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Review: In 'The Founder,' cutthroat big business, supersized

When Kroc (Michael Keaton), a struggling traveling salesmen selling milkshake mixers, first beelines to San Bernardino, California, in 1954 to get a look at Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch) McDonald's burger joint, he stands agog at the counter. Moments after he orders, Kroc is handed his burger and fries in a bag, but he might as well have been flame-grilled by lightning. "But I just ordered," he stutters.

Kroc quickly recognizes the revolutionary power of the McDonalds' restaurant and becomes its franchise-driver and the pre-eminent proselytizer of an empire built on burgers. The arches, an invention of Dick's just like its other innovations, will spread "from sea to shining sea," Kroc vows. As a gathering place for families, it will be "the new American church, open seven days a week," he says.

"It requires a certain kind of mind to see the beauty in a hamburger bun," wrote David Halberstam of the minds behind McDonalds in "The Fifties." Of course, the genius behind McDonald's lied largely with Dick McDonald, who engineered the "speedee service system" of its assembly line-like kitchen, designed its layout and focused its tiny menu.

But the ironically titled "The Founder" is not about him. It's about Kroc, a hard-drinking, slightly shifty Illinois salesman who took the idea of the McDonalds and spread it around the world through sheer (and sometimes unscrupulous) force of will and savvy standardization. In the opening scenes, Kroc, struggling to eke out a living on the road, faithfully listens to Norman Vincent Peale's "The Power of Positive Thinking." ''Persistence, determination alone are all powerful," Kroc absorbs.

"The Founder" is a quintessentially post-war American story about a self-made man largely made by others. Kroc, who died in 1984, fashioned himself as the "big picture" visionary to the McDonald brothers' enterprise. Though McDonald's had by 1954 already sold 21 franchises, Kroc's zeal for expansion was compulsive and it turned him into a billionaire.

The McDonald brothers quickly realize, as Dick says, that they've let a wolf in the hen house. They begin fighting over issues that in their world are of massive importance, like milkshakes. Defending his high standards, Dick warns of "crass commercialism" infecting the franchise, and somewhere, Ronald McDonald chokes on a Big Mac.

But Kroc outmaneuvers them and eventually takes control of the company, leaving the run-over McDonalds to stare blankly at the yellow-and-red Frankenstein they've created. "I'm national," a swelling Kroc declares. "You're local."

Yet if there's any tragedy in "The Founder," it's not in the fate of the McDonald brothers but in Kroc's success. The film is penned by Robert D. Siegel, whose "The Wrestler" and "Big Fan" also reflected the dark underbellies of American dreams. But "The Founder," like its subject, is a little mechanical and a little too timid to really take a bite out of McDonald's. It's less a full meal than a drive-thru order.

Hancock's film stays laser-focused on Kroc, and with the naturally appealing Keaton playing him, our sympathies initially slide toward him. But unease steadily creeps in, especially as Kroc, while espousing the virtues of family, callously jettisons his quietly steadfast wife (Laura Dern) for another man's (Linda Cardellini). The bad taste of day-old McNuggets begins to form in our mouths as our hero turns villain, and a successful one at that.

Keaton chomps on the role, a Willy Loman who strikes it rich. Like Bryan Cranston on "Breaking Bad," we can see the wheels turning behind his eyes in his step-by-step drive for power, albeit selling a slightly healthier product than Walter White peddled.

The frightful thing about "The Founder," though, is that for all Kroc's back-stabbing and double-crossing, he's right. Remorseless brutality, just like fresh buns, turns out to be a necessary ingredient in business. Would you like fries with that?

"The Founder," a Weinstein Co. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "brief strong language." Running time: 115 minutes. Three stars out of four.

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MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Norman Vincent Peale.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Film about 1960s black mathematicians tops MLK weekend

"Hidden Figures," the uplifting film about African-American mathematicians at NASA during the 1960s space race, led the North American box office for the second straight week, selling $27.5 million in tickets over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, according to final studio figures Tuesday.

The Fox release, which stars Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer, has now made $61.9 million following its two weeks of nationwide release. Holdovers dominated the four-day weekend, while a number of high-profile new wide releases struggled badly.

Ben Affleck's period crime thriller "Live by Night" managed a feeble $6 million, and Martin Scorsese's passion project, the Christian epic "Silence," earned a mere $2.4 million. Paramount's pricey family film "Monster Trucks," which cost $125 million, opened with just $14.2 million. In an unprecedented move, Paramount's corporate parent, Viacom, last year wrote off the film as a $115 million loss.

