Nicole Kidman’s AFI Life Achievement Award Ceremony Highlighted by Keith Urban’s Story of Recovery and Meryl Streep’s Witty Adoration

Hollywood legends gathered Saturday night to celebrate Nicole Kidman as she received the prestigious AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor bestowed by the American Film Institute.

The ceremony featured tributes from Kidman’s esteemed peers and collaborators, including Meryl Streep, Zoe Saldaña, Naomi Watts, Zac Efron, David E. Kelley, Morgan Freeman, Keith Urban, Aaron Sorkin and Reese Witherspoon. The audience also included Lee Daniels, Mimi Leder and “Expats” creator and director Lulu Wang along with Kidman’s co-stars Ji-young and Sarayu Blue. The 56-year-old Oscar-winning actress expressed her deep gratitude for her distinguished career.

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Kidman was visibly moved by the accolades from numerous distinguished colleagues, including Miles Teller. However, her husband, Keith Urban, shared intimate details about their life together, highlighting when he entered rehabilitation for substance abuse five months into their marriage, but most importantly, sharing Kidman’s guiding principle: “Choose love.”

Kidman made time to honor the late filmmakers who made significant impacts on her career including Jean Marc Vallee, Sydney Pollack, Anthony Minghella, Stanley Kubrick, Joel Schumacher, Tony Scott and Nora Ephron. “There are a few who have left us and they need to be mentioned, too, because one day you look around, they’re there, and then they’re not there. May they live on in beauty and spirit, and in all of our imaginations forever.”

The annual event took place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, where Kidman’s close friends and colleagues lauded her illustrious career.

Kidman made a grand entrance in a figure-hugging gold sequin gown to a standing ovation, accompanied by the tune “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

The evening commenced with a humorous video of Freeman parodying Kidman’s recent AMC Theatres ad, promoting the resurgence of cinema post-pandemic. “Somehow she makes heartbreak feel good in a place like this,” Freeman remarked in the spoof.

Freeman subsequently took the stage, extending his congratulations as a fellow recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award. He reminisced about Kidman’s “Moulin Rouge,” sharing, “It’s one of my favorite movies,” and serenaded her with a line from Elton John’s “Your Song.”

Freeman then came out on stage at the Dolby to extend his congratulations to the Kidman as a fellow AFI Life Achievement recipient, who was honored in 2011. He noted that Kidman’s 2001 musical “Moulin Rouge” is one of his favorite movies. He closed by singing a line from Elton John’s ballad “Your Song”: “How wonderful life is while you’re in the world,” Freeman sang to Kidman.

Watts offered her memories about the woman she thinks of as “the sister I never had.” The fellow Australians met as 15-year-old aspiring actors in Sydney. “She’s tall, elegant and wicked smart with the most infectious laugh you’ve ever heard,” Watts said. “Nic has always been the most generous person,” noting that Kidman offered her years of support at times of struggle in her career. “She has this heart of a lioness,” Watts added.

Streep introduced Kidman to the stage, commending her as an actor who perfectly balances “appetite, tenacity, and recklessness… you have that baby.”

After Streep shared stories of Kidman’s daily 5 a.m. routine of skinny-dipping in the pacific ocean during filming season two of “Big Little Lies” or joking about being “insistently called the greatest actor of her generation” garnering huge laughs, Kidman took the stage to a roaring standing ovation.

AFI president Bob Gazzale, who also served as the writer and executive producer of the gala, praised Kidman in a Variety interview, describing her as embodying “the glamour and romance of Hollywood past.”

Kidman’s remarkable range of performances was highlighted during the event, showcasing roles from the spirited showgirl Satine in Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge” to her transformative portrayal of author Virginia Woolf in Stephen Daldry’s “The Hours.” It was for the latter role in 2002 that she secured her Academy Award for best actress.

The ceremony also honored AFI Alumnus Matthew Libatique with the 2024 Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal.

Kidman concluded the event by acknowledging the privilege and joy of filmmaking. “It is a privilege to make films. And glorious to have made films and television with these storytellers who allowed me to run wild and be free and play all of these unconventional women. Thank you for making me better at my craft and giving me a place, however temporary, in this world. Thank you for inviting me into your movie families. Thank you for my childhood dream that became a reality.”

Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.

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