Nicole Kidman "Couldn't Get Up" After Big Little Lies Abuse Scene

It was hard to watch—and even tougher to shoot

Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard in a scene from Big Little Lies sitting in a dark room during therapy

(Photo courtesy of HBO Canada)

Nicole Kidman recently opened up about filming the Big Little Lies scenes that were so hard to watch and yet impossible to forget.

Kidman earned monumental praise for her portrayal of Celeste, a smart, beautiful woman attempting to navigate a complex and incredibly violent marriage. The HBO drama dug deep into the nuances of domestic violence with multiple scenes of Kidman being violently abused by her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgård), but also the challenges she faced leaving a man she loved so deeply.

The actress recently told The Hollywood Reporter that it was important to her to show the “constant push-pull of the relationship.”

Even though the abuse scenes required Kidman to be thrown around and smashed against walls, she rarely used a body double—resulting in very real bruises.

During a recent roundtable, Kidman sat down with her fellow Big Little Lies producer/star Reese Witherspoon, along with Chrissy Metz, Jessica Lange, Elisabeth Moss and Oprah Winfrey (hello #squadgoals)—and got real about what it was like to shoot those scenes.

“There was no rehearsal, there was just, walk into the room and do the scene, and he would shoot it,” said Kidman. “It’s a fantastic way to do a performance like this because you’re just in it, particularly for the sex scenes.”

Moss, who is currently starring as Offred in the super creepy mini-series The Handmaid’s Tale, talked about filming her rape scenes and how when the cameras stop rolling, everyone kind of just shakes it off. But Kidman says on Big Little Lies, there was one scene where she couldn’t quite do that.

“I remember lying on the floor in the last episode, being in my underwear and having just been really thrown around. I just lay on the floor. I couldn’t get up. I didn’t want to get up,” she said, about shooting the final abuse scene. “I just felt completely humiliated and devastated. And angry inside. I went home and I threw a rock through a glass door.”

Kidman explained that when she returned to her hotel after shooting that final scene, she couldn’t open the door so she smashed the window. She later realized that her actions were the result of holding in all that rage from her scenes—something the other actresses on the panel could deeply relate to.

“The amazing thing about being an actor is that your body doesn’t understand that it’s make-believe,” said Lange.

Witherspoon added that she had a similar moment of offscreen venting on the Big Little Lies set, right before her character was supposed to confess that she had cheated on her husband. “We’re not machines, and we are expected to turn it on and off—and sometimes it’s the most maddening aspect of what we do.”

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