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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Profiles of Kirstie Alley, Madonna, Nicole Kidman

Aired April 23, 2005 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(NEWS BREAK)
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR, PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: Hi, everyone. Welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. Being labeled a fat actress is probably the ultimate nightmare for most Hollywood stars, But Kirstie Alley has embraced it. After the tabloids made a spectacle of her weight gain, Kirstie turned the tables and poked fun at herself in her own cable show, appropriately called "Fat Actress." Kirstie is hoping that the ups and downs of losing weight will have viewers laughing right along with her.

KIRSTIE ALLEY: America is fat. We're fat!

ZAHN: Kirstie Alley is fat, funny and feeling fabulous.

ALLEY: I'm having a ball. I'm having the best time of my life.

ZAHN: Alley's dramatic weight gain made her a constant tabloid cover girl. The 54-year-old comedian admits to tipping the scales at more than 200 pounds, but now she's flaunting her full figure and getting the last laugh.

KIRSTIE: People say to me, what do you think about the tabloids, they either crush you or you create something new for yourself that you think is funny and you go with what you have.

ZAHN: Kirstie decided to poke fun at herself and the tabloids with her show, "Fat Actress."

ALLEY: John Goodman's got his own show. Jason Alexander looks like a fricking bowling ball. How about James Gandolfino? He's like the size of a whale. He's way, way, way fatter than I am.

ZAHN: The outrageous Showtime series is loosely based on Alley's life.

ALLEY: I hate my fat pants!

ZAHN: It's the story of a Portland out of work actress who is trying to lose weight and keep her career.

ALLEY: God! I'm shooting angles on my butt from the ground up, which would make Paris Hilton look like a cow. I'm doing everything I can to self-deprecate, make fun of myself and make myself look like a jerk so everybody's fair game as far as I'm concerned. Wait up! BRENDA HAMPTON, EXEC PRODUCER, "FAT ACTRESS": She can find the humor in the darkest situations and maybe some of our situations are too dark for people, but she's just very funny.

ZAHN: In fact some critics say the show has gone too far. Kelly Preston plays an anorexic diet coach.

KELLY PRESTON, CO-STAR, "FAT ACTRESS": You are a novice so start off easy, start with the obvious. Barfing.

ALLEY: Yeah.

PRESTON: Use something beautiful, a Mont Blanc pen, a chopstick, the point is, get creative.

People do crazy solutions for things, and it is just sort of pointing it out in a humorous, light way. It doesn't make fun of people who have that as a real problem.

HAMPTON: I'm sure we've offended people. I've heard we've offended people. But the show is just for fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have an offer for you.

ALLEY: An offer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's from Jenny Craig.

ZAHN: But don't shed any tears for Kirstie. Three months after she shot this scene, Alley really did become the spokesperson for Jenny Craig. Now she's laughing all the way to the bank.

ALLEY: I lost 15.

SCOTT PARKER, VICE PRESIDENT MARKETING, JENNY CRAIG: The jokes on the show came first. It's kind of a funny story.

ALLEY: I'm dying.

PARKER: We've had Kirstie on our radar for a long time. Once we got serious in terms of our negotiations, she let us know about it. We thought it was in good humor.

ZAHN: Although Kirstie's gimmick is her girth, Alley wasn't always heavy. In fact, just the opposite. She originally earned her Hollywood reputation as a sexy starlet. In her book, "How to Lose Your Ass and Regain Your Life," Kirstie writes about her naturally slim figure and her willingness to flaunt it. Just one look at the photos in her book, and it's easy to see that Kirstie's been a showoff ever since childhood.

KATHY NAJIMY, FRIEND: She is completely eccentric, truly, creatively, emotionally, in her personal life, in her career. She is literally one of a kind.

ZAHN: Kirstie Alley was born January 12th, 1951 in Wichita, Kansas, the middle child of Robert and Lillian Alley. Kirstie's father owned a lumber company. Her mother took care of the family. Kirstie was outgoing and rebellious.

TOM CUNNEFF, ASSOCIATE BUREAU CHIEF, PEOPLE MAGAZINE: She used to sneak out of the house with no makeup on when she was a teenager in high school in very plain clothes and then change into a vamp in the back of her friend's car before they'd go out to using fake I.D.s to get into bars and ride on the back of, you know, motorcycles with guys.

ZAHN: In 1969, Kirstie graduated from high school and began studying drama at Kansas State University. She dropped out after her sophomore year and married high school sweetheart, Bob Allen (ph).

