Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf? Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore Light Up 'The Hours.' an All-Star Dialogue on Movies, Motherhood and Fake Noses

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Byline: Jeff Giles and Barbara Kantrowitz

Meryl Streep walks into a hotel suite high above Central Park, with Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman close on her heels. It is, of course, a sight to behold. There are worse ways for journalists to spend an afternoon. The women have converged to discuss Stephen Daldry's "The Hours," which opens later this month and which is based on Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The film interweaves what are essentially three miniature movies about three women who live decades apart and who, despite mourning for something they can't quite name, actually have a lust for life--just not for the ones they're living. Kidman (with a custom-built nose) plays a suicidal Virginia Woolf, who seems to want to live only long enough to write "Mrs. Dalloway." Moore is a '50s housewife, who wants to live only long enough to read it. And Streep plays a modern-day Manhattanite, who seems to have actually become Mrs. Dalloway and realizes she's lost the thread of her life as she plans a party for a friend with AIDS. That such sorrowful subjects should make for such a luminous movie has a great deal to do with the filmmakers (sidebar), but as much to do with the women who've just walked into the room--and who will likely be rewarded with Oscar nominations. Excerpts from a conversation with NEWSWEEK:

Nicole, when people ask you what it was like to work with Meryl Streep, are you going to have to say, "I have no idea"?

Nicole Kidman: [Laughs] Yes!

Meryl Streep: Because we never worked together--unless you call this working. We weren't allowed to meet.

Julianne Moore: We didn't see each other. Meryl went first, then I did my part and then they had a break and then Nicole did her part.

Let's talk about the fake nose. Nicole, if you had to guess how many times you'll be asked about it in the next couple of months, would it be in the dozens or in the hundreds?

Kidman: It's been hundreds already, I think.

Rumor has it that Miramax was worried about the fake nose, and that there was some argument over whether there should be a fake nose. Were you aware of that?

Kidman: Harvey [Weinstein] told me I'm not to say anything. [Laughs] He actually is being supportive now. I mean, I think it is kind of a weird thing to put that on your face and then expect everyone to go, "Oh, great, we're so pleased she's doing that!"

The critics would have gone ballistic if Virginia Woolf looked like Nicole Kidman, though. It would have been in every review.

Kidman: But I was also fearful that the minute I walked on people would start to laugh. "Oh my God, look! She's walking around with a fake nose!"

Moore: Somebody asked me about this earlier today--they asked me about the nose. I said, "Lemme tell you what I think about the nose!" It's weird that it should be a problem. It used to be that people could do things when they were acting.

Streep: It's an illusion. We're pretending.

Kidman: Men do things to their faces and it's not commented on.

You mean in their private lives?

Kidman: [Laughs] Probably both. No, in terms of male actors, they really play around with all of those things.

Streep: People do a lot of things that the critics don't know about to enhance their look, you know? To present an illusion.

You don't have to give us any names, but what kinds of things are you thinking of?

Streep: Oh, well, men put lifts in their shoes if they're not that tall. They stand on things to be taller. They put things in the shoulders of their coats.

Kidman: Or down their pants. [Laughter]

Michael Cunningham obviously didn't write his novel with a movie in mind. Did any of you wonder if would work?

Moore: I read the book and thought, "They'll never make a movie out of this." I mean, I loved it, loved it, loved it. But I didn't think they'd be able to do it. …