Julianne Moore: How Lucky Am I?
Article taken from Parade.
Julianne Moore has a theory of why people are so touched by her film Still Alice. “It’s not just because it’s a disease movie,” she says of the fictional story of Dr. Alice Howland, a 50-year-old university linguistics professor and a mother of three who is struck with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. “It’s a movie about mortality and being,” she says. “It makes us really think about our lives. You’re never closer to loving life than when you’re closest to loss.”
And Moore is loving her life right now. The actress, 54, lives in New York City with her husband, director Bart Freundlich, who she’s been with for 19 years and married to for 10. They have two kids, son Caleb, 17, and daughter Liv, 12. And home really is where her heart is. “Right before I met my husband, I always felt as if the party was happening somewhere else,” she says. “Like, ‘Where is everybody else going?’ And once I met him and we had our children, I was like, ‘This is where the party is.’ There’s nowhere else I want to be. I see a tremendous amount of purpose and a feeling of belonging.”
When Moore carries that sense of purpose to her work, Hollywood can’t help but sit up and take notice. For whether she’s meant to or not, Moore has become a truly positive representation of the 21st century woman. Not only is she a mom with a family and a five-time Oscar nominee (many predict she’ll take home her first statuette for Best Actress for her performance in Still Alice at next Sunday’s awards), she’s also carved out a strong niche for herself working in both mainstream and quality independent films that mean something. Also, she doesn’t take her roles to prove a point. She does it, she says, because she loves to tell a good story.
“I’m always excited by really interesting narratives,” Moore says, “and within a great narrative you can generally find a great character.” She’s built those characters in roles ranging from the soap opera As the World Turns to critically acclaimed turns in the movies Boogie Nights, Far from Heaven, The Hours and The Kids Are All Right to comedic parts like the one she played on TV in 30 Rock opposite her Still Alice costar Alec Baldwin.
Moore says her draw to family drama is probably due to her parents, who both worked in fields of human behavior. Her father, a former paratrooper (she was born on a military base in North Carolina), became a trial lawyer and judge. And her mother was a psychologist and social worker. “My mother was fascinated by behavior,” Moore says. “She talked about that stuff all the time. She was very interested in families.”
The Year of the Woman
This year, Moore’s gut-wrenching performance in Still Alice is the latest example of why many consider her the poster child for the best year for women in Hollywood yet. And she’s not leading the charge all alone. Beside her this year was Reese Witherspoon, who produced Wildand Gone Girl, and earned her own Best Actress nomination for starring in Wild; Ava DuVernay, who directed Selma all the way to a Best Picture nomination, and a whole slew of other impressive females (see “Strong Women, Strong Roles,” left). When it comes to women, “it’s been a really good year,” says Francis Lawrence, who directed Moore in the two-part The Hunger Games: Mockingjay series and jumped at the chance to have her play President Alma Coin in the last installments of the series. “She’s a pro,” he says, with “fierce intelligence. She is so, so smart.”
She’s also one of the most hardworking actresses he’s worked with. “Julianne is very specific,” he says of how she approaches her work. “She has it mapped out, she has a plan. She knows what she’s going to do, and she comes in, and she executes.” And talk about a talented multi-tasker: Moore filmed Still Alice in between filming her parts in Mockingjay. “We had a huge part of the shoot where we weren’t going to need her for a while,” Lawrence says. “So she went out, shoots a movie that she’ll probably win the Academy Award for, and then comes back to finish our movies!”
The Art of Being Real
Moore seems to pride herself on that same devotion to her characters. “The most difficult thing for me as an actor is with accuracy, with specificity. When you haven’t actually experienced something you have an obligation to be as precise as possible,” she says. That’s why the first thing she told directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland when she took the part of Alice was, “I don’t want to represent anything on screen that I haven’t witnessed. I don’t think it’s fair.” She did four months of research for Still Alice, talking to real women with Alzheimer’s, doctors working with patients, and visiting a long-term care facility; even taking a cognitive test herself for the experience. And the results have left viewers moved to tears, and critics lining up to hand her statues. For while she’s already won a Golden Globe, a Critic’s Choice award and a trophy from the Screen Actors Guild, she may finally nab an Academy Award, too. And yes, she wants to win. “That’s the nomination from your peers,” she says. “It’s a very, very big deal.”
But whether or not she takes home the ultimate prize, she’s helping the case for women in film with every strong role she takes—because as more females show how women can carry a film, Lawrence explains, “people are a little less afraid to make movies and have [women] be the stars and not supporting roles.”
For her part, Moore has four more films coming out this year: Seventh Son, Freeheld, the second part of Mockingjay and Maggie’s Plan. And after great success with her children’s books—the Freckleface Strawberry series (based on her childhood nickname) and My Mom is a Foreigner (based on her mother, who was born in Scotland)—Moore has a five-book deal with Random House to write more Freckleface Strawberry books, two of which are slated for release this summer. And she couldn’t feel happier for all that she has. “The family that I have,” she says. “The friends. The marriage. How lucky am I?”
She only hopes Still Alice affects viewers the same way it did her. “It’s uplifting,” she says. “We didn’t make it in the spirit of loss or diminishment. Really, it’s about what you love, who you value and how much you love being alive.”