CUNNEFF: They lived in Kansas City and after they divorced a couple years later, she went back to Wichita where she grew up.

ZAHN: Kirstie stopped pursuing acting and became an interior designer. She was also developing an addiction to cocaine.

CUNNEFF: One day at a wedding, a friend of a guy she was dating took her into the bathroom at the wedding and just rolled up $100 bill and said, "here, snort this line." And she did, and it started a pretty bad habit that lasted about two or three years.

ZAHN: In her book, Kirstie writes that she felt out of control and needed help. A friend visiting from California said Scientology could cure her. She gave Kirstie a copy of the books "Dianetics" by L. Ron Hubbard. After reading the controversial guide to mental health, Alley decided to give it a try. In 1980, she literally packed up all her possessions, moved to Los Angeles and enrolled in the Scientology rehab program.

PRESTON: It was Scientology that picked her up off the ground, shook her up. The whole narcanon program, which isn't Scientology per se but was based on a few of the principles that Hubbard did, that he wrote about, it saved her life.

ZAHN: Kirstie claims she never used cocaine again. She also credits Scientology with giving her the strength to pursue a career in acting.

CUNNEFF: Kirstie was taking acting lessons and one of the students in the class recommended her to another student who was directing a film called "One More Chance." She only made a few hundred dollars, not much, but she was on her way.

ALLEY: I said I want the lead in a major motion picture within a year and everyone said you're nuts.

ZAHN: But in 1981, producers at Paramount saw the student film and asked Kirstie to audition for "Star Trek II, the Wrath of Khan." Alley's career was taking off, but then tragedy nearly destroyed her chance at fame. When we come back, the phone call that changed Kirstie's future.

CUNNEFF: This may have been the toughest time in her life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(SATELLITE DOWN)

ZAHN: ... going through a messy divorce. Alley's life was imitating her art. By the time the show premiered, Kirstie and Parker separated. Alley was broken up, but tried to hide her emotions.

NAJIMY: I worked with her for over three years, and the fun far overweighed the sadness.

ZAHN: Yet off cam camera, the divorce made headlines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kirstie and Parker's divorce is one of the nastiest in Hollywood. In the court papers, he documents how he helped nurture her career so he was asking for alimony and child support. When they first met, he was the bread winner and she was this struggling actress, but by the end, she was the bread winner and made $150,000 a week on "Cheers." Eventually they reached a settlement and now have joint custody of their two children.

ZAHN: But even after their split, Kirstie remained a target for the paparazzi. She was dating "Melrose Place" hunk James Wilder, who was 13 years her junior. And even back then, any weight gain made tabloid headlines.

ALLEY: For 20 years of my career, I've been on the cover of the tabloids for being fat. I don't think most people know that. If I weighed 140, I was on the cover of the tabloids being fat, 150 I was on the cover. So it sells a lot of magazines for them.

ZAHN: As Kirstie became larger, the job offers got slimmer.

ALLEY: Of course you become more and more limited, because, well, let's face it, you know, love interests in movies aren't fat.

ZAHN: That's why Kirstie created "Fat Actress."

PRESTON: She wasn't getting another series I guess and so she wrote her end, like girlfriend and gets out there and turns it around and throws it on its face, which is so Kirstie.

ZAHN: While Alley is betting that America will find fat fascinating, both Kirstie and her character have reason to shed the extra pounds.

ALLEY: I'm not going to have sex with any man. No man will want me when I look like this.

ZAHN: Alley says she hasn't had sex in four years. In an interview with "People" magazine, Alley insists she's not going to have sex while she's fat.

CUNNEFF: She's going to wait until she get down to a weight she feels comfortable with, about 145 pounds before she gets back in the sack.

ZAHN: And she hopes the wait won't be too long.

ALLEY: I've lost 30 pounds, holla!

ZAHN: Showtime hasn't announced whether it will bring back "Fat Actress" for a second position. As for Kirstie's position with Jenny Craig, the company says she's attracting a lot of new customers with its business growing at the best rate in at least five years.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Not long ago, Kabbalah was just an obscure form of Jewish mysticism, obscure, that is, until Madonna. Now Kabbalah has been embraced by some of the entertainment world's biggest stars, but why Kabbalah or Scientology for that matter? What's with Hollywood and religion?

