New York is full of famous people trying to look like they aren’t famous and not- famous people trying to look like they are, so when Julianne Moore walks into Cafe Cluny in the West Village, it’s instantly obvious that she’s part of the former category.
Dressed in all black—black shoes, black pants, black sweater, black coat, black sunglasses, black hat—she’s the classic archetype of a New Yorker, but with something more to hide than most of us. Like the fact that underneath all that winter gear, she’s Julianne Moore.
Hat and glasses removed, the secret is out. With hair color somewhere between pumpkin and persimmon, and facial features so expressive that talking with her is as if one of those How Are You Feeling Today? posters came to life, she’s a vital force, even at nine in the morning, and even though she’s done enough interviews to last two lifetimes. When I ask if she finds the experience of being profiled stressful, her face contorts from steady and serious to open and reflective until at last she lands on theatrical exuberance.
“It’s kind of unusual, because nobody’s ever going to get to know you, really, over the course of an interview, even over the course of a few days or a couple weeks. They’re going to form a capsule of you,” she says. (Serious.) What about that several- thousand-word John Lahr New Yorker profile that came out a few years ago? “I mean, come on, it’s also enormously flattering to have a long New Yorker profile. It certainly serves my ego.” (Reflective.) On this last line, she unlocks an ear-to-ear smile and holds a hand to her chest, eyes wide and leaning in towards me. “‘Oh, it’s all about me!’” (Theatrical and exuberant.)
To engage with Julianne Moore in conversation is to get a real life reminder of the diversity of her talents, for in person, she exhibits a tiny shade of everything. Her strength is in shapeshifting—from indie darling to blockbuster star, siren to cipher, warmth to frost—while rarely having to default to the Hollywood tradition of spackling a star in prosthetics, draping them in period costume, and calling it a day. She is so studied that even with the hallmark of her terracotta hair, you lose contact with Julianne Moore the public figure within seconds of seeing her onscreen.