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Streep, Moore, Kidman Bring Woolf Best-Seller to Life in <i>The Hours</i> - 2003-01-17

A best-selling novel is now an acclaimed dramatic film featuring three of today's top screen actresses. Alan Silverman has a look at The Hours.

One day in the lives of three women from different eras plays out in the course of The Hours, Meryl Streep plays Clarissa, who lives today; Julianne Moore is Laura, a 1950's housewife; and Nicole Kidman plays author Virginia Woolf in 1923. They are connected across the years by her novel Mrs. Dalloway.

Meryl Streep, whose character is facing the loss of a dear friend to AIDS, explains The Hours takes its title from the original working title for the Woolf book.

"Three women's lives around the themes and ideas and emotions of the novel Mrs. Dalloway and it's about where you find a reason to live in your life," explains Streep.

"One of the things that's so rewarding and exciting about this film, the book and the material," says actress Julianne Moore, "is that it is about stuff that's important."

Moore's character, Laura, is deeply devoted to her young son, but despondent over almost everything else in her life.

"It's about our lives and who we love, how we live and the choices that we make the communities that we live in and our relationships to our families," she says. "It's about the stuff of our lives. This is not a movie about spaceships. Not that there's anything wrong with spaceships, but it's nice for me to deal with material about things that I think make up a human drama."

As the central character of Virginia Woolf, Nicole Kidman tones down her luminous beauty to embody the author's ultimately unsuccessful struggle with depression. It makes her almost unrecognizable.

"I love that," says Kidman. "It's a great compliment. I think for me as an actor, it's so important not to be attached to your physical being. So to be able to get lost within something and actually have people sit through a film and not recognize you is something that I find incredibly gratifying to hear."

"I think it's an important film because of what it says about so many things," continues Kidman. "We go into creativity and madness. We go into the effect of great writing and we just don't read enough anymore, so to see a film like this that shows you how a writer can affect the lives of people Meryl's character and Julianne's character in such a profound way. That, I hope, says 'read, read everybody,' " Kidman emphasizes. "There are so many issues with this film that are relevant."

Director Stephen Daldry previously touched audiences with the uplifting story of Billy Elliot in 2000. The Hours screenplay is by playwright David Hare, adapted from the novel by Michael Cunningham. The cast also features Ed Harris, Miranda Richardson, Claire Danes and John C. Reilly and the musical score by Philip Glass.