Julianne Moore and Her Art-Full Life
Article taken from Town & Country.
When Julianne Moore bounds into the Judd Foundation on a stormy day in October, she unleashes a squeal of delight, the sort of sound generally directed at, say, One Direction’s Harry Styles. “This is soooo cool,” she says. “I’m so excited!”
Her enthusiasm—genuine and disarming—is for the location, 101 Spring Street, the New York City home and studio of the late artist Donald Judd. Restored and opened to the public in 2013, the Judd Foundation is a pristine time capsule of how he lived and worked, and Moore has been pining to visit. “A friend was going to take me here a while back,” she says, “but I couldn’t go, and I keep meaning and meaning to come.” Moore—casual in loose-fitting blue jeans, blue blazer, and Adidas Rod Laver sneakers—pulls her iPhone out of her black and cream Givenchy satchel and gets busy documenting the room, which is filled with a sampling of the colorful metal furniture Judd began making in the 1980s, as well as a series of prints from ’88–’90. (“Donald Judd: Prints” runs through December 19.) Our guide, Allison Ake, tells us photography is not allowed above this floor. “Don’t worry, these are just for me,” Moore says. “You should see how many of the pictures on my phone are just interiors.”
The actress inherited her jones for interior design from her late mother Anne. “Any kind of historical home, we’d walk through it. I’ve always liked looking at stuff—furniture and objects.”
Judd, who died in 1994, bought this cast iron building for his family for $68,000 in 1968, when the area was a wasteland, before it was christened Soho and turned into an outdoor shopping mall with quaint proportions. His groundbreaking work established a new visual language—a rejection of both traditional painting and sculpture—making him one of the most influential minimalists of the 20th century. But he was an unintentional pioneer of something else: loft living. Though Judd disavowed the label “minimalist,” his spare, neo-industrial renovation of 101 Spring Street, as well as the furniture he filled it with, was to become New York’s default design mode—one that Moore obviously appreciates. She covetously eyes the sweep of the room, the wide-plank floors, and impossibly tall windows. “I think I’ll tell my family that I want an old loft for Christmas,” Moore says. “We have a townhouse in the West Village that we renovated 12 years ago, but I’m ready for something new.”
I ask Moore if she collects art. “Yeaaaaaaaaah,” she says hesitantly. “Some little sculpture things, a few paintings, a lot of narrative photography. But I wouldn’t say I’m a major collector. The art market is out of control,” she adds with a laugh. “But I like the idea of living with art.” She looks around. “Not that I can claim to understand Donald Judd.”
Very simply put, Judd created a rich and complex body of work from a most elemental form, the box. In 1965 he wrote a manifesto of sorts, “Specific Objects,” that laid out, among other things, his belief that art should stand on its own, without alluding to anything beyond its physical presence—a revolutionary idea at the time. “There’s so much that’s self-referential about art,” Moore says, “and then you read Judd and he talks about making things with no references in them. That’s compelling to me—the idea of being able to look at something just to look at something, and the idea of giving yourself the time to really do that, and to let it register. Buddhists call it the act of noticing.”
A rather unfashionable idea, I say, nodding at the devices we’re both holding. She grins sheepishly, admitting that her guilty pleasure is Twitter. “It’s the one thing I’m addicted to. I follow a lot of comedians and news sites. I never sit quietly anymore.”
JUDD WAS A famously fastidious artist, preoccupied with precision and order and detail—like the nuances of the material he worked with. These strike me as things that Moore would understand very well. She is someone who prepares assiduously, even for a role in a film as mass-market as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2 (out November 20). She tells me that the deep dive into the how and why of a role is one of the things she enjoys most. “I love that part of the job. I love it every single time,” she says, whether it’s interviewing early onset Alzheimer’s patients for her Oscar-winning performance in Still Alice or, for the recent Freeheld, in which she plays a gay cop, working with a lesbian officer to understand “the specifics of being a Jersey cop versus a New York cop, like where you have your badge, where you have your gun, what you might do with your hair. And being a female cop, and what that means in those environments. All these things that signify who you are.”
In the upcoming Maggie’s Plan, a highbrow romantic comedy directed by Rebecca Miller (daughter of Arthur Miller, wife of Daniel Day-Lewis), Moore plays Georgette, an ambitious, self- absorbed Danish academic. She and Miller spent more than a year hammering out the details, and what could have been a caricature becomes vulnerable and appealing—while still hilariously self- centered—in Moore’s hands. “What I liked about Georgette is that everyone makes these suppositions about her, that she’s a monster, but as you get to know her you think, Oh, she’s just like me, she just has a Danish accent,” says Moore, who shared some of the more whimsical items in her own wardrobe with her character: nerd-chic shoes (Birkenstocks, clog boots) and fluffy Ryan Roche sweaters.
