Golden Globe nominee Julianne Moore feeling the award-season love
Article taken from San Francisco Chronicles.
When Julianne Moore walks the red carpet into the Beverly Hilton Hotel for the Sunday, Jan. 11, Golden Globe Awards, she has good reason to have an acceptance speech — or two — memorized.
It has been quite a fall film season for Moore. She won the Cannes Film Festival’s best actress award for her role as a mercurial aging celebrity whose star is fading in David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars.” She is nominated for a Golden Globe for that film (in the comedy category) as well as for her much talked-about, devastatingly realistic portrayal of an early-onset Alzheimer’s patient in the new film “Still Alice,” co-directed and written by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland.
Based on the 2009 novel “Still Alice” by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, the film quietly screened without a distributor at the Toronto Film Festival. (Sony Pictures Classics picked it up within days of its premiere.) Buzz has been mounting ever since about Moore’s performance as Columbia University linguistics Professor Alice Howland, who must face the bewildering, and then unsparing, deterioration of her once-sharp mind.
Moore has already received best-actress honors for “Still Alice” at the Gotham and Hollywood Film Awards, and has been nominated by the Screen Actors Guild. If Oscar handicappers are right, Moore might finally take home the Academy Award that has, surprisingly, eluded her despite previous nominations for “Far From Heaven,” “The Hours,” “The End of the Affair” and “Boogie Nights.”
“Oh, the attention feels absolutely great,” Moore, 54, said of all the awards-season hoopla by phone from New York, where she lives with her husband, filmmaker Bart Freund- lich, and their son and daughter. “It’s thrilling to have people talk about your work and say it’s special. Prizes and honors are meaningful. I am not jaded.”
After almost 25 years in the movie business, taking on both blockbusters (she is President Alma Coin in the current “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1”) as well as tiny-budget indies (“What Maisie Knew”) and family dramas (“The Kids Are All Right”), Moore is refreshingly down to earth and unguarded.
Serious-minded about her craft, she is also upbeat about loving “the adventure of telling stories about people having profound experiences, and figuring out what that is for them, from the inside out.”
Moore spent four months immersing herself in Alzheimer’s research. “I started by watching every Alzheimer’s documentary I could get my hands on,” she says. “Then I went to the head of the Alzheimer’s Association, who talked about her own experiences with her mother and grandmother having it. They set me up on Skype calls with women around the country who had early-onset diagnoses. One of them, Sandy, who is now a friend, had been diagnosed at 45, which is just astonishing.”
In the film, Alice, whose husband is played by Alec Baldwin, receives her diagnosis at age 50. We watch her slide rapidly from forgetting familiar words during a lecture to looking blankly at the face of her own daughter (Kristin Stewart, who shares some of the most memorable scenes with Moore).
The camera lingers on Moore’s face as it registers the progressive degrees of confusion and helplessness that are the disease’s particular cruelties to someone whose identity has been tied to her intellectual accomplishments.
Met with patients
In preparation, Moore also consulted prominent Alzheimer’s researcher Dr. Mary Sano at Mount Sinai Hospital, underwent an extensive battery of cognitive tests herself and met with patients, family members and caregivers in support groups and at a long-term care facility.
“I would tell everyone I spoke to that I really want to understand what this feels like,” Moore says. “I need to be able to depict it honestly, and not generally. I asked, ‘What does it feel like to get lost? To not know the name for something you use every day? What is it you want me to show that you feel hasn’t been represented?’
“And people were great. Very human and funny. One woman said all her children had given her puzzles for Christmas, and we both started to laugh so hard. Yeah, great, Mom has Alzheimer’s, so we’re going to give her a puzzle.”
One insight that helped Moore most was learning “that although we believe there is a steady progression to Alzheimer’s, people told me over and over that there is not. You can have a really good day and feel like nothing is wrong with you, and then you have a bad day and think, I can’t believe I ever thought nothing was wrong.”
That variability became central to Moore’s portrayal of Alice’s decline. She is able to muster the clarity and fortitude to deliver a powerful speech to an Alzheimer’s conference, yet forgets that her older daughter (Kate Bosworth) has just had a baby when she enters her hospital room.
Moore’s character relies heavily on her smartphone to remember for her, setting reminders and devising lists of questions to gauge her own forgetfulness.
“My friend Sandy said she would make a list and check things off, and if she didn’t write ‘Eat’ on the list, she wouldn’t eat,” Moore says.
Directors Glatzer and Westmoreland, who are married and previously directed “Quinceañera” (2006), “had done a lot of research themselves,” yet were “incredibly receptive to all these ideas I’d bring to them,” Moore says. They had courted Moore for the role in 2013 after realizing their 2-year-old “Still Alice” project was taking on greater personal significance. Glatzer was diagnosed with ALS in 2011 and was experiencing a rapid decline by the time of filming.
‘Their own story’
“They were in the middle of their own story of living with a progressive degenerative disease and were incredibly inspiring,” Moore says. “Richard couldn’t speak and was directing through an iPad, and yet they were telling this story about what it means to be yourself and live your life while in the presence of something that is truly terrifying.”
As its title suggests, “Still Alice” wrestles with the profound question of how much of a person’s uniqueness remains when their memories and cognitive abilities are in decline.
“I gave that a tremendous amount of thought,” Moore says. “I found that this notion that someone is obliterated by the disease is completely untrue. Even in the patients I spoke to who were most declined, a lot of who they were still came through to me. It’s astonishing, but there is something there. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I think we have to appreciate the fact that it is still there.”