On Saturday, Feb. 5, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival board presented Nicole Kidman with the Cinema Vanguard Award.

This award honors actors and actresses who frequently take risks in their careers by acting in unusual and challenging roles that are not guaranteed commercial success. Though Kidman has starred in box office hits, SBIFF’s executive director and host for the evening, Roger Durling, concentrated more on her independent ventures during the award ceremony.

One such film is 2010’s “Rabbit Hole,” in which Kidman plays a mother struggling to cope with losing her son in a car crash. “Rabbit Hole” was shown multiple times during the festival this year. Kidman’s performance was nominated for a Golden Globe as well as an Oscar for Best Actress.

Kidman shared that, while it is difficult taking on the role of characters who have experienced so much drama, she enjoys the process of exploring the human condition in its many facets.

“I want to explore it. I want to understand it. I want to reach out,” Kidman said. “It makes me feel very connected to the world.”

Durling, a long time admirer of Kidman, praised her courage in taking these roles, saying that the harder she gets pushed, the better the result.

“[Some of the films] make me feel uncomfortable, but nonetheless they make me feel,” Durling said in his introduction of Kidman.

Durling’s interview questions continued to come back to the topic of risk-taking. Many of Kidman’s roles have been characters who the audience watches “unravel” as the film progresses. He was curious about how Kidman deals with playing such characters.

“If people can live them, the least I can do is play them with the deepest authenticity I can offer,” Kidman said.

Still, the actress had doubts about films like “The Others,” in which she plays a woman who murders her children. She tried to get out of the film before filming began but was forced to do it, resulting in what many deem one of her best performances.

“I suppose now at this age I look back and say, ‘Gosh, I’m glad I did that; glad I took that role,’” Kidman said.

Kidman shared that it gets harder in Hollywood to take on risky roles as you get older because you become more aware of the risks. She discussed the way actors are criticized, citing the incident when an audio recording of Christian Bale having a fit on set was released to the public in 2009. Kidman said what happens on set is “sacred,” and if actors do not feel safe, movies will stop being daring.

“You’re going to lose the great performances, you’re going to lose the danger,” Kidman said. “Who knows what it takes to get there, but we shouldn’t know.”

Kidman’s personal boldness has seemed to pay off. From the crowd in attendance Saturday night, it is obvious the actress garners as much popular acclaim as she does critical acclaim. The Arlington Theatre was packed with over 2,000 people coming to watch her receive her award.

Kidman kept it short and sweet when finally accepting the Cinema Vanguard Award after her interview.

“I have been very moved,” Kidman said. “I will take all of this encouragement. It really makes me want to pursue excellence.”