Oscars mystery solved: Why wasn’t Meryl Streep nominated for ‘The Hours’?

During our most recent podcast, Tom O’Neil and I debated Meryl Streep’s Oscar nomination for Best Actress in “August: Osage County.”

Due to the strong surge for “American Hustle,” it appeared that Amy Adams might knock her onetime “Doubt” and “Julia and Julia” costar Streep out of the lead actress category. After all, Streep had just won her third statuette two years ago for “The Iron Lady.” With the mixed reviews for her latest film, would she really gather enough of those crucial number one votes to secure another bid?

It was generally believed that Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine,” Sandra Bullock in “Gravity,” Judi Dench in “Philomena” and Emma Thompson in “Saving Mr. Banks” were all safe bets. If Adams made the cut, it looked like Streep would be the one to go. As we all know, that’s not how things turned out. Adams did manage to break into the race. But so did Streep – and it was poor Ms. Thompson who was left out in the cold. (Vote for Best Actress at the bottom of the post using our easy drag-and-drop menu.)

O’Neil emphasized to me that Streep has a built-in vote in the academy’s actors branch and is virtually ALWAYS going to be nominated for any solid performance. That explains her nods for films like “Postcards from the Edge,” “The Bridges of Madison County,” “One True Thing,” “Music of the Heart” and even “The Devil Wears Prada.” None of those pictures received widespread Oscar attention, yet Streep was cited every time.

For once, I actually agreed with O’Neil. However, this does leave one major question.

Why wasn’t Streep nominated for Best Actress of 2002 for “The Hours”?

For months before the movie’s release, the early word was that Streep, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore would all be vying for the Best Actress Oscar. Everyone else would have to fight for the two remaining slots. The contest was made even more complicated by Moore’s acclaimed work in “Far from Heaven” and Streep’s scene-stealing turn in “Adaptation.”

All three ladies competed for Best Actress at the Golden Globes, though Moore was recognized for “Heaven” rather than the “The Hours.” Kidman won, while Streep claimed the Supporting Actress prize for “Adaptation.”

Then the SAG Awards mixed things up by nominating Kidman and Moore for “The Hours” in the lead and supporting categories, respectively. Moore was also in the lead race for “Heaven.” Streep, however, was noticeably absent. It turns out that she had been submitted as a lead for both “The Hours” and “Adaptation,” presumably splitting her votes and landing her outside of the top five for both performances.

When the Oscar nominations were announced, Streep’s name WAS called – for Best Supporting Actress in “Adaptation.” But she was not mentioned for “The Hours,” even though Kidman, Moore and her scene mate Ed Harris all were. The film had done very well with the Academy, racking up an impressive nine nominations – including Best Picture, Best Director (Stephen Daldry) and Best Adapted Screenplay.

How could Streep have been left out?

Her character was very much the backbone of “The Hours,” and she had several dramatic exchanges with both Harris and Jeff Daniels. It was her first appearance in a Best Picture nominee since 1985’s “Out of Africa,” which had won the top honor. Why would the academy ignore its favorite actress while acknowledging her film in virtually every other major category? (Go ahead – insert your own prosthetic nose joke here.)

In addition to Kidman and Moore (in “Heaven,”) the Best Actress field was rounded out by Salma Hayek in “Frida,” Diane Lane in “Unfaithful” and Renee Zellweger in “Chicago.”  Hayek and Lane were in films that were not competing for Best Picture. “Unfaithul” had been released in May and received no other nominations; Lane’s inclusion was largely due to her awards from the New York Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics. Looking back, it’s somewhat surprising that both Hayek and Lane were both able to knock out the former “Sophie’s Choice” and “Kramer vs. Kramer” Oscar champ.

On Academy Awards night, Streep lost her “Adaptation” bid to Catherine Zeta-Jones in “Chicago.” Kidman prevailed as Best Actress, but neglected to thank Streep (and Moore.) Interestingly enough, it was Streep’s omission that probably saved Kidman, who was locked in an extremely tight race with Zellweger. Had two women from “The Hours” been in contention, vote-splitting might have spelled losses for both of them.

Streep has virtually no chance of winning this year for “August Osage County,” though we expect that she’ll most definitely be nominated again in the coming years. She may eventually win a fourth time and tie Katherine Hepburn’s record.

As for her snub for “The Hours,” the only thing more depressing is the movie itself. 

Who do you think is going to win Best Actress this year? Vote below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. Come back and change your predictions as often as you like till Oscar night, March 2. 

25 thoughts on “Oscars mystery solved: Why wasn’t Meryl Streep nominated for ‘The Hours’?

  1. Answer:No one cares,that’s was from 2002,focus on why was Meryl Streep again nominated for another Oscar.She should now focus on doing broadway and winning a Tony award or try winning a Grammy.

  2. With the Iron Lady just help Streep win another Oscar two years ago, I kind of wish Emma was nominated this year instead of Meryl for August even though she had been brilliant in that movie.

  3. “That explains her nods for films like “Postcards from the Edge,” “The Bridges of Madison County,” “One True Thing,” “Music of the Heart” and even “The Devil Wears Prada.” None of those pictures received widespread Oscar attention, yet Streep was cited every time.”
    Yes the movies was not successful but there can be no question of Streep’s performance!!! And “The Devil Wears Prada”???It received worldwide acclaim and Streep gave one of the best performances in her career.

