Cover Story

Love Among the Ruins

How ''Cold Mountain'' changed Nicole, Jude, and Renee -- The A-listers discuss how toiling on the unforgiving Romanian set of the Civil War epic inspired major life decisions

Nicole Kidman, Cold Mountain | ROUGHING IT Kidman, along with the rest of ''Cold Mountain'''s cast, had to endure harsh conditions on set in the Transylvanian Alps
Image credit: Cold Mountain: Phil Bray
ROUGHING IT Kidman, along with the rest of ''Cold Mountain'''s cast, had to endure harsh conditions on set in the Transylvanian Alps

The snow will not stop falling during this bone-chilling night in a remote corner of the Transylvanian Alps, deep in the heart of Romania. The wintry mix -- and the foot traffic of more than 100 crew members on the already rain-soaked ground -- has transformed the area into a giant swamp of lavalike mud. A pack of wild dogs roam near the catering tent, looking for scraps of food. In the middle of the set, a 300-pound pig cooks over a roaring fire. Blood from the hog's carefully slit throat drips into a cauldron. Flames lick at the animal's flesh, and Jude Law is scraping the charred skin with a knife. Natalie Portman stands on the cabin's porch, her nose crinkled and her eyes squinting at the sight. ''It's a good reminder of why I'm a vegetarian,'' Portman says. ''Jude and I both won some PETA award last year for being, like, famous vegetarians.''

Two animal lovers helping to roast a pig is all in a day's work on Anthony Minghella's epic film ''Cold Mountain,'' which follows a Confederate soldier named Inman (Law) who deserts the front lines of the Civil War to embark on a four-year trek home to his beloved Ada (Nicole Kidman) -- who is getting by on her farm with the help of Ruby, an unsentimental handywoman (Renée Zellweger). All involved in the production seem willing to endure conditions that have included 21 consecutive days of summer rain and temperatures ranging from 110 degrees to below zero. ''There are no industrialized scars anywhere for the camera to pick up,'' Minghella, 49-year-old director of ''The English Patient'' and ''The Talented Mr. Ripley,'' says of the location. ''When you are in Romania, you are in 'Cold Mountain.'''

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