PARIS • Nicole Kidman is the undisputed queen of this year's Cannes Film Festival, which opens tomorrow in the French Riviera resort, starring in three of its most eagerly awaited films.
The Australian is in two movies vying for the Palme d'Or top prize.
Kidman, 49, shows her trademark mix of hauteur and vulnerability as a pent-up governess of a girls' school in Sofia Coppola's highly touted remake of The Beguiled.
The film, set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, has Colin Farrell as an injured Union soldier who seduces Kidman's charges and drives her wild with desire.
She teams up with the Irish actor again in Greek maestro Yorgos Lanthimos' The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, this time as his wife in the story of a surgeon who gets disastrously drawn into the life of a dysfunctional family.
She also plays a fashion and music maven in How To Talk To Girls At Parties in the official selection. The film, adapted from a Neil Gaiman short story, has Kidman adopting Elle Fanning's alien as her protege.
While Kidman has never won a prize at Cannes, she has long been a festival favourite, taking a string of arthouse roles even after becoming one of Hollywood's most bankable stars after her split from her first husband, Tom Cruise.
It was one of many reinventions that have taken the high-school dropout from Australian teen movies such as BMX Bandits (1983) to the top of her profession.
Kidman has never lacked daring, working on 2003's Dogville with the notorious Danish auteur Lars von Trier, who was later banned from Cannes after saying that he was a Nazi.
"One day, it would be a fairy tale; the next, a nightmare," she said of working with him. Others told how she had to grin and bear humiliations and mind games on the set.
Even when she was headlining big-budget blockbusters such as Batman Forever in 1995, Kidman made time for whip-smart roles in indie films such as Gus van Sant's satire on fame, To Die For (1995), which confirmed her as a major talent. But she had to wait until 2003 for a best actress Oscar for her depiction of tortured novelist Virginia Woolf in Stephen Daldry's The Hours. Two more nominations have followed, the latest for Lion last year. Its storyline, of a young man from India adopted by an Australian family who searches for his long-lost relatives on Google Earth, resonated with Kidman.
She adopted two children with Cruise and has had two others since with New Zealand-born country singer Keith Urban.
She said she felt an immediate connection with the woman she portrayed in Lion, Sue Brierley.
"I told her a lot about myself and it was almost like she already knew," Kidman said. "I just felt ever since I was young that I was going to adopt a child," she added.
Kidman was born in Honolulu where her psychologist father was working. They returned to Australia when she was four, where she took to drama from a young age, eventually quitting school to study acting.
She caught the eye as a 14-year-old in the 1983 Australian television film Bush Christmas and won plaudits internationally for thriller Dead Calm in 1989.
Her life was transformed the following year when she met Cruise on the set of the racetrack romance Days Of Thunder.
They married in 1991, but split a decade later in one of Hollywood's most famous divorces.
Once one of the highest-paid stars in Hollywood, she took a step back from acting after falling for Urban. They married in 2006.
But not even an unfortunate brush with Botox could stop her from coming back.
"I did try Botox, unfortunately, but I got out of it. Now I can finally move my face again," she confessed.
She was back to her best in low-budget drama Rabbit Hole in 2011, which won her another Oscar nod.
Like many top actors and directors, Kidman has also been drawn by the lure of top-drawer television series, winning plaudits most recently with Big Little Lies.
She will also be on the red carpet for the fourth time at Cannes for a special screening of her friend Jane Campion's second season of Top Of The Lake in which Kidman is almost unrecognisable as a foil to Elisabeth Moss' small-town detective.