The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Monday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Tuesday by comScore:

1. "Hidden Figures," 20th Century Fox, $27,506,839, 3,286 locations, $8,371 average, $61,889,939, 4 weeks.

2. "Sing," Universal, $19,025,360, 3,693 locations, $5,152 average, $238,240,880, 4 weeks.

3. "La La Land," Lionsgate, $17,717,720, 1,848 locations, $9,588 average, $77,299,289, 6 weeks.

4. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," Disney, $16,806,712, 3,162 locations, $5,315 average, $501,898,446, 5 weeks.

5. "The Bye Bye Man," STX Entertainment, $15,204,094, 2,220 locations, $6,849 average, $15,204,094, 1 week.

6. "Monster Trucks," Paramount, $14,174,039, 3,119 locations, $4,544 average, $14,174,039, 1 week.

7. "Patriots Day," Lionsgate, $13,753,384, 3,120 locations, $4,408 average, $14,677,466, 4 weeks.

8. "Sleepless," Open Road, $9,771,305, 1,803 locations, $5,419 average, $9,771,305, 1 week.

9. "Underworld: Blood Wars," Sony, $7,263,585, 3,070 locations, $2,366 average, $25,379,703, 2 weeks.

10. "Passengers," Sony, $6,491,814, 2,447 locations, $2,653 average, $90,871,545, 4 weeks.

11. "Moana," Disney, $6,104,745, 1,847 locations, $3,305 average, $233,410,870, 8 weeks.

12. "Live by Night," Warner Bros., $6,003,052, 2,822 locations, $2,127 average, $6,188,696, 4 weeks.

13. "Why Him?" 20th Century Fox, $4,175,449, 1,977 locations, $2,112 average, $56,008,496, 4 weeks.

14. "Fences," Paramount, $3,513,003, 1,342 locations, $2,618 average, $46,645,365, 5 weeks.

15. "Lion," The Weinstein Company, $2,772,941, 575 locations, $4,823 average, $13,815,545, 8 weeks.

16. "Silence," Paramount, $2,374,886, 747 locations, $3,179 average, $3,456,650, 4 weeks.

17. "Manchester by the Sea," Roadside Attractions, $2,054,178, 726 locations, $2,829 average, $37,215,956, 9 weeks.

18. "Assassin's Creed," 20th Century Fox, $1,658,469, 968 locations, $1,713 average, $53,162,110, 4 weeks.

19. "Moonlight," A24, $1,363,803, 582 locations, $2,343 average, $14,862,562, 13 weeks.

20. "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them," Warner Bros., $1,201,902, 502 locations, $2,394 average, $231,073,227, 9 weeks.

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Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.

The top 10 movies on the iTunes Store

iTunes Movies US Charts:

1. The Accountant (2016)

2. Deepwater Horizon

3. Storks

4. Sully

5. Café Society

6. Keeping Up With the Joneses

7. Jason Bourne

8. Kevin Hart: What Now?

9. The Girl On the Train (2016)

10. The Secret Life of Pets

iTunes Movies US Charts - Independent:

1. The Dressmaker

2. The Book of Love

3. The Infiltrator

4. Blood Father

5. The Autopsy of Jane Doe

6. Christine (2016)

7. Kate Plays Christine

8. A Man Called Ove

9. American Honey

10. Banking on Bitcoin

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(copyright) 2017 Apple Inc.

Mexico: no warrants for actress Kate del Castillo

The spokeswoman for Mexico's Attorney General's Office says there are no warrants for actress Kate del Castillo, but she has been "mentioned" in criminal investigations.

Del Castillo said in an interview with The Associated Press that a "macho" Mexican government is persecuting her only because she's a woman.

But spokeswoman Natalia Briseno told The AP Tuesday no sexism is involved.

Briseno said Del Castillo has been mentioned in organized crime investigations, but that doesn't mean she's a suspect.

Briseno said the actress "has no legal impediment to enter or move freely" in Mexico.

The investigations are apparently related to her text message conversations with now-imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, and his potential links to her tequila business.

Del Castillo arranged Sean Penn's interview with Guzman in 2015.

Woody Harrelson goes live from London, talks 'Star Wars'

Woody Harrelson is trying to do something that's never been done before, although he's starting to realize why his feat would be a first.

The American actor plans to spend the early hours of Friday shooting a full-length film, called "Lost In London LIVE," which will be broadcast as it happens in over 550 U.S. theaters.

"Someone was asking me earlier, 'Do you think that people will start doing this now? Filming a movie and live-streaming it at the same time?' And I said, 'Well, not if they speak to me first.' This is some harrowing stuff," he laughs.