  4. The fact that should be considered as a gifted credit (multiple nominations and wins) is being considered as a liability in Streep’s case.

  5. Streep and Thompson both deserved to be nominated. If anyone didn’t, it’s Amy Adams. She is getting so much over-hype with the overrated success of American Hustle. She was good, but not strong enough to knock out Streep.

  6. ‘The Hours’ was simply not one of her strongest performances. But ‘The Devil Wears Prada’? Come on…..that was spectacular.

  7. @Randall

    That’s harsh.

    “focus on why was Meryl Streep again nominated for another Oscar.She should now focus on doing broadway and winning a Tony award or try winning a Grammy.”

    Because she strongly deserved it. She should not stop doing movies. That would be a great loss for hollywood.

  8. I think it’s pretty shameful that a legend like Meryl Streep is being compared to Amy Adams. To be honest I have no idea why do academy keep nominating Adams year after years. I was watching ‘Doubt’ and I felt I saw Giselle from Enchanted. She’s good but honestly not versatile and very repetitive.She tried a lot of genres and repeated the same type of performance every time.

  9. Truth Speaker it was harsh,but my honest opinion.Meryl Streep has a filmography as long as every actress working today,I’m suggesting that may want to take a break from films for a while and light Broadway on fire and maybe to try winning a Tony award.I still think she’s the greatest actress of the latter 20th Century.That’s my Opinion,she’ll still make movies,just take a break.

  10. Streep should have been the only HOURS actress in lead. Kidman and Moore should have been in supporting. Watch the movie and tell me I’m wrong.

  11. I agree with O’Sanp – Kidman & Moore should have been in Supporting and Streep in Lead – I am bias in this I admit – I adore The Hours (its my no. 2 favorite film ever) and Clarissa Vaughan character I love and identify with so much – But I am surprised she wasn’t nominated in either category – It was a strong and emotional performance and the film was well liked by the nominating committee. Its a mystery, esp since it was a pretty weak year in Lead, IMO.

  12. By the by – yea The Devil Wears Prada was a great Meryl performance but it was completely a supporting performance – Yes the character of Miranda was very important to the story and very loud performance but the film was still about Hathaway’s Andy

  13. Meryl was great in august, enough said. As for the hours, she won the sag for adaptation and you can’t be nominated twice in the same category. The hours is a great film. As for the Iron Lady, no way should have won over viola davis.

  14. Streep was great in August:Osage County but about the Amy Adams thing…I love her, but come on, 5-time Oscar nominee – it is too much. Her performance in AH is way weaker than the performances of Emma Thompson, Julie Delpy and Brie Larson. Nobody championed Adams and now that she is nominated I see all over the internet comments of how good she is in the film. As for one of the greatest movies of all time “The Hours” – it is just a guide to acting, directing and writing. It will be studied in the years to come. Its complex characters and structure are at first hard to understand but after each viewing you find out more and more about it. While Clarissa was the backbone of the film, Virginia’s character was pivotal and essential for the development of the other characters.

  15. Why Academy keeps nominating Amy Adams so many times is still a mystery to me. I mean come on. I saw both AH and August and never felt for a second that Adams was even close to Streep, Streep was magnificent. And I can see there’s a Streep fatigue going on, it’s completely pointless. Just because she’s a great talent, have been nominated for Academy Awards 18 times, won 3 times, still showing no sign of retirement, some people are just tired of her and want her out of the way. It’s ridiculous and intolerable. There can be no question about her performance in August : Osage County. She would’ve won this time if it was not for her recent win for ‘The Iron Lady’.

  16. I was watching ‘The Iron Lady’. There if you watch Meryl’s face closely, yes, the make-up is remarkable; but just look at her eyes. She does and says more with her eyes than most actors do with pages of dialogue. It’s an amazing, amazing performance. The woman is genius

  17. @ Rachel G……..Very well said. She was amazing in ‘The Iron Lady’. My favorite female performance of the year and she completely deserved her 3rd Oscar.

  18. Eh, that year Meryl was safe for her supporting turn in Adaptation. Voters simply knew she would not get double noms.


    I truly wish TDWP had been more about Miranda. She’s fabulous. (1000 times better than in the novel)
    It’s always the “bad guys” who are more interesting than the “good” ones, aren’t they?

  19. First off, Streep did not win the SAG for Adaptation (as mentioned in a post below), and is clearly addressed in the above article. But she DID win the Oscar for The Iron Lady, get over it ! I was not surprised when she did not receive a nomination for The Hours. She had the least showiest role, and though she was excellent, her costars and eventual nominees in that category all deserved to be there. Much like 1996 when all the talk was about Streep in Marvin’s Room, but Diane Keaton snagged the Best Actress nomination, deservedly so. So for all those people saying she is over nominated, not true. I think the Academy pretty much gets it right.

  20. The only mystery to me was why DIANE LANE did not win. She gave the best performance and she OWNED ‘Unfaithful’. Kidman was a supporting role at best. Regardless of what you thought about the film ‘Unfaithful’, Diane Lane was AMAZING in it and deserved more award recognition than she got.

  21. Yeah seriously, did the editors even read this piece before posting it? How is it MYSTERY SOLVED when Tariq doesn’t posit any theories or provide any explanation or why Meryl Streep wasn’t nominated for The Hours. This piece was basically just a flashback to 2002, explaining the precursory circumstances surrounding her non-nomination for that film, but it doesn’t SOLVE anything.

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