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Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009)
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The petite (5′ 5′), porcelain-skinned, auburn-haired Julianne Moore has consistently demonstrated her range and skill not to mention her intelligence as an actress and has proven equally at home on stage, screen or TV. As the child of a career military man, she experienced a peripatetic childhood. After graduating from the American High School in Frankfurt, Germany, Moore (nee Julie Ann Smith) attended Boston University where she began her career on stage.

Like countless others, she flocked to Manhattan after graduating and fulfilled the necessary stint as a waitress before landing a bit role on the ABC soap “Edge of Night”. By 1985, though, the actress had caught her first break when she was cast as Frannie Hughes on the popular CBS daytime drama “As the World Turns.” The same show spawned the careers of Marissa Tomei and Meg Ryan and like those two performers, Moore dominated her scenes on the soap. Popular with the fans, she was given added responsibilities with a dual role as Frannie’s look-a-like British half-sister and in 1988 received a justifiably deserved Daytime Emmy Award.

Leaving the security (as well as the pigeonholing) of daytime behind, Moore segued first to primetime TV playing India West, Valerie Bertinelli’s best friend, in the CBS miniseries “I’ll Take Manhattan” (1987), based on a Judith Krantz potboiler. Other roles in TV-movies followed while she continued to act on stage in regional theater and Off-Broadway. Eventually the actress landed her first film role as a mummy’s victim in the forgettable “Tales From the Darkside: The Movie” (1990). Moore really did not make an impact on screen until she played the career-driven real estate agent friend of new mom Annabella Sciorra in the surprise box-office hit thriller “The Hand the Rocks the Cradle” (1992).

Her ascendancy to critics’ darling began with a three-minute scene as a medical colleague of Dr, Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) in the big screen adaptation of “The Fugitive” and as Matthew Modine’s artist wife who delivers a confessional monologue while nude from the waist down in Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts” (both 1993). Further building on her status as rising star were her luminous, poised portrayal of Yelena in “Vanya on 42nd Street” (1994) and as the housewife who develops allergies to everyday chemicals and fragrances in Todd Haynes’ allegorical “Safe” (1995).

Moore attempted to raise her profile in more mainstream features by undertaking roles like Hugh Grant’s pregnant girlfriend in “Nine Months” and an electronics expert targeted for death in “Assassins” (both 1995) but neither truly made full use of her astonishing range. She was slightly better served as the artist’s mistress Dora Maar in “Surviving Picasso” (1996) and as the moody daughter of a highly dysfunctional family in the indie “The Myth of Fingerprints” (1997). Audiences began to put a name to her face after her 1997 appearance as a paleontologist pursuing dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”. Moore rounded out that year and picked up a richly deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination as a drug addicted porn star who plays mother to the ragtag film crew in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights.”

After time off for motherhood, the in-demand actress teamed with the Coen brothers for “The Big Lebowski” (1998) to play the disaffected daughter of an aging millionaire, an artist who puts paint on her body and then flings herself at the canvas. She followed with a slightly more conventional role, stepping into Vera Miles’ shoes as Lila Crane (albeit somewhat butched up) in Gus Van Sant’s unnecessary shot-by-shot color remake of Hitchcock’s 1960 classic “Psycho.”

Moore kicked off 1999, her busiest year to date, with the first of five feature appearances as an eccentric Southerner in Robert Altman’s “Cookie’s Fortune”. Segueing to period drama, she polished her flawless British accent to play a scheming woman not above blackmail in Oliver Parker’s take on the Oscar Wilde play “An Ideal Husband” and then offered an Oscar-nominated turn as an adulterous wife in the WWII-set “The End of the Affair,” Neil Jordan’s excellent adaptation of the Graham Greene novel.

Returning to more contemporary times, Moore continued to display her versatility as an almost saintly mother whose child dies while in the care of her best friend in “A Map of the World” and the pill-popping trophy wife of a dying TV executive who comes to realize she has fallen in love with her husband in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Altmanesque “Magnolia.”

Despite being widely respected by both critics and audiences (though never a major “movie star”-style box office draw), Moore’s career hit a rocky patch beginning in 2001, when she took over the role of FBI agent Clarice Starling, a role made famous by Jodie Foster, in the horror feature “Hannibal.” The role, however, did little for Moore when the film was universally panned. Less reviled but equally unsuccessful was “Evolution” (2001), a sci-fi comedy co-starring David Duchovny that audiences also avoided, followed by a turn as Wavey Prowse in the disappointing film adaptation of the beloved and much-heralded novel “The Shipping News” (2001) which failed to score either critically or commercially.

Nevertheless, Moore’s career was built on accomplished acting over box office blockbusters, and she continued on to make a steady stream of films throughout 2002, including a particularly praised turn as Cathy Whitaker, a suburban housewife who finds her picture perfect life quickly dissolving in the 50’s drama “Far From Heaven” (2002), directed by her “Safe” helmer Todd Haynes.

As the neglected wife whose husband (Dennis Quaid) is secretly homosexual, Moore turned in a sublime performance, wearing her heartbreak behind a mask of porcelain smiles and polite gestures as her world suddenly crashes around her. Moore next teamed with two other top screen actresses, Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep, for “The Hours” (2002), in which she plays one of three women, each in a different time period, in a trio of interconnected storylines. As in “Far From Heaven,” Moore again played another silently suffering 1950s housewife, but her portrayal was entirely original, if darker and more troubling. Both triumphant performances paid off spectacularly with not one but two Academy Award nomination, as Best Actress for “Far From Heaven” and Best Supporting Actress in “The Hours.”

After her remarkable string of dramatic roles, Moore next tested the waters of romantic comedy again in the uninspired, little-seen “Laws of Attraction” (2004), playing opposite Pierce Brosnan; the pair played opposing divorce lawyers who, despite their adversarial courtroom relationship, wake up to discover they’ve gotten married after a romantic, if alcohol-soaked, evening. Her next film, the moody, mysterioso thriller “The Forgotten” (2004), fared much better at the box office, with Moore cast as a woman who is told her son never existed, sending her on an investigation that uncovers a paranormal explanation.

Moore then played another 1950’s suburban housewife in “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” (2005), a true-life tale of Evelyn Ryan, a mother of twelve who keeps her impoverished household afloat by entering and winning jingle contests while her bum of a husband (Woody Harrelson) drinks away his meager wages.

After starring in the dismal romantic comedy “Trust the Man” (2006) and the equally unpleasant thriller “Freedomland” (2006), Moore had a striking appearance in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men” (2006), a futuristic dystopian tale about a former political activist (Clive Owen) turned down-and-out bureaucrat who is convinced by a former lover (Moore) to help transport a young pregnant woman (Clare-Hope Ashitey)—who carries with the world’s only child after all humanity has become infertile—to the fabled Human Project in order to save the future.

In a rare action role, Moore starred opposite Nicolas Cage in “Next” (2007), playing an FBI counterterrorist agent trying to track down a Las Vegas magician (Cage) with the power to foresee and change the outcome of future events in order to prevent a nuclear attack. After playing a character based on Joan Baez in Todd Haynes unusual biopic about Bob Dylan, “I’m Not There” (2007), she played the underclass wife of a well-bred man (Stephane Dillane) and mother of a homosexual son (Eddie Redmayne) who tries to cure him of his so-called problem, only to meet a disastrous end in the real-life tale of the affluent, dysfunctional Baekeland family in “Savage Garden” (2008).

© Various Sources
Last Updated: March 10, 2009.
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