Golden Compass and a dreamily nostalgic turn as a glamourous Italian movie star in Rob Marshall’s Nine kept the flame burning. The new decade has brought about a newfound appreciation that has seen many come back around to my side. Oscar-nominated for Rabbit Hole, and working with such diverse and exciting directors as Lee Daniels (The Paperboy), Chan-wook Park (Stoker) and Jonathan Teplitzky (The Railway Man, her first local production since Luhrmann’s Australia (2008)).

Kidman will no doubt continue to suffer a career that compares eerily well with those of the golden era like, for instance, Katherine Hepburn, who was once denounced as “box office poison”. Her continued perseverance with the weird and the wonderful of cinema will surely continue to confuse as many as it awes and, to be honest, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Part of the reason why I adore her so much is that she is so unafraid to go where others wouldn’t. If everybody suddenly became a Kidmaniac like me in the blink of an eye then it would mean she had become conventional and who wants that?

About Glenn Dunks: Growing up in Geelong, to the west of Melbourne, his love of cinema began young and remembers Dick Tracy in 1990 as his first time in a movie theatre. He began writing first at his blog, Stale Popcorn, and eventually for websites Trespass Magazine and as the film editor for Onya Magazine, a web zine dedicated exclusively to Australian content. His writing has appeared in The Big Issue, Encore, The Melbourne International Film Festival, and he has been heard on JOY 94.9FM. Apart from Kidmania, Glenn has a passion for Australian, queer and New York cinema.

Read Previous ‘Why I Adore’ Posts:

Paul Anthony Nelson (the ‘Why I Adore’ godfather and founder) introduces the concept, and rhapsodises about Mad Max. AFI Membership Administrator Lia McCrae-Moore revisits the lyrical beauty of One Night the Moon and Clem Bastow reminisces about a childhood spent watching the television show Round the Twist. Or you can read Anthony Morris flirting with disaster in his adoration of Romper Stomper, Annie Stevens going bridal with Muriel’s Wedding, or Popzilla bowing down before the altar of literary screen adaptations. More recently, Lia McCrae-Moore showers affection on SBS’s high-octane police thriller, East West 101, Rochelle Simienowicz delves deeply into the ground-breaking television series, Love My Way, and Simon Elschlepp discovers a fondness for stylish and audacious futuristic noir, Dark City.  Thomas Caldwell rhapsodises about Richard Lowenstein’s anarchic and playful 1986 film Dogs in Space, John Bailey remembers a strange fascination with Big Brother Up Late, Hila Shachar explains why Cate Shortland’s Somersault moves her so, and most recently Briony Kidd explains why she loves to be horrified by the Australian classic Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Contribute: We’re currently looking for more ’Why I Adore’ articles devoted to Australian film and television. Send a one paragraph summary to editor[at] afi.org.au and we’ll get back to you with more details.