There was a moment when Miller suggested that Georgette could be played as an American. “And I was like, ‘Oh, I have to have an accent. I’m only doing this because I have an accent,'” Moore says. Her reasoning was related to a joke only she and Miller would get, something they experienced growing up. “My mother was born in Scotland, and Rebecca’s is European, so we both had parents with something different about them. Someone who is potentially inscrutable but is maybe just European.” She laughs. “For Georgette’s kids, that crazy European woman is just their mother.”
Miller, a longtime friend, appreciates Julie’s sense of story. “Some great actors don’t have that—being able to look from the outside and see the whole thing. Julie also has a strong visual sense; she knows what she has to transmit in a wide shot versus a close-up. So she’s a filmmaker in that she understands that she’s part of telling the story.”
“Julie is a cinema star. She knows how to manipulate the medium,”says Ethan Hawke, who plays Moore’s husband in Maggie’s Plan. “I would compare her to Jack Nicholson or Jeff Bridges in that way—actors who came up in film rather than in theater. She reminds me of that expression: The one way to be great is to be good over and over and over. And I think that her choice to work mostly in independent films with low budgets—where you don’t have a huge trailer and 15 million people getting you coffee, and you usually don’t get paid very much—has taught her to be resourceful, and also to have a certain humility, which you see in every part of her life. She’s having a hall of fame career, but she’s not doing it with grand strokes, you know?”
Hawke has been friends with Moore and her husband, film director Bart Freundlich, for more than a decade; their kids go to the same school in New York City. But this is their first time acting together, and it has been enlightening. “She’s supereasy to be around, but also, don’t fuck with her,” he says with a laugh. “It was really clear to me at rehearsal that we were now at work, and there was a way that she was going to work.” How was that? “Unlike a lot of actors, who wait around for the brilliant director to give them a chance to be as good as they want to be, Julie creates that chance. She’s not waiting for permission.”
BY NOW WE’RE on the Judd Foundation’s second floor, and Ake is giving us a brief history of the five-story building, erected in 1870 as a textile factory and turned by Judd into a 3-D version of his work/life philosophy. Each floor is dedicated to a specific function: working, living, or exhibiting. It’s an idea he expanded upon when he eventually acquired 16 buildings in tiny Marfa, Texas, which became his primary base after 1977.
“Oh, I love it!” Moore yelps as we enter another long, light-filled space, this one half dining room, half kitchen. We peek inside ingenious built-in wooden closets and admire the orderly rows of ceramic bowls and equipment that Judd collected despite having no particularly strong interest in cooking. (For a minimalist he was a bit of a pack rat.) “He liked the way things looked,” Moore says appreciatively.
I ask Moore if she cooks. “No, I’m terrible,” she says. “I always say I wish I enjoyed it more. I like to bake—I always make cornbread at Thanksgiving, which is our favorite holiday to host. We usually have between 25 and 40 people, our family and friends that we’ve known since the kids were little.” Christmas is quieter. “Just the four of us. My son usually has a basketball tournament. But I love being in the city then.”
Moore has two children with Freundlich, her second husband, whom she met when she starred in his 1997 movie The Myth of Fingerprints. “Cal is 17. Wait—when does this story come out?” I tell her December, and she makes a strangled sound. “He’ll be 18! Which is kind of crazy.” She pauses to digest this fact. “Liv is 13, so she’s very much at the beginning of her adolescent stuff,” Moore adds. Does Liv remind Moore of herself at that age? “No, not at all. She’s just her own person. What’s amazing is how quickly that happens. My mother said, about me and my sister and brother, ‘You are who you are. You aren’t any different from the day you were born.’ I remembered that distinctly when my kids were born, because they came with very specific temperaments.”
Judd’s former studio is on the third floor, with a library off the main room, and Moore chronicles every nook and cranny. She immediately identifies Alvar Aalto as the designer of two sinuous wooden chairs. “Look at you,” I say, “with your fancy designer knowledge.” She giggles and blushes. “It’s my thang.” Does she own Aalto? “Yes, and a lot of Scandinavian, a lot of Danish. I have some Harvey Probber and a Nakashima table. I’m good friends with Evan Lobel, who runs Lobel Modern. He introduced me to Probber, and Carl Springer.” She loves the city’s antiques stores but bemoans the way sites like 1stdibs.com are forcing a lot of brick- and-mortars to close. “There’s no sense of the hunt anymore.”
