NEW YORK – The Hours (search) may have been up for Best Picture, but someone in the airline industry thought the film could use some editing. And we're not talking about the widely criticized Philip Glass (search) score.
Sharp-eyed passengers aboard Continental Airlines, American and other carriers showing The Hours noticed something missing from the Oscar-winning film: a sensual lip-lock between Julianne Moore (search) and Toni Collette (search), and a desperate kiss Nicole Kidman (search) planted on Miranda Richardson (search).
Who's behind the slicing remains a mystery; the airlines and the studios deny responsibility.
"There was no mandate from above about homosexual content," says Continental rep Wanda Williams. "Maybe another airline asked for those cuts. But I like to think of Continental as forward-thinking."
But Paramount tells a different story. "The airlines asked us to edit the movie," says Mark Horton, director of ancillary sales for Paramount Pictures. "While they would accept the content of the film, the feeling was they couldn't show women kissing.
While Rob Friedman, the vice chairman and chief operating officer of Paramount, wasn't happy with the tinkering, he ultimately signed off on the sale.
"Of course, the film we release theatrically is the film we always wanted the public to see," says Friedman. "But at some point, you have to make a choice. When you're proud of a film, you want it to be seen by the largest possible audience."
(While Friedman wouldn't talk money, an airline sale can bring in $1 million for a studio.)
Hours director Stephen Daldry (search), who declined comment, may never have even seen the doctored version. "He was probably consulted and probably did not want to do it," says Friedman.
Airlines generally book family-friendly, PG-rated versions for the main cabin, where everyone is forced to watch the same film. An American Airlines internal memo obtained by The Post stipulates that no airline crashes be shown in flight, and calls for "minimum bloodshed, rare gun use, no nudity, no terrorism and no sexual profanity."
Wanda Williams of Continental says the airline books uncut releases for in-seat viewers, since these passengers have a choice. But on a recent flight, the edited version of The Hours played alongside an uncut copy of Ray Liotta's R-rated thriller, Narc.
"We are in discussions with the airlines and are asking them to re-evaluate the process by which they edit their in-flight entertainment," says Scott Seomin of the gay media watchdog group GLAAD.
Hollywood director and producer Greg Berlanti points out The Hours isn't the same without those entanglements.
"And by the way, shouldn't the airlines have greater concerns these days than editing films?"