Reese Witherspoon Explains How She Befriended Nicole Kidman in This Sweet Speech

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We already knew Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman were best friends from watching their heart-swelling speeches at the Emmys, but just how did this friendship start? Do they really sip cappuccinos and confess everything to one another like their Big Little Lies characters? If Witherspoon’s speech at the Gotham Awards on Monday night is any indicator, where Witherspoon presented her “beautiful, soulful, talented friend, Nicole,” with the Tribute Actress Award, it seems so. It’s all thanks to some Madeline-like stalking of Kidman on Witherspoon’s part.

As Witherspoon spilled onstage, she used her executive-producer powers to basically ambush Kidman. “[Last year] I got the chance to work with her, finally,” said Witherspoon. “I managed also to coerce my line producer to make sure I was in the same makeup trailer with her at all times while she was getting ready so I could ask her anything I wanted to. She was captive for two hours and I asked her a lot of questions! I mean like a lot of questions that would range from anything from, ‘Tell me about Stanley Kubrick. Can you just give me, like, a lil’ tidbit. I just wanna know anything.’”

While this anecdote is sweet, the whole speech is really a trip, ranging from gushing about Dead Calm, to Witherspoon’s fantasies of getting Kidman to do a podcast, to her vision of being in a “very live Nicole Kidman biography, the A&E version, hosted by myself,” to descriptions of the bizarre snacks Kidman eats on set. Watch a clip of Reese’s speech here and read the whole thing below.

Hi everybody, how are you? So I’m here to talk about one of my favorite people, Nicole Kidman. Hi Nicole! I just have to share something really funny she said to me probably ten minutes ago. As people were coming up and everybody was mentioning her name she goes, “I think I’ve worked with anyone in this room.” So literally, she’s worked with all of you. All of you. And she loves all of you too. She’s genuinely so excited to be here. My beautiful, soulful, talented friend Nicole.

A lot of people know her as an actress of over 80 films and I believe last year alone she made about five, so that has to be some sort of record. She’s an international fashion icon. She’s an Oscar winner. A Emmy winner. A so-many-awards-I-can’t-even-name-them winner. But I know her as a magician. So let me explain. I’ve been one of her biggest fans since I saw one of her very first movies, Dead Calm, has anybody seen Dead Calm? Okay guys, guys she is simultaneously so vulnerable and so badass at the same time. She’s 21 years old and she has this fiery red hair and she has the courage born of rage out of abuse that’s happening. She has incredible action sequences with Billy Zane on this boat in the middle of the ocean. I saw this movie when I was a girl and I thought, that is my hero. That’s the kind of woman I wanna be. It is really quite astounding to think about the body of her work, her various characters that span centuries and continents. Her breadth of performances that range from vulnerable and broken to the master of her own universe. From Suzanne Stone in To Die For, one of my favorite performances, to Ada Munroe in Cold Mountain, to Sateen in Moulin Rouge, a beautiful performance. She has simply done it all.

So last year, you guys, I was really lucky. I got the chance to work with her, finally. I managed also to coerce my line producer to make sure I was in the same makeup trailer with her at all times while she was getting ready so I could ask her anything I wanted to. She was captive for two hours and I asked her a lot of questions. I mean like a lot of questions that would range from anything from, “Tell me about Stanley Kubrick. Can you just give me like a lil’ tidbit. I just wanna know anything.” To Gus Van Sant, to Sofia Coppola, who I love. Baz Luhrmann. Sydney Pollack. Anthony Minghella. Jane Campion. The list goes on and on and on. And she would tell me these stories guys and you could hear a pin drop in the makeup trailer. I said, I gotta get this on a podcast. I gotta do something with this. We’ve gotta monetize this. It’s too good.

But she just has this incredible love of directors, and she loves helping them make their visions come to life and make these characters in these wonderful inventive films that stand the test of time. Not to mention all the extraordinary actors she’s worked with. I asked about all of those too, just so you know. So everyday she would paint these beautiful pictures for me of this wonderful life that she’s lived, literally since she was 18 years old in the movies. And not only did I get the best seat in the house to the very live Nicole Kidman biography, the A&E version, hosted by myself. I also got the privilege of watching her work and that’s where the magic comes in.

To sit opposite my friend, who I know as a mother and a wife and an incredible fellow producer who sits through script meetings and adds notes and production meetings. I just watched Nicole melt away. It was extraordinary. She would come onto set in these incredible outfits and she was gone. Nicole was gone. And she disappeared into someone else. She became this other woman with another mind and another history and another voice, and she even had different eyes. And she became this woman, Celeste Wright, who was a mother of two, a wife of a wealthy man who seemingly has it all together but she holds a secret in her heart, a dark secret. And this powerful performance showed the intricacies of what so many women are going through in abusive relationships, and I truly believe this helped open up the conversation that so many people are having now about people who are facing this same struggle with abuse and harassment in their own lives. I truly believe that.

I’ve worked in Hollywood for 25 years and I’ve never seen anyone transform so completely. I was in awe of the ways that she would go into scenes, shooting some of the most violent and tormented scenes her character experiences and our director would say, “Cut!” And she was back, talking about schools and kids and holiday plans and eating these weird snacks. She eats really weird snacks when we’re on set. And drinks this cappuccino and sprinkles hot chocolate on the top and then eats it. It’s very bizarre. But I suddenly understood the truth about her. And to talk, what John Cameron [Mitchell] was saying about empathy — her magic is her empathy, because she truly deeply cares, and empathy is magic, and that’s the ability that she has to break audiences open. She gives you her whole heart, her whole soul, her whole body. Every side of a character. The light, the dark. She’s unwaveringly passionate. She gives of herself. She stands up for what she believes in and she pushes the envelope with every single role she takes. So there it is, now you know it. She’s a magician. She’s magic and she’s one of the greatest actresses I’ve ever known, and it is a privilege to watch her work. And I just … I just I love you so much! I think you’re so wonderful and if anybody has any follow-up questions about Nicole’s career, I will be available after this brief clip of all of her films.

How Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman Became Friends