By Amy Ryan
Updated October 09, 2007 at 10:29 PM EDT

Keith Urban, talking to the New York Daily News‘ gossip scribes the other night, suggested that he and Nicole Kidman are about ready to settle down on their new farm in Tennessee. (Ah, if only Grant Wood were alive to paint that farm couple.) If so, the timing may be just right, since there’s a call for Kidman to retire from the screen. Guardian columnist John Patterson notes that Invasion (pictured) is about the tenth Kidman movie in a row to do middling-to-poor box office, and that includes her Oscar-winning turn in The Hours. In fact, Kidman hasn’t had a solid hit since The Others, six long years ago. Given a track record like that, who could blame her if she wanted to call it a day?

To me, it’s not a mystery why Kidman’s movies haven’t connected with audiences — she tends to choose either arcane art-house exercises (Fur, Dogville) or bland, glossy remakes of things that didn’t need remaking (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Bewitched, The Stepford Wives). Rather, the mystery is why she gets to keep having an A-list career without the box office to back it up.

Maybe it’s not such a mystery, though. Whether or not she sells tickets, Nicole Kidman is famous and (thanks to enduring interest in the years she spent married to Tom Cruise) will be for the rest of her life. It’s now possible for actors to keep getting cast in lead roles simply based on their continuing notoriety, which creates a perception that they’re in demand, regardless of actual box office. (Kidman’s Cold Mountain costar Jude Law seems an obvious example — hey, Chris Rock was right!) In fact, it’s been possible for some time now; Winona Ryder did it throughout the ’90s, as did Michelle Pfeiffer throughout the ’80s.

Notice how I haven’t mentioned talent. It’s not that I think any ofthese stars are untalented (I don’t), but rather, that talent isirrelevant. It’s not part of the equation; all that matters is fanfascination, and that’s measured in the ability to sell magazinesand get face time on the entertainment news TV shows, or attract comments to blog items, not in box officereceipts or in Oscar trophies. By that standard, Nicole Kidman willprobably never retire (just as Elizabeth Taylor, who hasn’t acted inyears and will probably never act again, has never retired from thefull-time career of being Elizabeth Taylor).

Still, I bet there are some stars you wish would just pack it in andstop trying to sell movie tickets. Here’s your chance to offer themearly-retirement advice.