Nicole Kidman

updated 12/25/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/25/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman spent last New Year's Eve at a Colorado resort, ushering in 1995 without much of a bang. "We were at this boring party," says Kidman, 28, with her faint Australian accent, "and when I toasted Tom, I said, 'I hope this party doesn't jinx the year.' " Pause. "Obviously it didn't."

If anything, a magnum of Dom Perignon is in order. "Nicole is now a major leading lady," says Bruce Joel Rubin, who directed her in 1993's My Life, "and Hollywood knows that." Once considered a promising young actress whose major credit was her 1990 marriage to superstar Cruise, 33, Kidman remade that rep with two big, back-to-back performances. First: Chase Meridian, the sexy, lip-glossed psychologist who wants to get a look under the Caped Crusader's mask in Batman Forever. Fast on the heels of that colossal moneymaker came a creepy little comedy, To Die For, in which Kidman played one sick Twinkie—a small-town weather woman (and murderer) who yearns to be the next Jane Pauley. New York Times critic Janet Maslin praised Kidman as "smoothly hilarious." Well, the actress trained to achieve that smoothness (at least the TV personality part): She spent three days in a hotel room, channel-surfing talk shows and studying Home Shopping hostesses.

"She works hard," says Rubin. Indeed. Somehow in the middle of all the screen work, Kidman found time for the adoption of the Cruises' second child, Connor, now 10 months. (Isabella turns 3 in January.) "It's your kids," she says, "who bring you the most joy." Now back to work, Kidman has been in Rome, playing a role to die for: Henry James's headstrong heroine, Isabel Archer, in Jane (The Piano) Campion's Portrait of a Lady. Cruise, who has finished his next movie, Mission: Impossible, due out in the spring, helped out with the babysitting.

In short, no more Mrs. Movie Star. "It's so nice," says Kidman, "to be asked about your work, instead of 100 questions about what it's like being married to Tom."

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