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That Viral Nicole Kidman Photo Isn't What You Think

Nicole Kidman did not take home an Academy Award for best actress for her performance as Lucille Ball in Aaron Sorkin's "Being the Ricardos," but the veteran actress made quite the impression on the recent awards show anyway.

The 94th Academy Awards were something of a misfire on several cylinders given overall reviews of the live show's production, ratings only slightly rebounding from 2020's show, and the infamous event known as the Slap, which has overshadowed conversation about the numerous deserving award winners throughout the evening. Audience reactions, particularly those of Lupita Nyong'o as she sat behind Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, helped American television audiences understand that the Slap was real and not a made-for-television moment.

Of course, the internet went wild looking for more angles of people's reactions in the Dolby Theatre, and seemingly found one in a humorous photo of Kidman in her seat, mouth agape, apparently stunned at what she's looking at. As Vulture notes, a significant number of Twitter users interpreted this photo as Kidman's over-the-top reaction to Will Smith's regrettable actions, using it to talk endlessly about the event in the first days of a post-Slap world.

The problem? The Kidman photo simply does not show the 54-year-old actress reacting to the bizarre Smith-Chris Rock altercation at all.

The photo was taken when Kidman saw Jessica Chastain

It's easy for people across the internet to get caught up in post-Oscars hysteria when posting, and mistake the viral Nicole Kidman photo for a snapshot of her reaction to the Slap. However, some social media posts clearly show that the photo was taken well before the incident happened. One writer shared these photos to Twitter at 7:34 p.m. Eastern time, before the Academy Awards' televised broadcast even started.

Vulture tracked down the original photographer who took the trending photo of Kidman, Myung Chung from the Los Angeles Times. Chung confirmed that the photo was taken during the non-televised portion of the event, during which eight awards were handed out in advance in an attempt to shorten the broadcasted ceremony, which still clocked in at three hours and 40 minutes when all was said and done (via The Hollywood Reporter).

According to Chung, Kidman appeared to be reacting to Jessica Chastain's entrance to the Dolby Theatre for the non-televised awards; Chastain made a point of skipping red carpet interviews to enter the theatre on time to watch the presentation of the best makeup and hairstyling award, which went to the team she worked with on "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" (via EW).

It's easy to see why Kidman looked so dramatically caught up in her fellow nominees' glow — Chastain ultimately took home the award for best actress, making "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" a two-time Oscar-winning film.