She's the material girl, the image altering pop princess, named after a highly revered Catholic icon. From "Like a Virgin" to her controversial sex book to videos and stage shows that have pushed the envelope, Madonna has spent two decades shocking and provoking her way to superstardom. But how about this for her latest transformation?

MADONNA: Don't be so quick to judge a person.

There was a time when I was more thoughtless about the things I said and I was rebellious and I now feel differently about life, so just being provocative for the sake of being provocative doesn't really interest me.

ZAHN: Why the change? In part because Madonna has found Kabbalah.

MADONNA: A Kabbalist believes that he or she has the responsibility to make the world a better place.

RABBI MICHAEL BERG, CO-DIRECTOR, KABBALAH CENTRE: She's become an unbelievably sharing person on all different levels, not only physical or money, but of herself.

ZAHN: Madonna's not the only celebrity involved. Plenty of other A-list stars, Demi, Ashton, Britney, Paris, have all been seen wearing red Kabbalah strings around their wrists. So what is it?

JESSE KAGLE, SENIOR EDITOR, PEOPLE MAGAZINE: Kabbalah is a form of Judaism that dates back centuries and centuries.

ZAHN: The word Kabbalah means receive tradition and traditionally it's been the intense study of ancient religious texts as a way to make a mystical connection with God.

ELIOT WOLFSON, PROF. OF HEBREW & JUDAIC STUDIES, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: One would have to have knowledge of Hebrew. One would have to have knowledge of Aramaic. One would have to have an intimate knowledge of the life cycle of Judaism. All of that would be presupposed by any traditional Kabbalist.

ZAHN: Madonna studies Kabbalah at the Kabbalah Centre, an organization that has helped bring Kabbalah more mainstream. The center says Kabbalah is the technology that provides the wisdom to improve our lives.

BERG: Kabbalah teaches that it is my job, your job, our job to not only improve our own lives, but improve the world around us. At the core of Kabbalah is a belief and a teaching that we have the power, we have the power to transform our lives and the power to transform this world.

ZAHN: Some critics of the center say that's Kabbalah light and not the traditional form which is a complex path to spirituality.

WOLFSON: It would be like taking Beethoven's 9th and producing a three-minute pop version of it. Why would anybody do it? A three- minute version of it is a sacrilege and it's a similar reaction that I have to this presentation of Kabbalah.

ZAHN: However, the Kabbalah center says the wisdom of Kabbalah is for all people, regardless of their religious background and knowledge.

BERG: Certainly you're not studying what, you know, an advanced Kabbalist after 10 or 15 years would study, but it's possible, when guided properly, to begin the study from the most basic level. Certainly we believe that everybody should have the opportunity to study this wisdom.

ZAHN: If Madonna has become the modern face of Kabbalah, the red string has become its most visible representation.

BERG: It's both symbolic in that it reminds us of how important our connections are, our spiritual connections are. But Kabbalah teaches that it's more than that. It's actually a tool. It's a way that I can actually draw some of that protected light in my life.

ZAHN: The strings sell for $26 at the Kabbalah center and on its Web site, along with a variety of other Kabbalah-related products. Critics cry commercialism, a charge the center rejects.

BERG: Anybody who wants to study at the Kabbalah center, wants a red string, wants a book, wants a tape and cannot afford it, they can get it for free. But in order for somebody in Michigan to get the Zohar for free, somebody in New York who can afford it will pay for a red string.

MADONNA: I'm here as a student of Kabbalah.

ZAHN: Of course, even when it concerns faith, Madonna isn't Madonna without controversy. Her trip to Israel last September was met with a combination of cheers and protests.

RABBI DAVID SCHWARTZ, KABBALIST: A person who is not ready is something which is prohibited. ZAHN: And the same woman who once drew fire from Christians for her video, "Like a Prayer," was criticized for her use of Jewish images and rituals in her video for "Die Another Day." But there's definitely something different about this version of Madonna.

MADONNA: In Kabbalah we learn that if we want something in life, we have to give something.

ZAHN: That's a message any Kabbalist, traditional or otherwise, would likely to agree with.

WOLFSON: People claim it's had a tremendous, positive impact on their lives, so I wouldn't stand in judgment.

ZAHN: When we come back, Kabbalah, Scientology, new age religions, and why celebrities seem to be so attracted to them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns in a moment, but first, here's what's happening now in the news.

