8 Reasons Why Nicole Kidman Is Our Headmistress In The School of Life

Onscreen and off, The Beguiled star amazes us with strength, warmth, and homemade jams.

In Sofia Coppola’s new film The Beguiled, Academy Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman plays Miss Martha, the head of a Southern girls’ boarding school in the middle of the Civil War. Gated off from but not immune to the ugliness of war, Martha steers her charges with stern affection. She teaches them lessons they’ll need once the war ends, while fiercely protecting them until it does.

Throughout the production, Kidman taught the crew and her fellow cast members a few lessons as well, both in how she approaches her craft and the way she lives her life. In the roles she chooses, from her breakthrough performance in Dead Calm to last year's Oscar-nominated one in Lion, Kidman often portrays women with powerful hidden strength -- women not unlike herself.

As Kidman celebrates a landmark birthday this week -- her 50th on June 20th -- we pay tribute to the woman and artist who continues to astound us.

Watch Nicole Kidman in the official The Beguiled trailer. 

1) She’s fiercely loyal.

“I have girlfriends I've known for literally 30 or 40 years. They're the heroes in my life—they've navigated unbelievable things, raised their kids, and are still right in there with open hearts and bright eyes,” she said in an InStyle magazine cover story. Among those in her inner circle, a next-door neighbor she’s known since she was three, her sister Antonia, and fellow Australian and The Book of Henry star, Naomi Watts. "Naomi Watts and I are very, very good friends and have maintained that through so many things. I think that's really rare, particularly for actresses, and I take a lot of pride in that," she told The Telegraph.

2) She inspires you to do your best.

Colin Farrell (Corporal McBurney in The Beguiled) who has worked with Kidman before, gushes: "Nicole is a joy to work with. When she comes on the set, everyone gets a little bit better, from the actors to the electricians!"

Co-star Elle Fanning (Alicia) agrees. “Everyone stands up straighter.... Especially when Nicole was being Miss Martha.”

3) She mixes tenderness with strength.

Director Sofia Coppola wrote The Beguiled with Kidman in mind, whom she has admired since her early indie film work, like Gus Van Sant’s To Die For in 1995. "I knew she would bring a lot to Miss Martha, including humor and emotion,” says Coppola. "Nicole can play it so commanding that you know she’s in charge of the whole group."

4) She's a total pro. 

In one of The Beguiled’s most bristling scenes, Miss Martha gives a wounded and unconscious McBurney a sponge bath. "I think I turned red,” Coppola confesses. "I blushed, but Nicole and Colin were both really pros about it. Nicole knew the scene was more about her character being torn between her religion and her impulses."

At a Cannes photocall, Nicole Kidman is flanked by adoring The Beguiled co-stars, Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst

5) She can dazzle for days. 

During this year’s Cannes film festival, Kidman had not one, but four projects debuting on the Croisette. Her impressive work garnered her a special 70th Anniversary Prize from the jury. But she also took the prize as the unofficial queen of the red carpet, with seven days worth of stunning paparazzi-worthy looks. Her stylist Julia von Boehm worked with the actress to plan out the impeccable parade of gowns. “Nicole actually understands and knows about fashion, and knows what works on her,” von Boehm tells Vanity Fair.

6) She doesn't worry about her ego.

Despite her indisputable status as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Kidman doesn’t choose her roles for their marquee power. "I’m a character actor, that’s what I see myself as,” she told The Guardian. "I had a director say to me the other night: 'Oh my gosh, your art-house choices are so brave,' and I’m like, 'I don’t even see it like that.' They’re literally just what I’m drawn to."

7) She's a country girl at heart. 

Kidman,  who is married to country music star Keith Urban, divides her time between homes in Tennessee and Australia, and often talks about her love for the country life. As she told Vogue: "You have no idea . . . growing those roses in Tennessee . . . I sound like an old woman, but that is joy for me."  Visitors to her homes are likely to leave with a basket full of homemade jam, a bundle of lavender, and some farm-raised eggs (as the film crew to Vogue's "73 Questions" did).

8) She speaks up for those who can’t.

Though she's known as one of the industry's hardest working actors, Kidman finds time for what she considers even more crucial work. After witnessing the crisis in Kosovo a decade before, she began working to help women around the globe as a goodwill ambassador for UN Women. "I want to be a voice for the women who don't have a voice," she says

The Beguiled opens in theaters on June 23rd. Sign up for the Focus Insider newsletter for the latest info on screenings and exclusive news.