Nicole Kidman has said “It is a privilege to make films” after being honoured with an American Film Institute Life Achievement Award.

Kidman, 56, is the first Australian actor to be given the highest honour bestowed by the organisation.

The Moulin Rouge actress was presented with the prestigious award by Meryl Streep in Hollywood.

Other stars in attendance included her husband, singer Keith Urban, and Big Little Lies co-star Reese Witherspoon.

Accepting the award in a floor-length shimmering gold Balenciaga gown, Kidman thanked all the directors she has worked with.

“It is a privilege to make films. And glorious to have made films and television with these storytellers who allowed me to run wild and be free and play all of these unconventional women,” she said.

“Thank you for making me better at my craft and giving me a place, however temporary, in this world.”

During the ceremony, Kidman teared up as her husband said she showed him “what love in action really looks like” when his substance abuse problems emerged soon after they married in 2006.

“Four months into our marriage, I’m in rehab for three months,” Urban said addressing Kidman and their two teenage daughters, who joined her on the red carpet for the first time.

“Nic pushed through every negative voice, I’m sure even some of her own, and she chose love. And here we are 18 years later.”

Australian actors Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman and Cate Blanchett also gave video tributes to the first actor from their country to win the award.

Previous winners of the award, which the AFI calls the “highest honour in American cinema”, include Streep, Julie Andrews, Denzel Washington, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.

Kidman made her Hollywood breakthrough alongside Tom Cruise in 1990’s Days Of Thunder – marrying him in the same year.

She divorced him in 2001, but her stardom only grew after this.

She received her first Oscar nomination for Moulin Rouge in 2001, before going on to win the best actress Oscar for The Hours in 2003.

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