The Surreal Oscar Campaign for ‘The Hours,’ 20 Years Later


Weinstein and Rudin had feuded across several previous projects, so some headbutting was to be expected on The Hours. Rudin developed the script with Hare for about a year, though, and had final cut. He toyed with the mercurial Weinstein by showing off the film’s bold creative decisions—prosthetic included. “Scott won most of the fights,” Cunningham says. However, according to New York magazine at the time, Weinstein nixed a premiere for The Hours at the Venice International Film Festival, which Rudin interpreted as retaliation. He sent Weinstein—a notorious chain-smoker—a crate of cigarettes, which quickly became legend. The enclosed note read “Thanks as always for your help.”

Weinstein was coming off of getting “caught” waging a smear campaign against the real-life subject of the previous year’s best picture winner, A Beautiful Mind, says Press: “That’s the year that Harvey started to pay a price in the press—he got caught really being abusive and spreading that stuff about John Nash. The next year you would’ve seen a subtle shift because the press was focusing more on the dirty tricks.”

Even so, the fact that Weinstein and Rudin were firmly established as bullies made for good copy—which they didn’t seem to mind. “One of the reasons filmmakers seek to work with Harvey and me is they want that combative ability,” Rudin told the Los Angeles Times weeks before the Oscars. “They don’t want you to be nice and sweet. They want you to go and kill for them. And that is the job. You are supposed to go out there and mow down the opposition.” 

Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf.PARAMOUNT/PHOTOFEST.

The true extent of the two men’s alleged misconduct hadn’t yet been reported, of course. Weinstein has since faced dozens of allegations of sexual misconduct, and he’s currently serving a 23-year prison sentence after being found guilty of a criminal sexual act and rape in New York. Allegations of abusive behavior against Rudin, first printed by The Hollywood Reporter in 2021, detailed instances of physical violence and bullying against employees. His career has since stalled.

Back in their glory days, however, they served as their own hype machines. “You had them spending millions and millions of dollars,” Press says. Sometimes, as with Kidman, it worked; other times, not so much. “Absolutely everybody told me I was going to win,” Hare says of the best adapted screenplay category, which he lost to The Pianist’s Ronald Harwood. He spent months on the trail with victory in mind. “When I didn’t win, I was pretty pissed off for about two and a half hours.” The next day, he says, “I didn’t care anymore.” 

Outside of Kidman’s win, The Hours slightly underperformed at the Oscars, at which Catherine Zeta-Jones won best supporting actress; both Streep and Moore went home empty-handed. A few months before, however, it won best drama picture and actress (Kidman) at the Golden Globes, which wound up being the peak of its awards run. All three Hours actors were nominated and in attendance; Streep even won the supporting actress award for Adaptation, her first win since 1982’s Sophie’s Choice, which prompted the star to begin her speech by saying, “I’ve just been nominated 789 times, and I was getting so settled over there for a long winter’s nap!”

Cunningham attended the Globes as well. He remembers the “great party,” sitting in the same room as Kidman, Streep, Moore, and Rudin, as a validation of The Hours’ most hotly debated (facial) feature. “In some parallel dimension, the movie went down over Nicole Kidman’s plastic nose,” he says. “It didn’t happen in this dimension.” 

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