By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated February 18, 2003 01:00 PM

Nicole Kidman’s role as author Virginia Woolf in “The Hours” is widely expected to land her the big one: an Oscar for Best Actress this year.

But her big nose — a fake one applied by makeup artists for the film — is something else, reports The New York Times, which notes that purists are wailing over the movie’s presumptuous imitation of Woolf’s writing as well as her supposed obsession with suicide.

But, mostly, it is the schnoz that’s the source of irritation.

Jane Marcus, an English professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center (and author of three volumes of essays on Woolf) had one reaction for The Times: “Ugh.”

She then went on to say: “Imagine the great brilliance of Virginia Woolf to be turned into this absolutely maimed fool with a really ugly nose.”

Marcus claims that her academic colleagues don’t like the movie, or its source, author Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Hours,” which re-imagines Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway.”

Despite this, “The Hours” received nine Oscar nominations last Tuesday, including those for Kidman and for the screenplay. And Cunningham’s book is a bestseller, as is Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” which is the No. 1 paperback on the list for the first time in the book’s 78-year history.

Still, don’t try to convince the unconvinced about the movie’s quality. “What really put me off was The Nose,” Martha Musgrove, a doctoral candidate at the University of Ottawa, tells The Times. “Nicole Kidman wore a permanent frown and looked cross-eyed throughout the film, clearly distressed at this thing in the middle of her face.”

Nosing in to have his say, author Cunningham, recently profiled in PEOPLE, admitted to being perplexed by the reaction.

“I wonder what movie those people are seeing and what book they’re reading,” he said. “The book I wrote and the movie that was made from the book do as much honor as was possible to her vitality, charm and brilliance … To see it otherwise is a sort of cranky and willful misviewing.”