The U.S. Military arrested six people suspected of shooting down a civilian chopper north of Baghdad on Thursday. Eleven people were killed, including six American contractors. Video of the apparent shootdown surfaced yesterday. It shows the chopper crash and then a survivor being shot to death.

Ecuador's ousted president is holed up in the Brazilian ambassador's residence in Quito for a fourth day. Protesters outside the walled compound want Lucio Guitierez to stand trial for alleged corruption. He's waiting for the new government to let him leave for exile.

Mega money for one winner of the Mega Millions Lottery. Officials say one winning ticket was sold in Port Huron, Michigan. It's worth about $205 million before taxes. Another 25 people matched all five numbers, but not the mega ball. They each win $175,000.

A new report is causing confusion about just how unhealthy it is to be overweight.

We'll talk to a doctor to sort it all out, next hour on "CNN LIVE SATURDAY."

More headlines in 30 minutes. Now back to more PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHARON COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley, John Travolta, big-time Hollywood stars with something in common -- Scientology. JOHN TRAVOLTA, ENTERTAINER: It's an applied religious philosophy, so therefore, it is spiritual, in that it addresses you spiritually. But then there are aspects of it that address your mind and your body.

COLLINS: Scientology is a religion with a strong presence in Hollywood. There's a large celebrity center in town. And there's even a street named after its founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

JESS CAGLE, SENIOR EDITOR, "PEOPLE MAGAZINE": It is always described as a controversial religion. Though those that follow it really believe it has helped them reach some kind of enlightenment. In a lot of ways the religion is like a self-help program, where like the 12 steps, where you reach different levels of enlightenment and become, you know, more serene, more at peace.

COLLINS: Travolta, who says he became a Scientologist in 1975, while working on a movie, has been one of the faith's strongest supporters. He credits it with keeping him out of the trouble that can sometimes come along with stardom.

TRAVOLTA: Where others suffered and took drugs and went another path I didn't have to, because I had friends that were willing to help me with a very strong technology to bail me out of any trouble that one could possibly or any self-doubt or, you know, wrong path.

COLLINS: In a town where success can mean unimaginable fame and fortune, it's not that surprising to find celebrities who are looking for some kind of faith to help them stay grounded.

MARK PINSKY, RELIGION WRITER, "ORLANDO SENTINEL": You see people who have had such fantastic success, I think it can knock the pins out from under you. You can lose all perspective. How do you understand why all this great fortune has come to you, and that's kind of what religion is for some of these people.

COLLINS: Celebrities of every faith can be found in Hollywood. Denzel Washington goes to a Pentecostal Church. Martin Sheen is a devout Roman Catholic. Jessica Simpson is the daughter of a Baptist minister. But mainstream religions often seem to fly under the radar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that a lot of people who are Jewish are very involved in the Jewish community, but that's boring, you know? Of course, they are. And they don't get asked about it a lot to so they don't seem to be that vocal.

COLLINS: Instead it's new age or nontraditional faiths, like Scientology or Kabbalah that seem to get the most attention.

MICHAEL MEDVED, FILM CRITIC: There are more open Scientologists in Hollywood than there are open Christians, and certainly their more prominent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people in Scientology or Kabbalah may be a little more vocal about their religion than say the average Jew or average Christian in Hollywood, because they feel maybe there's a misunderstanding about their religion. Maybe it can help people and a lot of people don't know about it. So, part of it is proselytizing, part of is defending their religion.

COLLINS: But Why Does it seem like Hollywood stars gravitate toward alternate religions?

CAGLE: People in the entertainment community, especially actors, look, they're artists so they do a lot of soul searching. And I think a lot of them really don't subscribe to the idea of heaven and hell, and they're looking for something else.

RABBI MICHAEL BERG, CO-DIRECTOR, KABBALAH CENTRE: This is a generality for all celebrities or famous people, but there are certain people who are rebels. And one of the things certainly, when you come to study Kabbalah you need to be a little bit of a rebel. This is maybe one more way in which they rebel against the institution of religion.

COLLINS: Why does Hollywood seem to be so accepting of faiths out of the mainstream?

CAGLE: The religion in Hollywood is money, that's really the religion, more than anything else. So you can worship the goat next door, but if your movie opens to at $30 million at the box office people are going to work with you, and they're going to want to have lunch.

COLLINS: The Kabbalah center has said that 9/11 had more of an effect on the number of people studying there than when Madonna brought Kabbalah into the public eye. But there's little debate that celebrity involvement in any faith can carry over into pop culture.

