Why Did Nicole Kidman’s Grace Kelly Biopic End Up on Lifetime?

3 minute read

Grace of Monaco, Nicole Kidman’s film about the life of actress-turned-royal Grace Kelly, played at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival—but even at that point, the film was considered long-delayed. It had been meant to premiere stateside in the 2013 holiday season, and Kidman appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair to promote the film that fall. Nearly a year after its Cannes bow, the film’s journey to a U.S. release came to an anticlimactic end, with the announcement that the film would debut on Lifetime. It will air May 25.

This is a major blow for Kidman, whose rare TV work has tended towards the prestigious. To go from an Emmy nomination for HBO’s Hemingway & Gellhorn to a movie premiere on the network that also played host to Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor is a comedown indeed. But she can’t possibly have expected that this journey might be quite so tortured: After all, the film’s director, Olivier Dahan, is best-known for shepherding an unknown Marion Cotillard to Oscar in a biographical film with a similar degree of difficulty, La Vie en Rose. But no one involved in the long saga comes off particularly well, least of all producing company the Weinstein Company, who had purportedly battled with Dahan over the film’s final cut. That Weinstein couldn’t be brought to release the film is strictly business, of course, but feels punitive to a group of people who’d meant their movie to be seen on the big screen. Even Naomi Watts’s Diana played theaters; Grace of Monaco, tepid-to-poor reviews very much in mind, can’t be that bad.

Kidman’s power in Hollywood would seem to be at a low ebb, which would simply be the order of things if she weren’t still held up as the gold standard of Hollywood stardom in media coverage of her work and at events like the Oscars, where she’s a perpetual attendee—she’s the sort of icon who doesn’t go out of fashion. Her filmography has been spotty, but until fairly recently it seemed somewhat understood that occasional creative misfires were the cost of doing business in a genre of cinema that relied on originality more than CGI. Kidman is close to the platonic idea of a movie star, in the public imagination. The only star more potent, it’d seem, is someone like Jennifer Lawrence, whose own slow-release bomb Serena managed to get a theatrical run this year after years of delays.

But even that barely came together. If Lawrence’s movie just barely happened, as a theatrical release, and Kidman’s isn’t going to, what hope is there for anyone else?

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