LOS ANGELES (AP) - Nicole Kidman is giving audiences grief with her latest drama, "Rabbit Hole," playing a disconsolate woman coping with the death of her child.
Yet 10 years after one of Hollywood's most-publicized splits, the breakup of her marriage to Tom Cruise, Kidman is in the happiest of places, with little to sob about.
After a shaky few years when she made such duds as "The Stepford Wives," "Bewitched," "The Golden Compass" and "The Invasion," Kidman is back in Academy Awards contention for the first time since back-to-back nominations for 2001's "Moulin Rouge!" and 2002's "The Hours," which earned her a best-actress Oscar.
Kidman also is a producer on "Rabbit Hole," opening Friday as the first release from her production company, Blossom Films.
She's four years into her marriage with country music star Keith Urban. Kidman, who had a miscarriage while married to Cruise, now has a 2-year-old daughter with Urban. The family has settled so comfortably at their Nashville home that Kidman is not terribly inclined to rush out looking for work.
"I'm in a place where I just don't want to take on too much," Kidman, 43, said in an interview. "It's not about, "Oh my gosh, I've got to get all these things for myself,' because I love being at home. But you know, my husband and my mother will say, "You shouldn't just abandon your talent. You should still get out there and do some things every now and then, because you'll appreciate that over the next couple of decades.'
"And I suppose deep down, I know they're right, because part of me could easily just keep nesting and staying at home. It's really nice."
Kidman never seems to stay in nesting mode for long. She is preparing to shoot the HBO movie "Hemingway & Gellhorn," playing war correspondent Martha Gellhorn opposite Clive Owen as Ernest Hemingway.
Then she is signed for director Lasse Hallstrom's "The Danish Girl," based on a novel inspired by painter Einar Wegener, the first man to have a sex-change operation.
Kidman also has a supporting role in Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston's comedy "Just Go With It," coming next year.
All this comes on top of her own filmmaking chores, some only as producer, some to develop good roles for herself, always an issue for actors as they get older and choice parts dry up.
"She's my hero," said "Rabbit Hole" co-star Aaron Eckhart. "Anybody who complains about their position or plight in this industry is not looking at things the right way. They're not being proactive enough. They are not taking control of their destiny, and she is. She is first and foremost interested in acting and telling good stories. ... She works her ass off, and she's totally committed to filmmaking."
Rather than playing it safe, Kidman seeks out edgy filmmakers - Lars von Trier, who directed her in an arthouse variation of torture-porn in "Dogville," or Noah Baumbach, for whom she delivered a mercilessly raw performance in the sibling drama "Margot at the Wedding."
Likewise, for "Rabbit Hole," Kidman brought in John Cameron Mitchell to direct, an unlikely choice for a somber drama given the outrageous sexual and social exploits in his previous films, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "Shortbus."
"She's always willing to take a risk, which you don't always see our other wonderful actresses doing. They're content to relax into whatever Hollywood movie is next, and she's got this hungry urge to expand her horizons," Mitchell said.
"She actually says that she doesn't feel like she's as good in the popcorn movies. She's like, "I just feel like I don't know how to do them."'
Kidman clearly knows how to do smaller, more personal stories such as "Rabbit Hole." The film earned her a Golden Globe nomination, and she seems a safe bet for her third best-actress slot at the Oscars.
Based on David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "Rabbit Hole" stars Kidman and Eckhart as a couple straining to save their marriage and make sense of the death of their young son in a traffic accident.
A tough story to watch. Even tougher to perform in.
"It was kind of like, why am I doing this? Am I masochistic? But at the same time, I felt compelled to tell the story," Kidman said. "There's no right or wrong way of navigating grief, and this is just a study, almost like a case study, of it, of two people and their marriage and their family, and how they somehow move through it.
"But they move through it moving toward each other rather than away. They say 80 percent of couples that go through this don't make it, but I didn't want to make that movie."
The movies Kidman does want to make are varied. She and producing partner Per Saari are looking for stories that need a helping hand amid uncertain times in the film world, when studios are interested mainly in the next blockbuster and filmmakers with challenging scripts are scrounging.
"It's not like some huge offices or anything. We have a laptop, and we make phone calls, but there's just the two of us, and we just have a couple of things that we're really invested in," Kidman said.
Among potential projects are a remake of Marilyn Monroe's "How to Marry a Millionaire," in which Kidman would not star, and a film biography of singer Dusty Springfield, in which she's not sure if she would act.
They have the rights for Chris Cleave's novel "Little Bee," a tale in which Kidman does hope to star about the relationship between an Englishwoman and a teenage Nigerian refugee who has undergone terrible trauma.
Kidman, who has two adopted teenagers with Cruise in addition to her and Urban's daughter, said she was able to hurl herself into the role of bereaved mother with little preparation.
"It took me so long to get pregnant and have a baby, so I have enormous gratitude. I have two grown children with that enormous gratitude that they are healthy and sane and together and are great, great people. So my sense of knowing what I have, I'm not one of those people that needs to be reminded of what I have," Kidman said.
"But I suppose my compassion, my ability to just - I can weep when I hear the stories that people tell me of what they're going through. So my heart is open to that because of this film, because I've kind of put my toe in the water, in a way."