Nicole Kidman’s ‘Destroyer’ Role Is About So Much More Than Her Physical Transformation

Annapurna Pictures

Destroyer actor Sebastian Stan and director Karyn Kusama are powering through a day filled with interviews for their new movie at The London Hotel in West Hollywood, California. Their passion for the movie is clear, but both show the most enthusiasm when asked about working with Nicole Kidman on Destroyer. While there's been much talk of Kidman's makeup and the physical transformation she underwent for the movie, her Destroyer colleagues say that working with her on the film was a transformative experience in itself.

"I don't think I was capable of one false moment really opposite her, because I just think having to come in, you're immediately elevated by the presence of a great actor like that, but also you're at the top of your game," Stan tells Bustle in a November interview. "It couldn't have been anymore gratifying in the long run, especially to see her do something so different and not unlike anything she's done before."

Destroyer, out Dec. 25, stars Kidman as Erin Bell, a veteran Los Angeles detective who seeks revenge for a decades-old undercover operation that went wrong — and one that completely altered her life as young police officer. Throughout the film, the audience sees two sides of Kidman: the naive young cop and the tough, jaded veteran detective. Stan stars opposite Kidman as Chris, Erin's partner, and Jade Pettyjohn plays Shelby, Erin's rebellious and distant teenage daughter.

Stan says he admired in all the efforts Kidman took to become Erin, down to even the smallest details. "From the walk to the mindset that she was in, and you could tell that she was very focused," he says. "There were even times where I didn't really feel like, even when the cameras were rolling, whether or not that was actually her or she was so focused on what was going on."

For Kusama, Kidman's work as Erin also explored a more complex, introspective mystery about a woman hoping to redeem herself. "Ideally with this film, I was hoping that we could sort of have the lights come up and feel like what do we really know about each other? About ourselves, about the world at large?" the director explains. "And feel open to asking maybe more questions of each other. Because part of the structure of the film is that we watch an investigation of a crime that we realize over time is really an investigation of herself."

Part of Erin's investigation into herself includes several attempts to repair her tense and broken relationship with her teenage daughter, Shelby. Pettyjohn says that acting opposite Kidman left her in awe.

"Working with her and going to these heavy places with her was such a great learning experience, and something that I will take with me for the rest of my career," the 18-year-old actor says, speaking over the phone in December. "She's just so strong, and she's so powerful, and she has this beautiful vision, and was so dedicated to telling truth, and embodying this very broken, damaged character. So finding that relationship between Shelby and Erin with her was such a beautiful experience."

Kidman's transformation for her role in Destroyer went way beyond her makeup, and her commitment affected raised the game of everyone around her.