In the new movie Still Alice, Julianne Moore plays Alice Howland, a 50-year-old linguistics professor at Columbia with a razor-sharp intellect. She’s at the prime of her career, but gradually she starts to forget things. She loses her way, she gets fuzzy — and she is soon diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The movie charts her rapid decline and her struggle to hold on to her sense of self.
“She is someone who has always defined herself by her intellect, and now that that’s something she can’t depend on, she’s finding that she doesn’t really know who she is,” Moore tells NPR’s Melissa Block.
On speaking with people who had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s
I spoke to so many people. I didn’t have any familiarity with Alzheimer’s. I think I’m one of the few people who hasn’t had a family member affected by it. When I spoke to the filmmakers, I said I didn’t want to represent anything on screen that I hadn’t witnessed myself or [that hadn’t] been described to me. So my research process was pretty lengthy. I actually had about four months. And the women I spoke to were soincredibly generous with their time and their thoughts and their experiences, and it was a pretty profound experience.
On what she learned from her research
One of the things that I sort of misunderstood about Alzheimer’s is that somehow it … just affected memory, just simple memory. What I didn’t really understand [is] that it’s also kind of a neuro-spatial disease — that you’re going to have a different interpretation of how things are happening to you.