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adaptation the hours
75 years after Virginia Woolf wrote her novel Mrs. Dalloway, Michael Cunningham wrote his novel The Hours, which has now been adapted for the screen by renowned British playwright David Hare, and directed by Stephen Daldry (who received acclaim for his his big screen debut 'Billy Elliot' in 2000)
Eerily depicting how three women from three different time periods are brought together by a masterful piece of literature, The Hours tells the story of three very different individuals who share in common the feeling that they have been living their lives for someone else.
Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman), in a suburb of London in the early 1920s, is struggling to begin Mrs. Dalloway, and to overcome the mental illness that threatens to engulf her. Laura Brown (Julianne Moore), a young wife and mother in post-World War 11 Los Angeles, is just starting to read Mrs. Dalloway. and is so deeply affected by it that she begins to question the very life she has chosen for herself. Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep), living in contemporary New York City. becomes a modem-day mirror image of Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway as she plans what may be the final party for her friend and former lover, Richard.
An intermingling of three stories about three women searching for meaning in their lives, 'The Hours" brings to life Virginia Woolf 's heartfelt belief that all lives are intertwined.
When Scott Rudin purchased the screen rights to Michael Cunningham's novel, many wondered how easily a film could be made of such a nuanced, non-linear literary work. Yet the idea of multiple, interweaving story lines in disparate historical timeframes is a highly cinematic concept going back at least as far as 1916 in D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance."
With the addition of a top-flight cast and director, and a screenplay by one of the most acclaimed contemporary dramatists, The Hours has made an assured, enhanced transition from page to screen.
novelist michael cunningham
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1952, Cunningham grew up in La Canada, California. He received his B.A. in English literature from Stanford University and his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. He has received much recognition for his work. including a Guggenheirn Fellowship in 1993, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1988 and a Michener Fellowship from the University of Iowa in 1982. Currently living in New York City, Cunningham published his most recent book in August 2002, a nonfiction work entitled Land's End: A Walk in Provincetown.
Hailed as a literary accomplishment of major importance, 'The Hours' received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction when it was published in 1998, as well as the PEN/Faulkner Award, and was chosen as Best Book of 1998 by The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune and Publishers Weekly.
screenwriter david hare
The screenplay was adapted by celebrated playwright David Hare, whose works have been consistently presented on the stages of Broadway and the West End over the past 20 years. Nine of his 20 plays have been presented on Broadway.
Born in Sussex in 1947, Hare wrote his first one-act play at 22 in four days for production by Portable Theater, a fringe group he had founded with his friend Tony Bicat. His first full-length play, "Slag," was performed at the Hampstead Theatre Club. Among Hare's best-known plays are "Plenty ... .. The Secret Rapture," "Skylight," "The Judas Kiss," "Amy's View," "The Blue Room" and "Via Dolorosa" (in which he appeared), all of which have been presented on Broadway. His most recent play is "The Breath of Life".
Hare's first feature film, "Wetherby," which he wrote and directed, won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the Berlin Festival in 1985. He also directed "The Designated Mourner ... .. Strapless" and "Paris By Night." In addition to writing the screenplays for most of his films, he also wrote the screenplay for Louis Malle's "Damage".
In 1998 the British government knighted him for services to the theatre.
Hare saw Michael Cunningham's novel as an accomplished piece of literature." He adds: "I thought that the tactic of telling three stories without the reader being able to understand the way they connected was completely fascinating. Somehow, Michael managed to sustain your interest even though you didn't know exactly how the pieces fit. And the fascination of that he accomplished beautifully. Then, when you did understand how they fit, it became profoundly satisfying."
Hare understood the screenplay would have to be a different structure from the one in the novel. "I found my own way of mixing the stories up and making new connections," he says. "I knew we could replicate the pleasure the book gives---that of slowly understanding the way in which the three stories fit together."
But because nearly everything in the book is what goes on inside the characters' heads, the biggest challenge for Hare as a screenwriter was to communicate through action and behavior what was internalized thought in Cunningharn's novel.
"In film, you can't have inner voice unless you have voiceover," observes Hare. "We made a very specific decision at the very beginning not to have voiceover, and once that was decided, I had to invent a certain number of events which expressed what was going on inside the characters' heads without spelling it out. For instance, the whole theme of the way in which Laura's husband has come back from the war---we need to know how his experience of the war has marked their marriage. There is the sense of World War II seeping into the film, which I've had to make explicit in that birthday-party scene at the end of the film where he talks about how he first saw her. In the book, of course, that's not expressed outwardly. I had to invent a whole series of events like that in order to express what went on inside the characters. For instance, I also quite radically changed Clarissa's partner and her private life in order to try and express various things which went on inside their heads."