Based on a relentlessly awful night out he really had in the British capital, Harrelson wrote and is directing the film that combines comedy and drama.

Talking on the movie's set in the streets of London's theatre district, where rehearsals are happening during the day and at night, Harrelson says he could do with three more weeks of preparation before the action unfolds in real time.

Harrelson, 55, was arrested in London after a night out in 2002. He declined to say whether "Lost in London" is based on events from that night, but the set includes a recreation of the club he visited before his arrest.

"Lost In London LIVE" is an attempt to merge his two loves, film and theater. And even though audiences will be watching on the other side of the pond when it's Thursday evening, Harrelson is convinced the event's live-streamed nature will add an electrifying element.

"Will it mess up the performance? That's the question. Will the fear be too high to eke out a performance? I don't know," he said.

Harrelson's co-stars are musician Willie Nelson and actor Owen Wilson, a close friend who also helped refine the script.

"Owen Wilson is my best buddy. Now, that doesn't mean I'm his best buddy, but he's my best buddy and he is a tremendous asset because not only is he just so great on screen, and he's great as an actor and he's great to work with," he said.

Harrelson's breakthrough as an actor came on the 1980s television sitcom "Cheers." He's since starred in a number of critically acclaimed TV shows and movies, from "Natural Born Killers" and "No Country For Old Men" to "True Detective" and "The Hunger Games" films.

Harrelson next will be joining the "Star Wars" universe, with a part in the spin-off movie about a young Han Solo. Describing his character as a criminal and a mentor, he says he's delighted to be joining that "amazing world."

"All you want is to make good movies, because eventually I'll be gone and those will still be here," he said. "You know what I mean?"

DuVernay talks with Winfrey about Trump, race, her new film

Ava DuVernay doesn't want to talk about Donald Trump's election. Her feelings are still too raw.

But because Oprah Winfrey asked about it, the filmmaker opened up: Trump "represents violence," DuVernay said, and she doesn't have much empathy for those who supported him.

She made the remarks Sunday during a discussion about "13th," her documentary about the prison industrial complex and the disproportionately high number of black men behind bars.

Winfrey moderated an hourlong conversation between DuVernay and political commentator Van Jones at the home of Netflix chief Ted Sarandos, who hosted the event with wife Nicole Avant under two tennis-court-sized tents in their backyard.

Guests at the invitation-only affair were mostly industry insiders, including Quincy Jones, Rob Reiner, Laura Dern, Mira Sorvino, Courtney B. Vance and Chelsea Handler. Winfrey was a winning moderator, quipping to the crowd but mostly quiet, keeping the spotlight on her subjects.

A few moments recalled her old talk show.

The first thing she did was move her chair closer to DuVernay and Jones. In a long slate dress and black stilettos, Winfrey scooted the rattan seat over herself. Sarandos quietly hustled onto the stage to move a small coffee table that was in her way. Later, when the conversation about Trump got particularly animated, Winfrey deadpanned to the audience: "We should be televising this."

Footage from Trump's campaign rallies appears in "13th," which connects the criminalization and jailing of black men in jail to a provision of the 13th Amendment that prohibits slavery except as a punishment for crime. Available now on Netflix, the film is among 15 documentaries shortlisted for Oscar nominations, which will be announced Jan. 24.

DuVernay said she feared the police as a child growing up in Compton, California. As a student at UCLA, she studied American history, justice and institutionalized racism.

In researching the documentary, DuVernay said she was most surprised to learn about the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that proposes policies and legislation based on the corporate interests it represents.

The film also shows how political rhetoric about being "tough on crime" has historically translated to more policing in communities of color.

Jones, who also appears in "13th," said, "You can't talk about the history of black America without talking about mass incarceration."

DuVernay and Jones agree that the recent police shootings of black men are part of a long history of criminalization of black people by politicians and police. They also agree that the prison problem isn't quickly or easily solved.

"It's not a one-answer question," DuVernay said, adding that she doesn't expect the issue to be remedied during her lifetime.

But she and Jones disagree on the best approach for dealing with the impending Trump administration.

Jones said he wants to connect with Trump voters who find the president-elect distasteful but supported him because they felt overlooked by other candidates.

DuVernay said she has no time for that. Racism and sexism are distractions, she said, "to my humanity and what I'm doing."

"Distraction is if I stop and try to talk to folks who have clearly demonstrated that they're not open to hearing that," she said. "What they will hear is what I do: How I move forward, the art that I make, the energy that I put out into the world."

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy.