The study’s shelves, which used to be filled with some of Judd’s 13,000 books, are sparsely lined with objects—pencils, rocks, and personal artifacts placed in solemn rows. “If an object was beautiful, Don thought it should be displayed,” Ake says. “It would be very hard to live this way,” Moore says enviously. She is something of a neat freak living with three people who are not. “Believe me,” Ake says, “there are older photos, from when this was Don’s only residence, where stuff is everywhere.” “That makes me feel better,” Moore says with a grin.
She has a network of very fine lines around her mouth and eyes, evidence of a joy that often bubbles to the surface. It’s a vivacity that can catch you off guard, though less so lately. After years of playing—embodying—repressed, unsatisfied women in such films as Safe, Far from Heaven, and The Hours, a looser, bawdier Moore began to show up just around the 50-year mark, in 2009—first on 30 Rock, when she played Alec Baldwin’s Boston girlfriend over a few seasons, and then, in 2010, as half of a lesbian couple (opposite Annette Bening) in Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right. She had done comedy before (see her priceless clenched artist in The Big Lebowski), but never with such goofy abandon. Last year she aced satire with her acute portrait of an aging, self-obsessed actress in Maps to the Stars (for which she won Best Actress at Cannes).
“I do think The Kids Are All Right marked a change—of her not seeming so beautiful and perfect that you couldn’t relate to her,” Hawke says. “When Julie was younger, it was really important to take herself seriously—if she didn’t, no one else would. But after 15 or 20 years of that, people start to think that you’re self-serious. And she’s not at all. That role, while emotional and complex, showed she had a real sense of humor about herself.”
AS WE MOVE INTO JUDD’S studio, I ask Moore about one of her recent tweets, a funny reaction to her dog catching a rat. She explains that her Lab mix had cornered and killed a rodent in the backyard of her place in Montauk, a rather too frequent occurrence both there and in the city. “And then they come and lick your face,” she says, making a gagging sound.
Moore recently listed her modest place on Fort Pond for $3.5 million. “Montauk used to be deserted and quiet, which was why I loved it,” she says. “But it’s gotten so crazy. I’m not a beach person. If I were single I’d have a place in the mountains, but my husband loves to surf, and so does our son.”
Judd believed that the placement of art was as critical to understanding it as the work itself—a concept he called “permanent installation.” The hundreds of pieces on display at the foundation—by Judd or friends like Dan Flavin, Frank Stella, and Lucas Samaras—are exactly as Judd installed them. Given this fact, I mistake two objects artfully placed on the floor of his studio—an African headrest above a small woven carpet—for a conceptual piece. In fact, Ake says, they’re there to illustrate “the idea of a place to lie down and spend time with your work. All of Judd’s Marfa studios have a daybed or bench with a mattress, somewhere he could look at his work.” “I think it’s a guy thing,” says Moore. “My husband’s offices always have a place where he can lie down and spend time.”
We continue to the top floor of the building, the family’s former sleeping area. The main room looks like a gallery that just happens to have a low wooden platform bed, seemingly floating at its center. A fantastic light sculpture by Flavin runs the length of a wall of windows; it is the room’s only light other than a tiny lamp in the frame of the bed. Works by other friends—a massive John Chamberlain and a Claes Olden- burg soft sculpture—hang on other walls. “I have to figure out a way to convince my kids to go to Marfa, maybe after Christmas,” Moore says, but she doesn’t sound optimistic. “It’s hard, as you know, to get teenagers to do anything with you.”
Lately she can count such times on one hand. “My husband surprised me on Mother’s Day. He bought us all passes to the Whitney, and my kids had to come. And then we all went to brunch. It was fantastic!”
As we’re leaving the foundation I ask Moore to describe her perfect day. “I’m really easy to please,” she says. “My family laughs at me because what makes me happiest is just walking around and finding a fun, cool new restaurant. I’m always like, ‘Let’s go to a new restaurant!’ And everyone else is [she makes a comically sad face], ‘No, let’s just go where we always go.’ “
Hawke says Moore is not especially complicated. “Julie’s really serious about her work as an artist, but her priority is her relationship with Bart and her kids.” He says she shows up at every bake sale, every basketball game—”way more than me. You get a sense of people over 10 years, how much they’re interested in artifice and how much they’re interested in doing the daily hard work of life.” Whether it’s the Oscars or a PTA meeting, Moore, he says, is the same: “considerate, intelligent, no bullshit, and very kind—always kind.”
Unfailing geniality is striking in anyone, but particularly a celebrity. I joke that it might be Moore’s greatest performance. “If it is an act,” Hawke says with a laugh, “she’s very thorough.”