It was a challenge Hare enjoyed. "This is where filmmaking becomes fun. Because not only was I denying myself voiceover; I was extremely keen to deny myself flashbacks. Obviously, in the book, there's a great deal about what happens to Clarissa and Richard as young people, and that informs the book in a wonderful way. But we already had three stories, and the idea of flashing back within one of those stories seemed to me a bad one. I wanted to do it through the things the characters said. and. the way they were together, rather than by showing it. I think that by denying yourself those routes out, you put a discipline on things which is much richer."
Hare met with Michael Cunningham before beginning his work. "Michael had originally planned a far longer book, so he was able to give me invaluable background on all the characters and their lives," remembers Hare. "He knew everything about them. He was very generous with his time and his goodwill. My admiration for what Michael wrote only grew the more I worked on the screenplay. I think it's very unusual to write a film of a novel and admire the novel just as much at the end as you did at the beginning. That was true of Michael's book. It withstood the scrutiny of film writing brilliantly. What we're talking about here is a tradition of writers handing on subject matter, one to another. A woman's life, in a day, is the are of her whole life: that's the idea. Michael. told me: 'Virginia Woolf took it one way; I took it another way; now you. David, run with the ball and go off wherever you want.' And that was a very generous offer. It was an offer of trust. And of course. if one author makes that offer to another, you tend to do your best to respect it."
Hare had already had a long association with Stephen Daldry before "The Hours." Daldry directed him in his acting debut in Hare's theater piece, "Via Dolorosa," which played at the Royal Court in London and ran for four months on Broadway. "He is a director who has a great gift for understanding the emotional heart of any material," says Hare.
director stephen daldry
Director Stephen Daldry says: "I actually found that the idea of three stories and three women, and the relationship among them, was a wonderful opportunity to try to create a single narrative."
Daldry made his feature film debut in 2000 with---Billy Elliot. Before Daldry turned his hand to feature films, he was director of the Royal Court Theatre and remains Associate Director. He has directed or produced more than a hundred new plays, many of which have subsequently been seen all over the world. Daldry has also directed and produced for BBC radio and television, and his first short film, "Eight" was nominated in 1999 for a BAFTA. Daldry is a Trustee of both the Old Vic and the Young Vic theatres in London. He is also the Cameron Mackintosh Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University. Currently, Daldry is directing two of Caryl Churchill's plays, "Far Away" at the New York Theater Workshop and "A Number" at London's Royal Court Theatre.
Daldry had not yet read Michael Cunningharn's novel when Scott Rudin presented him with an early draft of Hare's screenplay. "I was on holiday in the south of France when I received the script," he says. "My first response was that this was a fantastically well-achieved screenplay, and a wonderful opportunity to try to explore and investigate Mrs. Dallow , one of the greatest books ever written."
Daldry adds that he enjoyed Cunningham's book enormously, and that even though the author gave the filmmakers free rein to transform the novel into a film. they remained true to Cunningharn's work. "Michael told us that we should feel free to do whatever we felt was appropriate," says Daldry. "It was a very liberating, and as the script developed, we ended up remaining quite faithful to the rich world explored in the novel."
For Daldry, the essence of The Hours is its profound respect for women and the challenges they faced throughout the turbulent, utterly unpredictable developments of the twentieth century. "In the film, our women struggle through the day that they're given, a day they define for themselves and that others have defined for them," explains Daldry.
"There is a real heroism, and I think that's one of the things that originally drew me to the script---it's a day in the life of these three women. And maybe that's every day. Maybe the journey, and the struggle, and the stoicism and the emotional difficulties they are facing--maybe the battles and heroics are as much in the backyard and in the bedroom. as much when you're baking a cake in the kitchen as they are climbing mountains or winning wars. I think that often the heroics in women's lives are underestimated, or put into the background by the heroics in the lives of men. Obviously, the struggles are enormous and profound; just as important, if not more so."
"Everyone was very focused on the work they were doing," Daldry agrees. "But it was fun. because the work was really serious. And that's what made it fun-serious fun. This was a fantastically collaborative process between all the participants. The level of collective creative investment was remarkable. All the way through, it felt like a serious team effort. And what a team to have!"
With a finished film rooted in a literary source that may be unfamiliar to many, is Daldry now concerned about "The Hours" being accessible to general audiences?
"I would hope," he says, "that if you knew nothing about Mrs. Dalloway, if you knew nothing about Virginia Woolf, that it would not make one iota of difference in your enjoyment and appreciation of this film. But people who have read Mrs. Dalloway know that it's a treasure map, and they will, I hope, find as much joy as we did in the exploration."
The Director and his cast/ the cast and their roles