'Hidden Figures' keeps orbit at top; Affleck, Scorsese flop

Labors of love, one from Martin Scorsese, the other from Ben Affleck, proved costly at a casualty strewn weekend box office where the uplifting NASA drama "Hidden Figures" stayed on top for the second straight week.

"Hidden Figures," about African-American mathematicians in the 1960s space race, sold a leading $20.5 million in tickets in North American theaters over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend, according to estimates Sunday. Fox anticipates the film, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, will make $25.3 million when Monday is included, bringing its cumulative total to about $60 million.

The weekend was more remarkable for what didn't work than what did. Both Affleck's period gangster thriller "Live by Night" and Scorsese's Christian epic "Silence" bombed in their wide-release debuts. Warner Bros.' "Live by Night," adapted from Dennis Lehane's novel, earned a mere $5.4 million in 2,471 theaters. Paramount's "Silence," from Susaku Endo's novel of 17th century Jesuit priests in Japan, took in $1.9 million in 747 theaters.

Both were high-profile projects that each filmmaker used their considerable sway to get made.

"Live by Night" was Affleck's directorial follow-up to the best-picture winning "Argo." Written, directed and starring Affleck, it cost $90 million to make, though rebates and tax incentives lowered its budget to $65 million. But critics said "Live by Night" was a step backward for Affleck, who spent much of his publicity campaign fending off questions about his plans to direct a stand-alone Batman film for Warner Bros. The studio, which declined to comment Sunday, estimates "Live by Night" will make $6.7 million over the four-day weekend.

The epitome of a passion project, "Silence," which Scorsese contemplated for nearly three decades, represents a culmination of the director's investigations into the nature of faith. While the film, starring Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson, earned considerable respect from some critics, it failed to catch on in Hollywood's awards season.

"It's gotten great reviews and it's Marty's passion project, so we're proud to be a part of it, and we're going to keep putting it out there in front of audiences," said Kyle Davies, Paramount's domestic distribution chief.

"Silence," never conceived as a particularly commercial release, cost about $50 million to make. The studio expects it to earn $2.3 million over the four-day weekend.

The most costly flop may have been Paramount's family film "Monster Trucks." It earned $10.5 million over the three-day weekend. Viacom took a $115 million write-down late last year on the movie, which cost $125 million to make. It was a rare admission, well before its release, that "Monster Trucks" would bomb.

It was an especially crowded weekend. "La La Land," the Oscar favorite, danced into second place with $14.5 million. Damien Chazelle's musical, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, saw a considerable boost from last Sunday's Golden Globes, where it landed a record seven awards. It has made $74.1 million domestically in six weeks. It's also doing well internationally, earning more than $50 million.

The surprise success was the supernatural thriller "The Bye Bye Man," from STX Entertainment. With some help from Friday the 13th on the calendar, the low-budget horror flick made $13.4 million.

Peter Berg's Boston Marathon bombing docudrama, "Patriots Day," took in a so-so $12 million in its first week of nationwide wide release. The CBS Films and Lionsgate joint release cost about $40 million to produce. But the film, starring Mark Wahlberg, earned an A-plus CinemaScore from audiences, suggesting it could have legs in the coming weeks.

Open Road's "Sleepless," a vigilante revenge thriller starring Jamie Foxx, failed to make much of a dent. It opened with $8.5 million.

Disney's "Rogue One" added an additional $13.8 million to its coffers. The film is now poised to cross $1 billion shortly, with $980 million globally to date.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore, said audiences were inundated with too many films, some of which struggled to keep attention as they went from limited to nationwide release. "Hidden Figures," ''La La Land," ''Patriots Day," ''Silence" and "Live by Night" all premiered in December before expanding in January.

"It really is the tale of the holdovers. We've yet to, at this point, have a breakout newcomer from 2017," Dergarabedian said. "When you have so many platforming releases, aside from the top-performing ones, 'Hidden Figures' and 'La La Land,' the others have had a tough time getting traction or getting noticed within this sea of movies."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers are also included. Final four-day domestic figures will be released Tuesday.

1. "Hidden Figures," $20.5 million.

2. "La La Land," $14.5 million ($17.8 million international).

3. "Sing," $13.8 million ($13.2 million international).

4. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," $13.8 million ($21.9 million international).

5. "The Bye Bye Man," $13.4 million ($1.3 million international).

6. "Patriots Day," $12 million ($1.3 million international).

7. "Monster Trucks," $10.5 million ($4 million international).

8. "Sleepless," $8.5 million.

9. "Underworld: Blood Wars," $5.8 million ($1.4 million international).

10. "Passengers," $5.6 million ($32.5 million international).

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Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:

1. "Passengers," $32.5 million.

