We're ready for your close-up

And we know you're in there, Nicole, even if nobody ever actually sees you

October 20, 2005|By ABIGAIL TUCKER | ABIGAIL TUCKER,SUN REPORTER

Nicole Kidman's new film, The Visiting, concerns an alien invasion in the Baltimore-Washington area, and perhaps the rest of the world (like we care about anyone else!). In the course of the movie, residents start behaving a little strangely, no doubt because - if this Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake resembles its predecessors - they have been replaced by cunning extraterrestrial clones.

Is life imitating art? All around Baltimore, people are acting distracted, obsessive, obsessed. They are embarking on marathon dog walks, mounting Stairmasters for interminable workouts, lingering too long at the tomato bin. Are we being body-snatched? Or have we simply been bewitched by a sometimes strawberry blond, occasionally brunette but always ethereal Visitor - Kidman herself, who is supposedly in town for more than a month for the shoot and who has been spotted here and there by starstruck locals.

She's rumored to be living on a leafy street in Ruxton, where the flow of rubberneckers - er, dog walkers - has greatly increased of late. She's also been seen sculpting her spindly physique at the Merritt Athletic Club in Towson, and apparently her chef shops at Graul's Market.

Sweaty actresses, swanky neighborhoods, expensive produce. It's time to go visiting.

The Stakeout

Wednesday, 8 a.m.: Arrive at the likely residence, which is out of sight on a winding private drive policed by a security guard. Neighbors have described the house as a "stone cottage" that is "fairly sizable," but not tremendously so. According to property records, the house sits on 6.4 acres, has five fireplaces and is worth about $2 million.

Had discovered residence Tuesday afternoon, after a painful door-knocking campaign, and several staticky, strained conversations over intercoms that went something like this:

"Yes?"

"Hi. Um, hi. Is Nicole Kidman there?"

Invariably, she was not.

Later, arrived at the home of the Bullocks, a couple in their 80s. They said that, yes, Kidman had been living a few doors down for several weeks, that fleets of SUVs were always rumbling to and fro, and that a large shipment of what they believed to be exercise equipment was delivered at some point.

"We haven't been invited up yet," Mort Bullock said. "Don't expect to be."

In fact, they haven't even seen Kidman. To their knowledge, nobody has. But this doesn't stop small herds of private-school girls from parading their tiny dogs under the security guard's fierce gaze. The Bullocks have gotten mighty popular too - with neighborhood acquaintances, their own 20-something grandkids, snoopy reporters, everybody.

"They want to know what do we know, what can we see, can they sit in our backyard for a while?" Betty Bullock said.

Haven't sat in backyard, exactly. Am strategically parked on the street, behind a bush.

8:05 a.m.: A dog walker creeps up the private road.

8:15 a.m.: Discovered by the security guard, who drives up to the main road in a green Nissan Sentra and scowls. Had encountered same guard yesterday, a woman in dark clothes whose throat is roped in gold chains.

"Hi, I'm kind of lost." (Very true, by the way. Held forth billowing map as evidence).

"Can't help you. I'm not from around here."

"Yeah, I'm trying to find this house where Nicole Kidman is staying."

"I wouldn't know anything about that."

"Actually, I heard that Nicole Kidman is staying right here. Like, behind you."

Prolonged silence.

Got back in car; drove away.

But this is public property, and now it is the security guard's turn to leave. She does, grumbling into a cell phone headset.

8:30 a.m.: Accost a nice man as he emerges from his home off the private drive.

Yeah, Nicole Kidman lives next door, but so what?

"I don't want to lower myself to the level of caring about this," Jack Machen continues. He delivers a brief lecture about declining journalistic values.

Slink back to car. Hang head. Reflect on past internship at a weekly newspaper in a Hamptons resort, where duties included chasing celebrities, and in one instance, chasing other reporters who were chasing celebrities. Was that worse than this?

8:45 a.m.: Decide that stakeouts are boring. And, how do the paparazzi go to the bathroom?

8:50 a.m.: A woman motors out of the driveway in a powder blue Lexus SUV, stopping to roll down her window and wave a skeletal hand at a truckful of contractors driving in. She is perhaps 10 feet away; still, impossible to ascertain whether it's the ex-Mrs. Cruise. But how many beautiful, blond, pert-nosed women can inhabit one private road? Prepare to give chase. Wait, must turn on car. Now, give chase! But the powder-blue Lexus has vanished like morning mist.

The Merritt

Where could she flee? The only public place where Kidman has been seen regularly is the Merritt Athletic Club.

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