than two years ago, won Hollywood's highest honour for her role as British author Virginia Woolf in "The Hours."
For Kidman, 35, who good looks caused her to be long-overlooked as a serious actress, it is the ultimate accolade and puts her firmly in the realm of Hollywood royalty in her own right.
While emerging from a tabloid feeding frenzy sparked by her acrimonious divorce, Kidman took on a welter of risky movie roles that have ensured that she is at last being talked about for her work rather than her private life.
Once criticized as bland, she has taken versatility to extremes in the past two years, reinventing herself as a Hollywood heavyweight.
She jumped from her turn as the singing courtesan Satine in 2001's "Moulin Rouge" -- for which she won her first Oscar nomination last year -- to that of an earnest young mother in spooky thriller "The Others," before becoming a Russian mail-order bride in last year's "Birthday Girl."
But the increasingly demanding roles were just a build-up to the redhead's greatest dramatic challenge: playing the brilliant but manic depressive Woolf in Stephen Daldry's complex literary drama.
"I've been very lucky. I've got some great roles in recent years," the actress said modestly in an interview. But the mother-of-two's modesty isn't false.
Even as she is hailed as one of the most beautiful women in the world -- her nose is the most sought after body part in plastic surgery-crazed Hollywood -- she's well known for her insecurity and fear of acting.
"Every time I star in a film, I think I cannot act," she said.
At first she balked at the role of the suicidal and dowdy Woolf, whose moments of desperation, stillness and mania she reflected in the film.
"I read the script and I couldn't believe they wanted me for Virginia. I thought there was no way I would be able to pull this off," she said.
But she threw herself into the role and immersed herself in the life and work of the author and said she tapped her loneliness following her divorce to play the part.
But while the tabloids have fixated on the huge prosthetic nose she donned to play Woolf, an accessory that along with dark hair rendered her almost unrecognizable, critics have hailed her wrenching performance.
Born in Hawaii in 1967 where her biochemist father was studying, Kidman and her family returned to their native Australia when she was four.
Performing was in her blood. She took ballet lessons from the age of three, mime classes from eight and began acting in street theatre at ten.
In 1983, she won attention as a 14-year-old for her performance in the Australian television film "Bush Christmas," which was followed by the hit youth film "BMX Bandits."
After the success of her 1985 miniseries "Vietnam," Kidman made her US film debut in the creepy 1989 thriller "Dead Calm" with Sam Neill and Billy Zane.
Her life was transformed when she met "Top Gun" star Cruise on the set of 1990 racetrack romance "Days of Thunder," and the two married in 1991 after a whirlwind romance, only to split up 10 years later.
In 1992 she filmed the turgid Irish historic drama "Far and Away" with Cruise before playing a psychiatrist in her next high-profile film, "Batman Forever" in 1995.
But it was as a fame-obsessed housewife and television news reader in 1995's "To Die For" that she made an impact in Hollywood, winning a Golden Globe.
Stanley Kubrick's 1999 erotic thriller "Eyes Wide Shut," united her and Cruise again, but the film suffered mixed reviews.
Her dramatic talent was spotlighted in "Moulin Rouge," Baz Luhrmann's innovative bid to revive musical movies, winning her a best actress Golden Globe and an Oscar nod and propelling her to global stardom.
"I suppose I just say it's a fleeting moment," she said of her fame. "How long will last? Who knows? But it's here and it's now."