Kidman moves to Sydney with her parents, Dr. Anthony Kidman, a biologist and psychologist, and Janelle, a nurse. She delights in her new surroundings. "There's something about the place," she later says in a Time article. "It's the smell of the gum leaves. Australia's in my blood, it's in my humor ...I love [Sydney's] zest for life and the openness of us Aussies."
The aspiring actress meets Naomi Watts at an open call for a bikini ad, and Watts becomes a close friend and confidante. "We had to sit and wait, both in swimsuits, feeling incredibly embarrassed," Watts recalls to PEOPLE. "And neither of us got the job!" In 1990, they appear together in Flirting, also starring Thandie Newton.
Local theater gigs help Kidman land a role in the 1983 teen crime caper movie, BMX Bandits. At the same time, Kidman appears in the movie, Bush Christmas, which becomes a holiday classic in Australia, airing every December. Kidman becomes one of the most famous faces in Australia.
Kidman lands the lead role in the sea thriller Dead Calm, also starring Sam Neill and Billy Zane. The film is a modest hit but wins her recognition in the U.S. After seeing Kidman in Dead Calm, Tom Cruise creates a role for her in Days of Thunder as his love interest. When she meets him, "He took my breath away," Kidman later tells Rolling Stone.
Kidman marries Cruise in Telluride, Colo., with self-written marital vows. Emilio Estevez is the best man and Kidman's sister Antonia is a bridesmaid. "We have so much in common that it's almost as it we are the same person," Kidman says. "We know what it takes to make each other happy."
Five months after getting married, the newlyweds begin work on Far and Away, a critically acclaimed film but a box office failure. For Kidman, acting alongside her superstar husband entangles her public persona with Cruise's. "I didn't realize when I made Far and Away how much I would then be defined and judged in relation to him," she tells the Boston Globe.
Cruise, 30, and Kidman, 25, announce the adoption of a baby they name Isabella Jane Kidman Cruise. Two years later, in February 1995, Kidman and Cruise adopt son Connor Antony Kidman Cruise.
In Gus Van Sant's To Die For, Kidman shines as murderous TV weatherwoman Suzanne Maretto. "Even though Suzanne's totally wild and has a completely different moral code from the rest of us, I think there was something really cool about her," Kidman tells Time. She gets rave reviews and wins her first Golden Globe award.
Kidman and Cruise begin a 19-month shoot (November 1996 to June 1998) on Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. Although success eluded them the last time they worked together, they find this script irresistible. "In your life there are certain times when it's the right time to work together," Kidman later tells PEOPLE at the film's L.A. premiere in 1999. "Who knows when the next time will be?"
Kidman makes headlines around the world with her London stage debut in The Blue Room, with one British theater critic dubbing her brief nudity "pure theatrical Viagra."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): COURTESY NICOLE KIDMAN; Samuel Goldwyn/Everett; Headpress/Retna; Warner Bros./Everett; Kevin mazur/London Features; Everett Collection; NEWSPIX AUSTRALIA; Mirek Towski/DMIPhoto; Everett Collection; Joan Marcus