CAGLE: New age beliefs used to be a very, very Hollywood thing and very unique to Hollywood. Now, new age is very mainstream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's possible that the involvement of certain Hollywood stars have helped Scientology, given it a kind of respectability maybe it didn't have before Hollywood people adopted it.

BERG: I think there are people who come to the Kabbalah Centre because they've heard a certain celebrity has studied it. But you know, a person when he makes a decision to turn to a spiritual path it needs to be something more deep than simply, you know, so and so studies it.

COLLINS: Los Angeles is known as the city of angels.

CRAIG DETWEILER, ASSOC. PROFESSOR, BLOLA UNIVERSITY: Los Angeles is actually, the birthplace of both fundamental and Pentecostalism, two forms of evangelical Christianity that resulted in the most profound church growth in the 20th century.

COLLINS: Religion and Hollywood may come in many different forms, but the interest in faith is universal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hollywood has spiritual searching in its very roots, in its very foundations.

CAGLE: I think that people in Hollywood are the same, as anyone else. Some people do it in a Baptist church, some people do it at a Kabbalah centre.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Madonna has a new tour documentary coming out. It details not only her life on the road, but also reportedly explains her devotion to Kabbalah.

ANNOUNCER: Come up, she's the Hollywood powerhouse who found her way to the top after a painful divorce.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICOLE KIDMAN, ENTERTAINER: One of the daunting prospects for a woman when she goes through divorce is learning to be able to fend for it alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Oscar winner Nicole Kidman when PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

Nicole Kidman may be the busiest actress in Hollywood. Four Years After her high-profile divorce from mega star Tom Cruise, she has stepped out of his shadow to become one of the silver screen's biggest leading ladies. Now the Academy Award winning actress is exploring new territory in "The Interpreter." A political thriller, co-starring fellow Oscar Winner, Sean Penn.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (voice-over): She's the Aussie import who happens to be one of Hollywood's highest paid leading ladies. Since Nicole Kidman split up with her megastar husband, Tom Cruise, the 5' 11" actress has been standing a head above the rest. The past three and a half years have seen Kidman come into her own as a Hollywood powerhouse -- eight movies...

KIDMAN: Come and get me, boys. It's not normal, Walter.

COLLINS: ...five Golden Globe nominations and two wins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nicole Kidman!

COLLINS: Not only did she get a star, but in March 2003, Kidman achieved her crowning moment. With parents in tow, she walked the red carpet once again. An Oscar nomination for "The Hours" had brought her to the Academy Awards, and while the buzz was in her favor, her nerves were out of control. CAGLE: On Oscar night, she had pretty much decided that she was not going to win.

KIDMAN: Renee!

CAGLE: And she probably felt that Renee Zellweger was going to get the Best Actress award instead.

RENEE ZELLWEGER, ACTRESS: No, I'm not quite finished yet.

CAGLE: Then right before they announced the Best Actress winner, Nicole Kidman's daughter leaned over and said, "You're going to win, Mommy" and she became completely panicked. Then, of course, she won.

COLLINS: Kidman's character in "The Hours" Virginia Wolfe, had dealt with depression, isolation, alienation, feelings all too familiar to this movie star.

KIDMAN: One of the daunting prospects for a woman when she goes through divorce is learning to be able to then live alone and survive alone and find your way in the world without your partner. And so now going, wow, I'm able to take care of myself. That's kind of makes you feel...

COLLINS: And even though the now single Kidman has been linked to celebrities like rocker Lenny Kravitz and more recently film producer Steven Bing, Kidman keeps her love life to herself.

CAGLE: One thing that Nicole Kidman learned, I think, during the life with Tom Cruise, was how damaging a lot of scrutiny on a relationship can be. And so she's been very careful to keep that part of her life as private as possible.

COLLINS: It had been a solid marriage, even by Hollywood standards. But in February of 2001, her movie star husband Tom Cruise shocked the entertainment world and Kidman herself, announcing he wanted to end their 10-year marriage. Kidman had to maintain her composure while promoting her new film "Mulone Rouge."

KIDMAN: I'm very excited. It's going to have a really good reception.

DUNNE: She attended the premiere. She's waving to the people. Whatever's going on inside, she kept that private.

COLLINS: The show must go on is very much Kidman's guiding motto. She'll show up no matter what.

