Love Among the Ruins

Kidman, who is recovering from food poisoning on an early November day in 2002, wouldn't disagree. ''Apparently, they don't make dental floss in Romania,'' she says during a break in filming late one night. Certain survival provisions can be found in the camera truck: hand and feet warmers, a bottle of single-malt scotch, and a few cases of Corona. Others have been imported, such as Zellweger's stash of Starbucks French Roast. ''That Nescafe just couldn't keep me going,'' she says while working the espresso machine. ''You get to the place where there is dirt in your food and you don't care,'' she continues. ''There are bugs on your plate and you don't care. You stop trying to wipe the dirt off your hands. You wash them and they look black but they're clean. And you don't try to clean your nails. You just wait until they grow out.''

Irregular hot-water flow often results in cold showers. For comfort, Kidman has brought along her own pillow. At night, she curls up in bed and reads. An evening out consists of visiting Zellweger, making popcorn, and watching ''Bowling for Columbine.''

On Thanksgiving, Kidman and Zellweger repay the crew by preparing a turkey dinner with all the fixings. Kidman picks the vegetables from the organic garden actually planted at her character's farm. With James Brown blasting from a stereo, Kidman darts around the room with platters of food. ''It was fantastic,'' Kidman reminisces. ''We got drunk and stuffed our bellies.''

The actresses swear they are making the best of their surroundings and relishing their solitude. (''I was virtually uncontactable for seven months,'' Kidman says later. ''I spent most of my time by myself and I loved it,'' Zellweger recalls.) But Minghella says that he greets each day absolutely certain of only one thing: He feels so overwhelmed by the elements that he will never make it to the end of the shoot.

Which explains Minghella's fixation on ''Heaven's Gate.'' With a sigh the filmmaker, a bookish-looking former medieval drama professor, confesses his deepest fear: ''I can only hope the results aren't the same.''

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