Julianne Moore: ‘I’ll never look less than 55’


Article taken from The Telegraph.

n an era dominated by discussions of sexism and ageism in Hollywood, Julianne Moore’s career defies the notion that there are no decent roles for women over the age of 40.

The actress, 55, has blazed an impressive trail over the past 15 years, playing complex, often troubled or tormented characters, such as a ’50s Connecticut housewife who strays into an affair with her black gardener in Far From Heaven; a drug-addicted porn star in Boogie Nights; and a movie star persecuted by memories of her legendary actress mother in Maps to the Stars. And her devastating performance as a linguistics professor with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in Still Alice won her the Best Actress award at last year’s Oscars.

Whether we can take from this that the situation is improving overall for 40-plus women in Hollywood, Julianne is wary of saying. ‘I don’t know, it’s hard to generalise,’ she demurs.

‘But I do think that audiences want to see themselves represented. I think there is an audience for movies for women, no matter what age they are. And Hollywood doesn’t ever incite change; it only reflects it. So if people feel like there are changes happening in the movies, then there are changes happening within the culture.’

Her latest film is, she says, the perfect example of this latter point. Freeheld is the true story of Laurel Hester, a New Jersey detective with 23 years of service who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and who, in 2005, was forced into battle with Ocean County to ensure her pension could be paid to her partner, Stacie Andree, after she died.

It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last September; less than three months after the US Supreme Court passed legislation recognising same-sex marriage, and carrying the same rights as heterosexual married couples, across the whole of the country.

‘The timing was auspicious, but not deliberate,’ says Julianne, who plays Laurel, with Ellen Page as her partner Stacie. ‘The film is wonderful as a comment on how far we’ve come in 10 years, but also how terrible it was just a short time ago.’

We have met for lunch on a brisk, sub-zero January day, at a café close to Julianne’s Manhattan home, which she shares with her husband, the director Bart Freundlich, and their two teenage children.

She arrives in a black down coat, a black beanie and round tortoiseshell sunglasses, successfully managing to pull off being both stylish and incognito. Such is the refusal of most New Yorkers to be seen to give a damn, even when Julianne removes her many layers, revealing her distinctive red hair and elegant, angular bone structure, nobody in the vicinity bats an eyelid.

After ordering herbal tea, an egg-white omelette and courgette fries, Julianne tells me how she researched the role of Laurel Hester. She started with a documentary about the case also called Freeheld, directed by Cynthia Wade, which won the Oscar for Best Short Documentary in 2008.

‘There’s a tremendous amount of footage of Laurel from the documentary, and Cynthia gave me all of her transcripts,’ she says. ‘Stacie Andree was incredibly generous too. She still lives in the same house that she and Laurel lived in. And she pulled out boxes of photographs, and showed me all of the newspaper clippings.’

Julianne has played several high-profile gay characters in recent years, including Jules – who is married to a woman, but begins an affair with the man who acted as their sperm donor – in The Kids Are Alright, for which she was nominated for an Oscar in 2010.

But, as she is quick to point out, ‘I’ve made about 60 movies. And I’ve played… I don’t know, how many gay characters, five? That means gay characters are still under-represented in cinema compared to the size of the gay community.’  However, she does believe that a film like Freeheld would have been unlikely to have been made 20 years ago. ‘It used to be that if a character was gay, that was the thrust of the story,’ she says. ‘Now, their sexuality is simply their sexuality.’

‘Twenty years ago, the red-carpet thing wasn’t a big deal – you bought your own dress. Imagine!’

Julianne was born Julie Anne Smith in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where her father, Peter Moore Smith, an army helicopter pilot and paratrooper, was based. Hers was an itinerant childhood, with time spent living in Nebraska, Alaska, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and the Panama Canal Zone, as dictated by her father’s military career.

When she was 15, her younger sister, Valerie, 14, and brother, Peter, 10, the family moved to Germany, where she spent the final two years of high school. Between the ages of five and 18, Moore attended nine schools.She believes that her transient upbringing has benefitted her as an actress.

‘It gives you a different sense about how culture shapes someone,’ she says. ‘Behaviour is not character. The way people speak, or the way they move, a lot of that has to do with environment and countries and culture. So being out of my own country and culture at that age gave me a deeper understanding of what that is. And, hopefully, that knowledge helps dissolve those things that make us compartmentalise ourselves.’

Growing up, she was not immersed in theatre or cinema. Asked where the desire to act came from, she shrugs: ‘I just liked to read. I liked a story. I still do.’ These days, Julianne also writes her own; she has published children’s books including Freckleface Strawberry (a childhood nickname) and My Mom is a Foreigner, But Not to Me (her mother, Anne, who died in 2009, was a psychologist and social worker from Greenock, Scotland, who emigrated to the United States as a child).

