Nicole Kidman, Stephen Dillane, ...
Credit: The Hours: Clive Coote

It?s also about some serious star power. And delays. And reshoots. In fact, when producer Scott Rudin optioned Michael Cunningham?s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1998 book — a delicate three-part novel about the last day in Virginia Woolf?s life, a 1950s housewife considering suicide, and a present-day poet preparing a dinner party for her dying ex-lover — it was mostly about…huh?

”I thought the book was beautiful, but it seemed impossible that it would ever be a film,” says Streep, expressing a common sentiment. ”But David Hare worked with us quite a bit. The strength of the film has a lot to do with the way that he constructed the story filmically.” In fact, the script by the renowned playwright (Plenty) was so strong it not only won Daldry — who was fresh off an Academy Award nomination for ”Billy Elliot” — but also the Oscar-bait trio of Streep, Moore, and Kidman.

”They were actually easy to get — all of them knew the novel before we asked them,” says Daldry. ”The only discussion was about which one would play which part.” Moore ended up as the housewife, Streep as the poet, and Kidman, donning extensive facial prosthetics that make her virtually unrecognizable, as Woolf.

With the film wrapped in mid-2001, Daldry screened his print for the studio and a consensus quickly emerged that the ending wasn?t working. ”Yeah, we did some reshoots,” says the 42-year-old director. ”We were going to do them quite early, but because of Sept. 11 we went back a little later than we thought. We were delayed for about four months on that reshoot, which wasn?t that big anyway, just about four days.”

THE LOWDOWN Unless ”Jackass: The Movie” turns out to be a masterpiece, it?s between ”The Hours” and ”The Four Feathers” for Paramount?s year-end Oscar attention — and there?s already strong buzz about Kidman?s performance.

The Hours
  • Movie
  • 110 minutes