Oprah: I know The Hours is a day in the life of three women in three separate worlds and times—but what is this movie really about?
Julianne: Universality. Each character's life layers on the others', and in the end, there's this incredible impact of how universal all the moments—the hours—of our lives are.
Meryl: My mother died a year ago, and I've just now been able to bring myself to sort through her things. I discovered a photo I'd never seen—a picture of my grandmother with her three sisters and mother. All the women were wearing these high lace collars in 1903, yet looking at my grandmother was like looking into the face of my own child. So I'm always interested in lifting the humanity from the dead pages of history. For instance, when we see a photograph of Virginia Woolf, her soul seems so available on her face, but there were many secrets, too. What great literature does is bring that humanity up until it beats in your own breast, and we feel what Virginia Woolf felt. For me this film was a telescoping of time and emotion and how connected we are—deep down, we're all very similar.
Oprah: We're far more alike than we are different.
Nicole: As a child, I remember walking around thinking, "I have so many things going on in my head." Then I'd look at someone and wonder if they did, too—but as a child, you're not sure how to find out. Part of growing up and learning to communicate involves being honest enough to say, "This is what I feel"—even if it's very dark or considered bad by some.
Oprah: Once you finish a movie, does the character leave you?
Julianne: I have an emotional attachment to characters as if they were real people. So a year later, I can resurrect them—but in the third person. I no longer feel as directly connected to my characters as I do when I am playing them, but over time they become people I've known.
Meryl: For me, sitting here talking about the movie is weird, because we shot it two years ago. Then we came back a year later and shot the ending. Once all the parts were assembled, the film felt like a collage.
Oprah: I heard each of you took a pay cut to do this film because you really wanted to work on it.
Meryl: Nicole did.
Nicole: I always take a pay cut—the only films I want to do are pay cut films! [Laughter.]