'To Die For' at 25: Nicole Kidman says she had to quit to get Joaquin Phoenix cast in acclaimed dark comedy

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Joaquin Phoenix began stockpiling credentials as a teen actor (when he was known as Leaf Phoenix), appearing in films like Space Camp (1986), Russkies (1987) and Parenthood (1989). Today the Joker Oscar winner is generally regarded as one of the best actors of his generation.

But according to Nicole Kidman, the shot callers behind the 1995 dark satire To Die For (which turns 25 today) were not initially very high on the actor.

“I remember [director Gus Van Sant] and I having to fight to get Joaquin cast in it. I remember we both had to quit the film to get him cast in it,” Kidman told Yahoo Entertainment during a 2014 Role Recall interview (watch above, with To Die For starting at 1:14). “Now, I think they’re very glad they cast him.”

The film, based on the book by Joyce Maynard and adapted for the screen by Buck Henry, stars Kidman as ambitious wannabe broadcasting star who seduces a high schooler (Phoenix) into murdering her husband (Matt Dillon).

Nicole Kidman and Joaquin Phoenix in To Die For. (Photo: Columbia Pictures)

Both Kidman and Phoenix received raves for their roles, and it likely helped bolster the career of the latter as he transitioned from teenage to adult roles, earning his first Oscar nomination for Gladiator only five years later.

And though she’s rarely made films of the same ilk since, it also allowed Kidman to flex some comedic chops in a part that won her a Golden Globe for Best Actress, Musical or Comedy.

“I thought it was so funny when I read the script,” said Kidman, who would also go onto win an Oscar, in 2003 for The Hours. “I got the satire, I understood the satire, because I suppose a lot of Australian humor is satirical. So I’d grown up with a lot of that sort of humor.”

To Die For is currently streaming on Amazon.

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