2. "Assassin's Creed," $23.1 million.

3. "Rogue One, A Star Wars Story," $21.9 million.

4. "La La Land," $17.8 million.

5. "Moana," $16.9 million.

6. "Sing," $13.2 million.

7. "The Great Wall," $10 million.

8. "Why Him?" $9.1 million.

9. "Allied," $8.4 million

10. "Some Like it Hot," $7.4 million.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP .

With no action heroes, Madoff movie landed at HBO

Makers of an upcoming HBO movie on Bernard Madoff initially wanted to make a feature film for theaters but quickly realized that today's movie industry had little interest in an intricate tale about a financial swindle.

Major studios have their sights set on action heroes or comic books. An independent studio would have required a time-consuming effort to raise money and less exposure, said Jane Rosenthal, executive producer of "The Wizard of Lies," on Saturday. The film, with Robert DeNiro in the starring role, debuts in May.

"As screens are all blurring and ... the business is so radically changing, this was the best place to make the film and to ensure that we would have an amazing audience for it," she said.

The film is based on a book by the same title by Diana Henriques, who advised HBO. Filmmakers said it differs from other projects on the Madoff case, like an ABC miniseries, in that it delves more into what happened with his family.

"What he did is beyond my comprehension," DeNiro said. "So there's a disconnect somehow in him that I still would like to understand. I did the best I could, but I don't understand ... The only things I do feel strongly about is that he didn't tell his kids and he didn't tell his wife. But everyone around him probably had an idea. They just didn't want to look too deeply because they knew something wasn't quite right."

Henriques, a financial reporter, had used Madoff as a source in the years before his Ponzi scheme was uncovered, and trusted him back then.

She said it was a strange experience seeing DeNiro totally inhabit the character. At one point, director Barry Levinson thought of having Henriques, who had conducted jailhouse interviews with Madoff, improvise by interviewing DeNiro as if he were Madoff. Some of that ended up in the film.

The performance was so effective, she said, that "I made the vow right then and there never to take investment advice from Bob DeNiro."

Lotter challenging Nebraska 3-judge method on death penalty

A man convicted in the murder case that inspired the 1999 movie "Boys Don't Cry" has joined a fellow death row inmate in challenging Nebraska's three-judge method for determining death sentences.

Attorneys for John Lotter argue that he had a right to have jurors, not judges, weigh his fate when he was sentenced to death in 1996, the Omaha World-Herald reports (http://bit.ly/2iTAHhd ). The attorneys cite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that struck down Florida's death penalty process, saying it gave too much power to judges to make the ultimate decision. After that ruling, Delaware's high court followed suit and threw out that state's death penalty-determining method.

Lotter was condemned for his role in the 1993 killings of Teena Brandon, a 21-year-old woman who lived briefly as a man, and two witnesses, Lisa Lambert and Philip DeVine, at a rural Humboldt, Nebraska, farmhouse.

A similar appeal has been filed on behalf of Jeffrey Hessler, convicted in the 2003 rape and murder of 15-year-old Gering, Nebraska, newspaper carrier Heather Guerrero.

The Nebraska attorney general's office has filed motions arguing that Nebraska's sentencing scheme allows jury participation and is not identical to the one struck down in Florida.

In Nebraska when a defendant is convicted in a death penalty case, the jury that decided guilt also decides whether aggravating factors exist to justify the defendant's execution. If the jury finds such, a three-judge panel is convened to determine whether the aggravating factors outweigh any mitigating factors in the defendant's favor. The three judges also must determine if the death sentence is warranted and, if so, whether it is proportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases.

The three judges ultimately determine whether the defendant gets death or life in prison.

Attorney Jerry Soucie, who has represented several Nebraska death row inmates, said Friday that he expects the state's other eight death row inmates to challenge Nebraska's method, too.

"This issue has been floating around a long time," Soucie said.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

Kidman says comments about Trump support weren't endorsement

Nicole Kidman says her comments that Americans should support President-elect Donald Trump were merely a statement of her belief in democracy, not an endorsement of the incoming president.

The Oscar-winning actress's earlier remarks sparked both criticism and praise online after they were aired by the BBC earlier this week.

Kidman tells Access Hollywood that her comments were misconstrued. She says, "I was trying to stress that I believe in democracy and the American Constitution, and it was that simple."

When an interviewer pressed her for more details, Kidman threw up her hands and said she was done commenting on the topic.

Kidman was born in Hawaii to Australian parents and holds dual citizenship in Australia and the U.S.

Kidman won an Oscar for 2002's "The Hours" and currently stars in "Lion."

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