Julianne’s modesty when she mentions her ongoing book deal with Random House is symptomatic of her overall no-nonsense, attitude (‘I’m not Philip Roth; I’m an actor who writes children’s books’).

A world away from the fragile, imploding, on-the-edge characters she often plays, she is cool and unflappable, friendly but not gushy, and I suspect she probably does not suffer fools. Julianne moved back to the US to study for a BA in theatre at Boston University, then, in 1983, she decamped to New York to pursue her career.

‘When I was starting out, I didn’t think about where I was going, I just thought about what was in front of me,’ she says.‘So, go to New York and get an agent. Then get an audition. Then get a call back. When you get that second call back, you think, “Maybe I can land the job”… It helped to keep my goals small and attainable.’

‘I’ve made about 60 movies, and played five gay characters. They are still under-represented in cinema’

After a stint in off-Broadway theatre, she was cast in US soap As the World Turns, for which she won a Daytime Emmy Award. Then she worked with the stage director Andre Gregory on his groundbreaking workshop-theatre production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya (which was later made into a film, Vanya on 42nd Street).

Her performance as Yelena, unhappily married to an older man, caught the eye of director Robert Altman, who cast her in his 1993 ensemble film Short Cuts, in which she delivers a monologue naked from the waist down. Her first leading role came soon after, playing a suburban housewife who develops a mysterious chemical sensitivity in Safe, directed by Todd Haynes (who would later cast her in Far From Heaven) in 1995.

She met her own husband the same year, when he directed her in The Myth of Fingerprints, the story of a dysfunctional family gathering for Thanksgiving at their New England home. Nearly two decades on, with an Academy Award, two Golden Globes, a Bafta, two SAG Awards, a Primetime Emmy and a Daytime Emmy to her name, I’m intrigued as to where Julianne keeps her trophy haul.

‘They are on a bookcase in my office – nowhere exciting,’ she smiles.I ask whether she enjoys the more frivolous, fashion-based side of her career – the ceremonies, and the red-carpet dressing? There has even been a crossover from red carpet to catwalk: last summer, along with Kristen Stewart and other Karl Lagerfeld favourites, Julianne was cast in Chanel’s casino-themed couture show in Paris.

‘It’s a privilege to wear a beautiful dress, but you can’t confuse that with the work you do,’ she says. ‘They’re separate things.’ But, she adds, attitudes to fashion have changed. ‘Twenty years ago, the red-carpet thing wasn’t that big a deal. People didn’t have stylists; you bought your own dress. Imagine!’

She is also a brand ambassador for L’Oréal, which brings the inevitable question, about ageing as an actress in the public eye. ‘There’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself – being healthy and getting enough rest and eating well – but I’m not going to be, or look, any less 55 than I am,’ she shrugs. ‘I will say to my friends, “For crying out loud, put on a hat, wear some sunscreen!” But I wouldn’t tell them to get a facelift.’

As for herself, ‘I always say to my yoga teacher: right now I’m just interested in having my body not hurt at all.’

I wonder whether the fact that her career took flight in her 40s and 50s is also thanks to her children being a little older – her son, Caleb, is now 18, and her daughter, Liv, 13. ‘It was actually very easy when they were little, because they are transportable,’ she says.

‘You can go wherever you want, because they don’t care where they are. Once they’re in school, it’s something else entirely,’ she adds. ‘It’s a different kind of engagement; it’s more challenging. I can’t go to Australia to shoot a movie for two months.’

Caleb is currently in his last year of high school, looking at colleges for the autumn, and Julianne is readying herself for an increasingly empty nest. ‘It will be interesting when [having to turn down long shoots abroad] is no longer the case,’ she muses. ‘But that’s still four years away.’

Has she managed to pass on to her children the broad world view that she herself grew up with, I ask? ‘I don’t know that I have, quite,’ she admits. ‘Because they haven’t had the experience of living in another country. I do think that living in New York offers you access to things that you don’t have in other places, and they have travelled a lot, but I really wish they had lived abroad at some point.’

While she maintains a strong global perspective, Julianne takes a determined stance on domestic politics too; she is hugely active on Twitter in campaigning for an increase in gun safety. ‘Jeb Bush tweeted the other day, saying something like: “Here they go again, talking about taking our guns,” she says. ‘And actually I tweeted back: “No one mentioned taking away guns.” We are talking about making it safer, about background checks and having guns registered – it’s a fine distinction. But you end up with all this rhetoric, back and forth.’

In spite of all this, she is hopeful for a change. ‘Think about what happened with marriage equality – it took a very, very long time, and they went state by state, until eventually the Supreme Court had to make a decision, and it decided for marriage equality,’ she beams. ‘I’m hoping that the same thing will happen with the gun safety laws.’

Script developed by Never Enough Design