The so very Aussie Kidman began her life in America. She was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on June 20, 1967. Her father, a biochemist and author, was studying there. His research would later take the family on to Washington D.C. By the time Kidman was four, her family had returned to Australia to stay. Sidney became the place she'd always call home.

Kidman is very close to her younger sister, Antonia, a television reporter in Australia, as well as to her father and her mother, a nurse and educator. While growing up, Kidman's extraordinarily pale skin meant Australia's sun life was out of bounds.

KIDMAN: Instead of going to the beach or you know, the normal thing that you do in Australia, I would go on the weekends to drama school.

COLLINS: At age 10, Nicole retreated to the comfort of the rehearsal studio to strengthen her acting skills. It wasn't natural, she said, to disappear into a dark theater and she did so with her parents' approval.

KIDMAN: They both have a love of the arts. And I think they gave it great credence and value that it wasn't -- and I really respect them as parents for doing that because it wasn't sort of pooh-poohed. It was actually you know, what do you enjoy? My parents always took me to the theater when I was young. I was taken to see opera. I was taken to see modern dance. So I was exposed a lot -- to a lot of culture and I really -- that's what I try to do for my children as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You started very young acting.

KIDMAN: Oh no, which one do you've got?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have "BMX Bandits" and "Bush Christmas."

COLLINS: Kidman may cringe, but the TV film she made in 1983, "Bush Christmas," remains a national favorite and still airs every Christmas. That same year, the cult favorite, "BMX Bandits" was released. A group of kids on bikes takes on a gang of bank robbers.

COLLINS: Kidman chose to ride away from high school at 16 to pursue a full-time acting career.

When the story of Nicole Kidman continues, the movie, "Days of Thunder," rolls into her life, bringing with it a hot Hollywood relationship.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KIDMAN: What about those people?

COLLINS (voice-over): After TV and film success down under, Australian Nicole Kidman's first Hollywood break was the seagoing thriller, "Dead Calm."

COLLINS: Mr. Hollywood, Tom Cruise, was just coming off his divorce from actress, Mimi Rogers, and after viewing "Dead Calm" was reportedly eager to meet the dazzling new actress.

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: How could you ignore me like that?

KIDMAN: I wasn't ignoring you.

COLLINS: That meeting came within a year. Both were cast in the film, "Days of Thunder." There was immediate on-screen and off-screen chemistry.

A quick romance followed and on Christmas Eve 1990, the two married quietly in the resort town of Telluride, Colorado. Within months, Kidman was working again with her famous husband in the 1992, epic, "Far and Away." But Kidman's resume would never read, Mrs. Tom Cruise. She was determined not to be typecast in any way.

KIDMAN: I don't know if it's conscious. It's just that I'm drawn. As soon as I've done one thing, I'm drawn to probably the complete opposite. So, and my taste in films and also just in characters and stuff is very diverse.

COLLINS: The super couple were becoming part of Hollywood royalty, and children were now part of the dynasty. The couple adopted a girl, Isabella, in 1993, and a baby boy, Connor, two years later.

KIDMAN: We do it all; Tom and I. It's, you know -- it's -- you bear the priority and so that means you make compromises. We always said that when we're making "Far and Away," it would be great because then our children will be able to watch us we when we were young and in love.

COLLINS: Kidman's children often go on location with her. They see her act and in the case of "Moulin Rouge," hear her sing.

KIDMAN: I sing to them all the time. They tell me shut-up.

COLLINS: Of course, Kidman gets far more respect in Hollywood. By 1996, she was a star in her own right, moving out of Cruise's orbit.

KIDMAN: You're not anybody in America unless you're on TV.

COLLINS: It was the quirky film noir, "To Die For," that propelled Kidman to stardom. It all began when Kidman picked up the phone and begged director, Gus Van Sant, for the breakout role. Once on board, Kidman shined.

KIDMAN: I believe that Mr. Gorbeshev -- you know the man who ran Russia for so long? I believe that that he'd still be in power today if he's done what so many people suggested and had that big purple thing taken off his forehead.

COLLINS: Acclaim poured in, including a Golden Globe in 1995.

Director, Baz Luhrmann, says he noticed how extraordinary Kidman was during a "Vogue" photo shoot a decade ago.

LUHRMANN: She did, you know, sort of a Carol Lombard. She did like a Marilyn image, if I remember. And she did a great Marilyn image, and Lucille Ball, actually. She's a real movie star, meaning she does manifest those almost icon-like qualities that those performers had in that time.

