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Nicole Kidman's Star Power Shines Bright in Livermore

Oscar winner takes time after film shoot to chat with locals, pose for pictures.

On Sunday night, Oscar winner Nicole Kidman was hanging out with her country-music star husband, Keith Urban, at the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas.

The fashion maven wowed the crowd in her L’Wren Scott black leather high-slit dress. But Monday she popped up in Livermore in more casual attire to shoot scenes for the HBO movie

The film centers on the torrid love affair and marriage of Ernest Hemingway, played by British actor Clive Owen, and respected war correspondent and novelist Martha Gellhorn (Kidman). 

The film is produced by James Gandolfini (“The Sopranos”) and directed by San Francisco’s Oscar-nominated Philip Kaufman (“Unbearable Lightness of Being,” “The Right Stuff,” "Raiders of the Lost Ark”).

During the first day of shooting, a few cars lined the country road, with curious folks taking a peek at the filming in this rural area just outside of town. One of the crew told a bystander who asked why they came to Livermore that it had everything they needed for the scene.

“We needed a running creek and some hills,” he said. “This worked out just fine for us.”

And for those who came to watch the action near the end of the day, there was a special treat.

After shooting wrapped about 7:15 p.m., Kidman's car was exiting the pasture gate when she had her driver stop in front of six adults and five children.

The affable actress hopped out of the cream-colored Cadillac and chatted briefly with a few families standing by the gate.

The stylish actress and mother of four hugged the children and even posed for pictures with the shocked bystanders.

“I didn’t know she was so tall,” said Ron Schmalfuss, a Livermore contractor who stopped at the movie site after working on a nearby home. “She could have just driven past, but she stopped and let people take pictures with her. That was really a nice surprise.”

Brett Holm and his wife, Joli, jumped in their electric cart and drove the short distance from their country home to the site to show their kids, Annie, 5, and Tyler, 4, what a movie set looked like. A few minutes after they arrived they had their close encounter with the movie star.

“We couldn’t believe it when she got out of her car and let us take pictures of her,”  Brett Holm said. “She was really nice.”

May Millies, a Holm family friend, came by with her two children, Christian, 3, and Ryan, 5, to see the movie being filmed practically in her back yard. She couldn’t stop smiling and showing off her photos after Kidman left.

“I just can’t believe this,” Millies said. “She just asked how we were doing and how things were going. I was so surprised, I didn’t know what to say.”

The North Livermore property just off Manning Road has been transformed into a Spanish Civil War battlefield, complete with a formidable old tank and a vintage German luxury car. Swarthy soldiers in the combat uniform of the day ran back and forth during battle scenes full of billowing white smoke and mock military explosions. Filming is expected to wrap today.

The production company enlisted a group of local riders for the battle scenes.  When asked if he was a professional movie rider, one man quipped, “This is my first and probably my last movie experience.”

Kidman was in several scenes during the day in her role as Gellhorn, Hemingway’s third wife. Before marrying, the two traveled together to cover the Spanish Civil War. 

The feisty Gellhorn was the only woman to ask Hemingway for a divorce, and was the inspiration for his novel “For Whom the Bells Toll.”

In a bit of whimsy, the signs directing the transportation vehicles from the staging grounds at the Livermore Rod and Gun Club say, “Whom the Bells Tolls.”

As an interesting side note, the land being used for the scenes belonged to Hollywood legend Bing Crosby, who owned quite a bit of property around Livermore, including the land that now houses on Tesla Road.

So while this isn't Livermore's first brush with top flight tinseltown talent, it is the first time a large production has filmed in Livermore with an Oscar winner as the star.

