According to Julianne Moore’s Wikipedia page, the Oscar-winning actor is known for her portrayals of “emotionally troubled women,” which is a pretty verbose way to say “women” or simply “humans.” It’s true that Moore’s most memorable films have found her playing, as the page continues, the “unhappy mid-20th-century housewife,” including The End of the Affair (1999), Far From Heaven (2002), The Hours (2002), and Todd Haynes’s chilling 1995 masterpiece Safe. In Safe, Moore plays a chemically sensitive homemaker who defines herself by suburban consumer products and other peoples’ perceptions, her life destitute of all desire other than to be heard as her health condition spirals. There’s a scene in which Carol is seen through the tiny window of her hermetically sealed pod-hut, resembling the viral photos of COVID patients ‘touching’ loved ones through hospital glass or the gay men shut out from society when AIDS was still a mystery illness. Haynes worked with costume designer Nancy Steiner to create an equally sterile wardrobe of mostly pastels where even specific fabrics—Carol’s unbleached “safe” linens, the upholstering on her seafoam-green couch—are permeated with a sense of dreadful anticipation, casting a harsh light on the universal human impulse to define one’s self by looking out rather than in. Some stories are so large that the particulars become stripped of gravity; specific characters are subsumed by a more abstract emotion that fills the present while rejecting a timestamp entirely. It’s these stories that Moore looks for in a script.
Moore’s latest project is a psychological horror that bends time in a more literal sense. Lisey’s Story, screening on Apple TV+ and adapted from Stephen King’s own favorite novel, sees Moore in the role of a widow sorting through the papers of her novelist husband. Lisey’s Story traverses multiple timelines, creating a sense that the past can be no less critical than the present, as Lisey embarks on a terrifying journey to face her late husband’s demons. Moore also explored the precarity of memory in the 2014 drama Still Alice, in which she plays a young Harvard professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s. In preparation for the performance that would earn her a Best Actress win at the 2015 Academy Awards, Moore spoke to a team of neuroscientists, as well as many young women who had recently been diagnosed with the disease. Moore is a voracious researcher when it comes to preparation for a role, often embarking on her own journeys into darkness before filming has even started: To rapidly prepare for playing Sarah Palin in 2012’s Game Change, she shut herself off from the world for two months of nonstop Sarah Palin studies, listening to nothing but the uniquely choleric voice of the notorious Alaskan who paved the way for Donald Trump.
It’s no wonder Grace Coddington cited Moore, alongside a host of young British acting talents, when the indomitable former Vogue editor was planning the film adaptation of her 2012 memoir Grace. (Grace was optioned in 2015 by independent production company A24.) Coddington had crossed paths with Moore on multiple occasions before the two joined Document’s editor-in-chief, Nick Vogelson, on a recent afternoon in Long Island for the following conversation. The British fashion editor and the American actor share many uncommon things in common: natural red hair and a love of being in hospitals chief among them. But above all else, they share a belief in the paramount importance of narrative. Before being scouted as a model, Coddington was drawn to fashion—she initially wanted to be a costume designer—through the magic of Shakespeare. Famously, even Coddington’s most fantastical editorials are as meticulous as a movie production when it comes to conveying a cohesive story. “You can take that bit out, ’cause I always quote that,” Coddington says after railing against the idea of high heels being worn in a beach shoot. “It’s stupid, but it’s true. It has to be real or it doesn’t work.”
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