NEW YORK – Who will be Nicole Kidman's date for this year's Oscars? The saucy Aussie will soon have to make a tough choice: whether she wants to walk the red carpet on behalf of Moulin Rouge or The Others.
That's because Academy rules don't allow actors to be nominated for more than one film.
It isn't true in other categories, which allowed director Steven Soderbergh to maintain neutrality between Erin Brockovich and Traffic last year — he was nominated for both, and won for the latter.
At first glance, it would seem to be to Kidman's advantage to bless a best-actress campaign on behalf of herself for The Others, a modestly budgeted supernatural thriller that came out of nowhere in August and has grossed more than $100 million.
Kidman gives the sort of over-the-top performance that's often been popular with Oscar voters — and she'd be promoted by Miramax, which is known for its take-no-prisoners Academy Award campaigns.
But it can be persuasively argued that Kidman pulled off a much more difficult role as a turn-of-the-20th-century Parisian courtesan in Moulin Rouge, which required her to sing, dance and play comedy and tragedy.
There's also a matter of national pride — Kidman's an Australian and Moulin Rouge is one of the most ambitious and risk-taking films made in that country. Plus, director Baz Luhrmann is a longtime pal.
And unlike The Others, Moulin Rouge wasn't produced by her ex-husband, Tom Cruise.
Interestingly, one of Kidman's chief competitors in the Best Actress competition is shaping up to be fellow Aussie Cate Blanchett. She plays a Scottish woman who joins the French Resistance during World War II in the buzzed-about Charlotte Gray.
It doesn't hurt Blanchett that she has smaller roles in two other very high-profile December releases, The Lord of the Rings and The Shipping News.
At the moment, consensus is that the field is being led by the only actress who's actually won an early award. Past winner Sissy Spacek shared an acting award at this year's Sundance Film Festival (with co-star Tom Wilkinson) for her unforgettable portrait of a grieving mother in In the Bedroom, due Friday.
Also picking up lots of early buzz is Halle Berry, stunning as a woman who becomes involves with the correction officer who executed her husband in Monster's Ball (Dec. 26).
Rounding out the favorites is newcomer of the year (at least to American audiences), French gamine Audrey Tatou — who has won over the heart of just about anyone who's seen the romantic comedy Amélie.
Longer shots at this point include Judi Dench (Iris), Tilda Swinton (The Deep End), Stockard Channing (The Business of Strangers), Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind), Michelle Pfeiffer (I Am Sam), Penelope Cruz (Vanilla Sky) and Renée Zellweger (Bridget Jones's Diary).
But that could all change by the time nominations are announced in February.