COLLINS (voice-over): Nicole Kidman went on to appeared in three films with husband, Tom Cruise. Their last pairing came in Stanley Kubrick's psychological thriller, "Eyes Wide Shut." She had spent nearly two years on the project and then just after OKing the final cut, director, Kubrick, died. Kidman has said Kubrick's sudden death shocked her out of her youthful naivete.

KIDMAN: I had just revered him and loved him dearly.

COLLINS: Then on February 4, 2001, another shock. Shortly after their 10th wedding anniversary, a statement was released announcing an amicable separation. Three days later, Cruise officially filed for divorce. Friends of Kidman were quoted as saying she was broadsided. While the reasons for the split remain private, it was played out in public to Kidman's dismay.

KIDMAN: It's such a surreal experience when all these things happen in your life and they're all written about and they're all, sort of everybody watches it and somehow you have to get through it. And thank God for my mom and dad and my sister, and the people in my life who love me.

COLLINS: As her marriage disintegrated, Kidman faced the press to promote her work.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Ladies and gentlemen, here's Nicole Kidman.

COLLINS: Kidman used her legendary humor on the "Late Show with David Letterman" to diffuse the divorce questions.

KIDMAN: Hi.

LETTERMAN: You look fantastic. I heard you're getting divorced. How's that going?

COLLINS: Kidman was ready with a well-rehearsed line.

KIDMAN: Well, I can wear heels now.

COLLINS: Twenty-three seconds of laughter later, Kidman took charge.

KIDMAN: Now we move on.

LETTERMAN: Yes.

COLLINS: Indeed she did, in black couture to the premier of her thriller, "The Others." Discreetly following on the red carpet was Tom Cruise. He had co-produced "The Others" and tapped Kidman for the starring role.

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: I gave it to Nic, who I thought would be perfect for the role, and it's a tour de force performance for her and I'm very proud of her. KIDMAN: Come and get me, boys.

COLLINS: Just two months earlier, Kidman had released "Moulin Rouge" to critical acclaim.

KIDMAN: I believe you were expecting me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

COLLINS: And audiences couldn't get enough. 2002 brought a Golden Globe win for "Moulin Rouge."

KIDMAN: We never thought we'd be standing here.

COLLINS: And that same role nabbed her first Academy Award nomination. In the end, Hale Berry took home the Oscar that year. But just 12 months later, it was Kidman's turn to shine. Her role in "The Hours" brought to the big screen a Nicole Kidman like we've never seen before.

ROZEN: So much has been said about the nose, including, of course, the overused joke about winning by a nose. I don't think she won because of the nose. I mean she won not only for her performance in "The Hours," but also for being a big old movie star.

COLLINS: And following the Academy win, you'd never guess the call she made immediately following the walk off stage.

CAGLE: I think a lot of people might be surprised to know that she called her ex-husband, Tom Cruise, you know, the night that she won the Oscar. As she says, you know, I think quoting a line from "The Hours," "We always had these hours together. We always had this time together." And so, he's really part of her life and I think that marriage and whatever she went through there is really a part of who she is and it makes her feel close to him.

COLLINS: Now at claimed actress who refuses to be typecast will try a new big screen genre, a political thriller. In "The Interpreter" Kidman plays a U.N. Translator who overhears an assassination plot.

KIDMAN: It's a death list.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nicole Kidman's like hey move over Meryl Streep. Not only can I do an accent, which she does in this movie, but she also speaks a completely made up language.

COLLINS: Validated by peers, loved by fans and seemingly at peace with her past relationship it seems Kidman has gained not only box office clout in the past four years, but valuable insight as well.

KIDMAN: The most important thing in life is sort of knowing who your friends are, and cherishing them, and in a weird way, you have your, the best of times and the worst of times, they come together, and there's always balance, you know? And it keeps your feet on the ground. COLLINS: No longer Mrs. Tom Cruise, the resilient actress is now, in every way, Nicole Kidman.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: In making Nicole to's new movie "The Interpreter" director Sydney Pollack (ph) had to actually negotiate his way into one of the world's most private political strongholds, the U.N. He eventually got permission to film on nights and on weekends, an achievement that not even the legendary Alfred Hitchcock could pull off home run his classic film "North by Northwest."

That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Please join me every weeknight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for more people profiles. Coming up this week, Mariah Carey makes a comeback.

I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks, again, for watching.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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