Sue April 05, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Her husband , Keith Urban stopped in for some coffee at Starbucks yesterday afternoon, before heading to Fresno for his concert.
Joan Boer April 05, 2011 at 04:08 PM
Nice photo. So which one is Nicole?
Gia Carlson April 05, 2011 at 04:13 PM
Very cool, I drive by that lot in the morning on the way to work. Saw a tank and very nice luxury car out there today.
Tracy Daugherty April 05, 2011 at 04:21 PM
I should drive by on my lunchhour today! Joan Boar are you kidding?
Tyler Bing April 05, 2011 at 11:43 PM
Today I went to Starbuck's on N. Livermore and Portola and when I got to the counter the manager says "Guess who was in here yesterday? Keith Urban!" "Wow" I say. "Was Nicole with him?" I'm a big movie fan and she is a genius. "No just him. I like them way better than Tom and Katie." "me too" I reply. Then as I walk around the counter I go in to this monologue about how he's ruined Katies career and he's a big idiot for about two minutes. During which time Nicole and her assistant had come in to the Starbucks behind me. The assistant goes to order and Nicole settles in right next to me and I have no idea as I go off about the father of her kids. When I finally realized she's standing next to me I didn't know whether to apologize or say you're welcome. Awkward to say the least. I can at least say I left an impression on her can't I?
Erika Conner April 06, 2011 at 12:20 AM
That's an awesome story Tyler! So did you end up chatting with her?
Martha Ross April 06, 2011 at 04:08 AM
So, Mick LaSalle , the film critic for the SF Chronicle, touched off a bit of controversy with his review of Nicole Kidman's Academy Award-nominated-performance in "Rabbit Hole." He directly addressed the plastic surgery she's had done and apparently said it takes away from her ability to be as expressive as possible as an actress. Meanwhile, as much as I think Clive Owen is a hottie and think he should have been nominated for Best Actor for "Children of Men," I'm having a hard time seeing him in the role of Ernest Hemingway. Anyway, very nice story Kris, and nice background. You'll have to check out the winery that Alfred Hitchcock owned as well.
Laura Barros April 06, 2011 at 04:42 AM
Laura Barros Yesterday Keith Urban came to our Starbucks on N Portola in Livermore. He was very nice took a picture with Mark our barista. He has been the talk of the store since then. When customers asked if we had seen Nicole we said no. Then this morning she came in. It was amazing. Megan made her a cappuccino (it was probably the most important cappuccino Megan had to ever make). We all were in shock barista as well as customers. Nicole is just as gorgeous in person as she is on the big screen. Thank you Keith and Nicole for making our day. This will be something we will talk about for years.
Shara Hart April 06, 2011 at 05:49 AM
Nicole Kidman met with the fans again tonight after shooting all day out on Manning Road near my house. She was incredibly friendly - signing autographs, taking pics, etc. After spending most of the day watching the action from the road, I was blessed with a hug and many pics/videos at the end of the day. Thank you Nicole!! :-)
Kristofer Noceda (Editor) April 06, 2011 at 06:42 AM
Awesome! And thank you for uploading the video. Susan Young will post up another recap of the second and final day of filming in Livermore so be sure to check back for that on Wednesday. Thanks everyone for the comments. Exciting stuff!
e April 06, 2011 at 10:09 PM
Martha Ross,there was nothing controverial about Mick La Salle's comments, he has been whining about Kidman's face for about 5 years, he will do the same this year, next year and the year after that. MANY reviewers, critics, magazines have been talking about her face not moving for the same amount of time and yet, despite it, she continues to deliver performances that most actresses considered to have expressionable faces can't even muster. For some reason, movable face or not, Kidman is not going anywhere. You either watch her or you don't.
Margot April 06, 2011 at 10:19 PM
@ Martha Ross. It seems LeSalle was wrong. If Kidman wasn't able to express emotions I doubt she would have been nominated for an Oscar and many other awards. LeSalle like many (not very good) critics care more about actors' faces than their real abilities. I even doubt LeSalle watched the movie. If he did he would be in loved with Kidma's becca. A heartbreaking character, real, sometimes funny, dramatic, full of hope. Kidman is a great actress, with or without botox and she's a great person a real movie star but simple, nice and humble. How many in Hollywood after a day of work stop their wonderful cars to greet with fans taking pictures and videos? Not many. Mike LeSalle and his nasty words won't chage Kidman's talent and importance. But please stop talking about him, enjo these beautiful pics of a talented and kind actress
ron schmalfuss April 24, 2011 at 08:12 AM
im in love w nicole kidman. ron schmalfuss. peace

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