(CANNES, France) — Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor were well-prepared when they were asked to sing a few bars of one of their love songs from the $50 million musical Moulin Rouge, which opened the 54th Cannes Film Festival Wednesday night to violently mixed reviews.
The duo dared to do their own singing in the film, but they both swiftly declined to warble on demand at Wednesday's globally telecast Cannes press conference.
"We made an agreement that we'd never [sing] at a party or a press conference or do any numbers from the film because it would be too embarrassing!" laughed Kidman, who was calm and upbeat despite her headline-grabbing split from her superstar husband, Tom Cruise.
"We knew the day would come when it would be asked and we made a pact to never, ever let that happen, no matter how drunk anyone was," added McGregor.
Although the film is set in Paris in 1899, the music in Moulin Rouge is pure contemporary pop, ranging from a goofy sendup of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" to Kidman's entrance on a swing descending from the ceiling while singing Marilyn Monroe's anthem "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."
Kidman, the veteran of London and New York productions of The Blue Room — in which her brief nudity scored a sold-out run — was asked if she'd return to the stage in a Broadway musical. "Ah, vocally Broadway is tough on your voice. I'd really have to train up for it. I'd actually like to," she said.
"Even doing a film of this nature, physically you have to take care of yourself so much more. You can't smoke. [With] the dancing, you constantly have to keep your body warm. Physically it's much, much harder than a straight play and that's the thing that scares me about it. I had some injuries on this film, but ultimately, any challenge, I'm usually up for it, so I'd certainly consider it."
Kidman was being too modest. She broke several ribs — "I broke them, actually," McGregor said of what must have been a too-tight squeeze — and badly injured her knee in a dance sequence.
On Moulin Rouge, "we had to [suspend filming] when I broke my ribs for a few weeks," she said. "Then when I did my knee, which was at the end of the film, we just kept shooting. We didn't shut down because Star Wars was coming into [Fox's Australian] studios" — here she shot a look at McGregor, who stars as Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas' second episode of the sci-fi series — "and we had to move out. Which was actually good," she laughed, "because we got through it."
Her knee injury flared up again in January, forcing her to leave David Fincher's thriller Panic Room after two weeks of filming.
The actress presided over the opening night festivities and will do two more days of press and then wing back to her kids in Los Angeles, where she'll do a press junket prior to the film's limited opening May 18 in New York and L.A. The film opens nationally on June 1.
If she's lucky, Kidman and Moulin Rouge will be collecting prizes when Cannes wraps on May 20. The jury is headed by Liv Ullmann, who replaced Jodie Foster when Foster took over Kidman's Panic Room role.