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The One Role That Nicole Kidman Has Always Wanted To Play

It's easy to think that an actor of the caliber of Oscar winner Nicole Kidman would be able to get any part they want. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Sometimes the timing isn't right or circumstances get in the way, and a dream role passes right on by. During an interview on the Variety-iHeart podcast The Big Ticket, Kidman (who is still surprising her co-stars all these years into her career) revealed one such dream role that she never got the chance to play.

While speaking with host Marc Malkin about the fleeting nature of live theater, Kidman revealed, "I never got to play Nina in The Seagull. It was one of my biggest desires." The Anton Chekhov play, about a group of Russian writers, actors, and aristocrats converging at a house in the country, is regarded as a masterpiece of modern theater. While there are lots of juicy roles, Nina, an ambitious young woman who aspires to be an actress but ends up learning a hard lesson about falling in love with a writer, is one of the best.

As Kidman put it, "To any of the young actresses out there — if you have the chance to play her, play her!" Many have already heard that call, and they include several young superstars of our era.

The actor who first played the role had a tough premiere

The role of Nina has been attracting young talent since the play was first produced in the 1890s. While The Seagull is today regarded as a masterpiece, it got a much different reception when it premiered.

The first production of the play in October of 1896 in St. Petersburg, was an infamous flop. The audience was openly derisive toward the performance as it was going on, and Chekhov himself walked out of the theater midway through (via The Daily Telegraph).

Chekhov detailed his feelings of failure in a November 11, 1896 letter to his friend AF Koni (via Project Gutenberg). He specifically wrote about the difficulty that befell Russian actor Vera Komissarzhevskaya, who played Nina in the production. He first noted, "[Vera] is a wonderful actress. At one of the rehearsals many people were moved to tears as they looked at her, and said that she was the first actress in Russia to-day."

However, the notoriously rocky premiere got the better of her. Chekhov wrote, "At the first performance she was affected by the general attitude of hostility to my Seagull, and was, as it were, intimidated by it and lost her voice. Our press takes a cold tone to her that doesn't do justice to her merits, and I am sorry for her."

Komissarzhevskaya's reputation recovered and she went on to be regarded as one of the most influential actors of the early 20th century (via Britannica). Modern actors have also run into their own issues while playing the role.

Why Emilia Clarke might be feeling Kidman's blues

After retiring from the part of Daenerys Targaryen Game of Thrones (and not necessarily in the way she would have preferred), Emilia Clarke made her West End stage debut playing Nina in a modern and minimalist adaptation of The Seagull by celebrated theater director Jamie Lloyd. Unfortunately for all those involved, the play had its first night of previews on March 11, 2020. In hindsight, we now know that to be literally days before the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The play only ran for a couple of preview performances before it had to close. However, based on the smattering of fan reaction posted to social media by those who saw the preview performances, both the production and Clarke were exceptional.

Twitter user @euphemias_ wrote, "The Seagull was truly incredible... Emilia and Indira [Varma] really stole the show for me... such impressive performances!!" User @smoyven08 gushed, "Saw #TheSeagull... tonight and it blew me away! [Emilia Clarke] is phenomenal," while fan-run twitter account @TheSeagullLive posted photos from the audience of a beaming Clarke and the rest of the cast taking their bows with the caption, "Standing ovation!"

There is some good news, as there are plans to continue the run of the play once theaters in London reopen, according to What's On Stage.

Saoirse Ronan earned strong reviews for her performance as Nina

Clarke isn't the only in-demand young actor to have played the part of Nina recently. Oscar nominee and critical darling Saoirse Ronan took over the role in the 2018 film version, which also starred Annette Bening, Corey Stoll, and Elisabeth Moss. The adaptation got mixed reviews from critics, but the acting, including Ronan's performance, was roundly lauded.

Writing for Screen Daily, David D'Arcy said that Ronan was "a natural for the wide-eyed child," while Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter said her performance was "a knockout." They also praised the layers Ronan incorporated into the role, writing, "Rather than being the innocent ingenue so often portrayed, this is a Nina who is fully capable of manipulating those people supposedly more sophisticated than her to get what she wants."

In an otherwise unfavorable review of the film, Tara Brady of The Irish Times had nothing but kind words for Ronan. Brady wrote, "Saoirse Ronan is so good at her job that she even manages to enliven the bad acting required for Constantine's densely symbolist –- read terrible –- play that kick-starts this big screen adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull. She's this-is-how-you-act-in-Chekhov good."

It's a shame that we never got to see Kidman in the part, but thankfully, a new generation of talent is keeping the dream role alive.