Nicole Kidman and Karyn Kusama on ‘Destroyer’, Realistic Violence, & Non-Linear Storytelling

     January 19, 2019

There isn’t any magic in the gritty neo-noir drama Destroyer, but director Karyn Kusama certainly manages to make Nicole Kidman disappear. Donning prosthetics and a frayed wig, Kidman plays LAPD detective Erin Bell, a burnt out shell who has to revisit a tragic undercover operation from decades ago in the wake of a new murder. It’s one of the best, most effective performances of 2018 that sees Kidman completely vanishing into the role, all hoarse voice, hungover eyes, and battered limping. The film reunites Kusama with The Invitation writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, and also stars Sebastian Stan, Bradley Whitford, Tatiana Maslany, Scoot McNairy, and Toby Kebbell.


With Destroyer in theaters, I sat down with Kidman and Kusama to discuss the film, the process of bringing the character of Erin Bell to life, how the film plays with time and structure, and a lot more. Check out what they had to say in the player above, and below is exactly what we talked about.

Nicole Kidman and Karyn Kusama:

  • Whether there’s a possible version of Destroyer in which Nicole Kidman didn’t wear prosthetics.
  • What role the prosthetics play in the overall performance.
  • How Kidman crafted the character’s unique voice.
  • What it was like for Kusama to cast Nicole Kidman and then essentially watch her disappear.
  • The unexpected ways that the film plays with time and non-linear storytelling.
  • Shooting the gritty, realistic violence in the film and why Kusama wanted it to look that way.
  • Whether it’s harder as an actress to portray kicking ass or getting your ass kicked.

Here’s the official synopsis for Destroyer:

Destroyer follows the moral and existential odyssey of LAPD detective Erin Bell who, as a young cop, was placed undercover with a gang in the California desert with tragic results. When the leader of that gang re-emerges many years later, she must work her way back through the remaining members and into her own history with them to finally reckon with the demons that destroyed her past.

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