Nicole Kidman Comforts a Boy Battling Cancer

updated 09/05/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/05/2005 01:00AM

When Nicole Kidman read in a July New York Post that a fellow Australian was undergoing treatment at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, she kindly offered to drop by to boost his spirits. That was fine, but 6-year-old Dylan Hartung, who's suffering from a nerve cell cancer that has spread to his bones, didn't quite know who the nice lady was. So Dylan's mom, Melissa, dug up a DVD of The Stepford Wives and gave him a crash course. He was impressed by one thing: Dylan said, "Oh, she has long hair." Explains Melissa, 32: "He has a thing about long hair."

When Kidman and her daughter Bella, 12, arrived at a Manhattan Ronald McDonald House Aug. 17, Dylan was delighted to meet her. "She's so down-to-earth," says Melissa. Her son—who came to New York from Melbourne last January and has undergone 11 rounds of chemotherapy—told Kidman that War of the Worlds is his favorite American movie. "She said, 'Oh, that's good you like it. Tom [Cruise] is Bella's father,' " according to Melissa.

That Saturday, Kidman and her son Connor, 10, took Dylan to see The Dukes of Hazzard and made plans to hook up again this fall. The star dressed for the occasion—with a mood ring he had given her, and flowing hair. "She said, I'm wearing it down just for you, Dylan,' " recalls Melissa. "He was very pleased."

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