Morgan Freeman Declares Nicole Kidman Makes Movies Better at AFI Life Achievement Award Ceremony

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In the regal surroundings of Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, silver screen icon Morgan Freeman took the microphone. His signature gravelly voice wafting through the ambiance, he declared: “Nicole Kidman. She makes movies better.” The audience erupted into laughter, and that set the tone for an unforgettable Saturday evening where Hollywood blew the trumpet of timeless admiration for Kidman at the ceremonial event of the AFI Life Achievement Award. Everyone who graced the stage resonated with his statement, a testament to Kidman’s incredible career.

The hilarity sparked with a video parody of Kidman’s AMC Theatres “we make movies better” advertisement, which opened the event. A myriad of generations of sterling Hollywood personalities honored the illustrious 40-year career of the 56-year-old Australian epitome, a career punctuated with celebrated roles in “Moulin Rouge,” “Eyes Wide Shut,” and an Oscar-winning performance in “The Hours.”

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Meryl Streep, Kidman’s co-star in “The Hours” and herself the recipient of the Life Achievement Award in 2004, was not subtle either. In a faux-vainglorious tone sprinkled with humor, she underscored the hardest part of her career defined as being heralded “the greatest actress of my generation.” Streep elucidated on sharing the screen with someone else who is “really, really, really, really, really, really great”, exemplifying her first encounter with Kidman on the HBO series, “Big Little Lies”. To everyone’s delight, both Streep and fellow “Big Little Lies” co-star, Reese Witherspoon, entertained the audience with their spot-on Australian-accented impressions of Nicole Kidman.

Yet, the evening wasn’t devoid of emotional moments. Streep moved Kidman to tears while exploring the Australian actress’s motivations, tiptoeing into sentiments that can truly unsettle an artist. “People call it bravery when an actress bares all and leaps off into the unknown and she dives deep into the darker parts of what it is to be a human being,” Streep said. “But I don’t think it’s bravery. I think it’s love. I think she just loves it.” This defining moment painted a canvas of emotions on Kidman’s face.

Notably, emotions ran high when Keith Urban, Kidman’s husband and fellow Australian performer, opened up about their battle with his substance abuse issues which surfaced shortly after their marriage in 2006. Urban acknowledged Kidman’s unwavering love, a constant pillar support, and her tenacity in combating detrimental voices, bringing them all the way to their 18th anniversary, a testament to their enduring relationship.

In an evening of several firsts, Kidman also revealed that it was the maiden occasion she allowed their teenage daughters to accompany her on the red carpet. Kidman also shares two children with her former husband, Tom Cruise. The Dolby Theatre, the very venue that saw her lift the Oscar in 2003 for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in “The Hours,”, saw Kidman graciously accept the AFI award.

Her acceptance speech was a heartfelt appreciation for every director she has collaborated with, including eminent names like Stanley Kubrick, Jane Campion, Baz Luhrmann, Sofia Coppola, Yorgos Lanthimos, Sydney Pollack, and Lars von Trier. While sparkling in a floor-length, glittering gold gown, she iterated how much she deemed it a privilege to make films and expressed her gratitude for being offered the scope to play unconventional female roles.

The award, initiated in 1973, had previously celebrated artists like Orson Welles, Bette Davis, Alfred Hitchcock, among many others. Despite a delay due to Hollywood strikes, the ceremony will be aired on TNT on June 17th.

A host of luminaries paid their respect to Kidman, including Director Aaron Sorkin, and actors Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Zoe Saldana, and Mike Myers. Back in Australia, old friends like Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Cate Blanchett, and childhood friend Naomi Watts left no words spared in lavishing praise on their Aussie compatriot.

A landmark event in Kidman’s initial career was the 1989 thriller “Dead Calm”, a role that opened the gates of her Hollywood journey. Streep’s familiar face and Tom Cruise’s name were notably heard only once that evening. After marrying Cruise, Kidman starred with him in films like “Days of Thunder,” “Far and Away,” and “Eyes Wide Shut.”

While she divorced Cruise in 2001, it catapulted her stardom. Her Oscar win and substantial roles, including Baz Luhrmann’s musical film “Moulin Rouge”, were still on the horizon. In fact, Kidman’s role in that film was the show’s highlighted favorite.

The evening began to wind when Freeman, the 2011 AFI honoree himself, serenaded Kidman with altered Elton John lines she sang in the film, “How wonderful life is, now you’re in the world,” encapsulating a night that belonged to Nicole Kidman, the shining star of the cinema par excellence.