In Ryan Murphy’s forthcoming Netflix series Hollywood, a period drama set in 1940s Tinseltown, the filmmaker pays homage to his favorite Old Hollywood actor, Vivien Leigh, by featuring her (as played by Katie McGuinness) in a dinner party scene alongside other real-life figures like Rock Hudson and Noël Coward. But if Murphy gets his way, he will devote an entire feature film to the Gone With the Wind star. And he has already dream-cast and spoken with the lead of this potential project: Nicole Kidman.
“My favorite old-school Hollywood actress of all time is Vivien Leigh,” Murphy told Vanity Fair earlier this week. “At one time Nicole Kidman and I were talking about making a movie about Vivien Leigh, which we still might do.”
Murphy said he has been friends with Kidman “for a long time,” even before they collaborated on his upcoming Netflix project The Prom—his take on the Tony-nominated Broadway musical. And the duo bonded over their mutual fascination with Leigh—the Oscar and Tony winner who suffered from bipolar disorder. Kidman is so fixated with Leigh, for example, that while filming Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge—a role that required her to wear a corset—Kidman broke a rib trying to pull in her waist to 18 inches, the same-size waist Kidman said Leigh had while filming Gone With the Wind. Kidman has also name-dropped Leigh as an inspiration in multiple interviews as recently as last year, when she told Backstage magazine that every actor “should study Vivien Leigh…I’m a huge fan of Vivien Leigh. I think she was an amazing actor.… And for a woman to study that is fantastic.”
Explaining his own fixation with Leigh, Murphy said, “I was just obsessed with her because she was somebody who had a mental illness, who was sort of put through the ringer in this town, and fought so hard to be seen, and never thought she was good enough.” Citing a report that the petite actor was deeply ashamed of her disproportionately large hands, so much so that she hid her them in gloves whenever possible, Murphy said, “That story…about her hands, I remember reading a passage from a book out loud to my grandmother and saying, ‘Can you believe that this woman who was probably one of the most beautiful women alive, thought she was not attractive?’”
If he were to make a film, Murphy said he’s always been fascinated by Leigh’s life after her second iconic film performance, as Blanche DuBois in 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire—a role that earned the actor her second Academy Award. “She at one point thought she was Blanche DuBois,” Murphy said. “Nicole and I have been talking about that period of her life. There was a fascinating period, I think, around the 20th anniversary of Gone With The Wind, where she went to a reunion and had a manic bipolar episode.”
The scene, he thought, would be a meaty one for his star—“it’s Nicole Kidman, so you want to give her [something substantial].” Now that The Prom is wrapped, Murphy said that he and Kidman are “trying to find something else [to collaborate on], and this is one of the things we’ve always talked about.”
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