Come Oscar nomination time, the film caused problems for makers Paramount and Miramax as they weren't sure whether to put Nicole Kidman forward as Best Supporting Actress (where she would have been in direct competition with her 2 co-stars, probably canceling each other out) or as Best Actress (even though from a screen running time perspective it is a supporting role). Meryl Streep is in the film for 42 minutes, Julianne Moore for 33 minutes and Kidman for only 28 minutes. Obviously the decision to go for Best Actress was the right one.
Nicole Kidman loved wearing the prosthetic nose and wore it in private too, mainly as she was undergoing a divorce from Tom Cruise at the time and was attracting a lot of paparazzi interest. Much to her delight, by wearing her fake nose out and about, she found she could easily evade the paparazzi as they didn't recognize her.
During the editing stages, producer Scott Rudin received a call from author Michael Cunningham requesting to see some of the footage. Cunningham's mother (on whom the character Laura Brown was originally based) was entering into the final stages of terminal cancer and Cunningham dearly wanted his dying mother to see something he had written committed to film. Rudin hastily assembled 20 minutes of footage and had it sent over to the Cunninghams.
At the Academy Awards ceremony on 23 March 2003, Denzel Washington said as he announced the nominees and winner for Best Actress in a Leading Role, "...and the winner, by a nose, is Nicole Kidman," in reference to Kidman having worn a prosthetic nose for her performance in the movie.
Meryl Streep decided not to re-read "Mrs. Dalloway" in preparation for the film, as she felt that her character Clarissa would have read it in college and not particularly have understood it then, much as Streep herself had done when she was at college.
Dan Brown tells his son Richie about falling in love with Laura, but John C. Reilly was actually telling Jack Rovello the story of "Jack and the Beanstalk" so the young actor would appear interested. The actual dialogue was dubbed in later.
Originally, Nicole Kidman was supposed to be nude beneath her dress at the beginning of the film when Virginia Woolf drowns herself. Kidman objected to this, and the studio provided her with a flesh-colored rubber suit. She doesn't throw herself into the real river Ouse - its current has dramatically changed since 1941 - but into another river in which they had to place huge fans to alter the current. Director Stephen Daldry's chief concern during this scene was not that Kidman might drown but that she be sucked into the fans.
Ed Harris's apartment was supposed to be a drafty New York loftspace. In reality, the studio set in England was stiflingly hot and both Meryl Streep and Harris regularly had to have the sweat mopped off them.
(Kodak Theatre / 23 March 2003) When Nicole Kidman ascended the stage to accept her Best Actress Oscar from presenter Denzel Washington, co-star Ed Harris played the role of "seat-filler" when he occupied the vacant seat beside Kidman's mom for the duration of her acceptance speech.
Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf's dramatic railway station scene was filmed at Loughborough Station in Leicestershire over three days, over 100 miles from the train station depicted at Richmond. The genuine 1920s steam train came from the Isle of Wight and was taken by truck to Loughborough.
Leonard Woolf's dash from the house in Richmond, leading up to the railway station scene took him through St John's Churchyard and Sutton Place in Hackney, London (14 miles) to Loughborough (114 miles), all in the space of a minute of screen time. A 10 second dash through Sutton Place took the best part of day's filming with several antique vehicles parked in the resident's parking bays; a handful of costumed pedestrians; plastic antique covers for concrete lamp posts and lots of sticky black tape to cover door bells and other modern door furniture. As he races past we see several Georgian houses with original, and quite rare sash window shutters. Sutton Place was a good choice as a uniform terrace of houses still bearing features of yesteryear.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
A year after she had wrapped, Julianne Moore was recalled to play her final scene as the older Laura. By this time she was seven months pregnant, having had to wear a fake stomach when she played the younger version of her character.
Much concern surrounded the portrayal of Laura Brown in the 2001 segment. Fearing that suitable makeup couldn't make Julianne Moore look elderly, and due to scheduling conflicts, Betsy Blair was cast to play the role of Old Laura. Scenes were filmed with Meryl Streep. However, director Stephen Daldry was so dissatisfied with the outcome that Moore was brought in much later in "old" make-up, to re-shoot scenes with Streep. It took 6 hours to apply Moore's make-up for the scene.
As Richard is sitting on the window ledge, just before he commits suicide, he says to Clarissa, "I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been.". This was also a line in the suicide note written by Virginia Woolf to Leonard Woolf.