PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with David Hare

PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with David Hare With "The Hours" and Breath of Life, 2003 looks like another banner year for British playwright David Hare.

Hare had his biggest Broadway year yet in 1999 when he ran a triple play on the Great White Way — Amy's View (starring Dame Judi Dench), Via Dolorosa (which marked Hare's acting debut) and The Blue Room (which starred filmdom's Nicole Kidman). 2003 is looking to be his big movie year — with an expected Oscar nomination for his screen adaptation of "The Hours" and an upcoming bid to adapt Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections" for a feature film. Never fear — Hare isn't going Hollywood. His current West End hit, Breath of Life, a two-hander starring Dench and Dame Maggie Smith, is expected on Broadway in the fall and he's already at work on his next play.

Playbill On-Line: Those of us in the theatre think of you mostly as a playwright. How did you become adapter and screenwriter for "The Hours"?
David Hare: [Broadway and film producer] Scott Rudin was on vacation in Hawaii when he stepped into a bookshop and picked up "The Hours." This was before anyone had heard of it, before it won the Pulitzer — Scott is a voracious reader. He said, "If I can get David Hare to write the script, I will make this movie." Primarily, "The Hours" was an obvious fit: I prefer films about women to films about men. "The Hours," although it is about women, doesn't belong in any genre. It's not a conventional women's picture or a thriller, although it has some elements of a thriller in it. The most enjoyable experiences I've had in the cinema have been with non-genre films.

PBOL: Were there any particular challenges to adapting "The Hours"?
DH: Balancing the three stories out so that they were all equally dramatic. Virginia Woolf is trapped and wants to kill herself and Laura Brown must leave her family or be forced to kill herself. The third story is based on Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway," which is about a woman throwing a party. Not exactly life or death material. But all three stories had to be equally important.

PBOL: What most drew you into "The Hours"?
DH: The socially and politically important defense — or description — of Laura Brown. We assume that all mothers love their children, but here is a woman who would like to love her child, but doesn't have the gene for it. She knows she should love him, but can't. So she asserts her right to walk out of the family. There is also something very contemporary-feeling to the sexuality of the film. It's not a gay film. Instead, it comes from a personal conviction that human sexuality is complex. No one is merely gay or straight.

PBOL: Are you a Virginia Woolf fan?
DH: Not especially. In England, she has the reputation for being dull and a bit of a bluestocking. I have read Hermoine Lee's biography [1999's "Virginia Woolf"] and I was fascinated by her [as a person]. She was the life of the party — people waited for her to arrive. Nicole Kidman brings that wit and spirit to her performance. I think the film will change opinions about Viriginia Woolf. But [writing the screenplay to] "The Hours" was purely about Michael Cunningham's book. PBOL: People talk much about Nicole Kidman's performance in the film. You've worked with her before, on The Blue Room.
DH: Nicole has said it took The Blue Room for American cinema to take her seriously. She credits [Blue Room director] Sam Mendes for all the interesting work she's doing now. Actors' agents tend to say, "Don't waste your time on the Broadway stage" but now Nicole is making some of the most interesting films around.

PBOL:What was it like working with Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith on Breath of Life?
DH: It was quite intense. There are an awful lot of lines in Breath of Life. It was exhausting to rehearse. When I wrote it, I thought is this learnable? But it was also intensely satisfying. After the first preview, the audience understood that they were seeing two fantastic actresses. And I don't think there has been an empty seat since.

PBOL: Can we expect Breath of Life on Broadway?
DH: In the autumn.

PBOL: Are you working on anything else theatrical at the moment?
DH: I'm going back to where I came from — The Fringe. I'm writing a new show for the National Theatre for when Nick Hytner takes over.

PBOL: Can you give us any details — the subject of the play, maybe?
DH: I haven't written a word of it! But I have a title - The Permanent Way.

David Hare. Nicole Kidman in "The Hours."
David Hare. Nicole Kidman in "The Hours." (Photo by Hare: Aubrey Reuben)