Julianne Moore on the Emotional Women's Drama After the Wedding and Having It All
Article taken from Parade.
After the Wedding is the story of two women who start worlds apart and come together when they discover they have something unexpected in common.
Michelle Williams plays Isabel, who has devoted her life to caring for the impoverished children at an orphanage in Calcutta, India, but at the start of the film, it quickly becomes apparent that the orphanage is out of funds, requiring Isabel to visit New York City to make a fundraising presentation to a possible donor. But Isabel is reluctant to go. And it turns out there is more to her reluctance than just leaving the children behind, especially 7-year-old Jai, with whom she has formed a strong attachment.
Julianne Moore takes on the role of Theresa — and with hubby Bart Freundlich directing, she had her choice of either part — a multi-millionaire media mogul based in New York City, who is the potential benefactor. Theresa is a force of nature and when Isabel shows up at her office for their meeting, she insists that Isabel attend her stepdaughter’s (Abby Quinn) wedding.
It’s at the wedding that a long-hidden secret is exposed, and the reveal alters the course of all of their lives.
Why did you choose to play Theresa instead of Isabel when you could’ve done either role?
Bart had been approached to do an American adaptation of Susanne Bier’s beautiful Danish film, so we were in our family room watching the movie because I had never seen it before. I was really enjoying it, and right away, I was so struck by what Rolf Lassgård was doing. I was like, “I love that guy.” He had such a big presence, and he was also so opaque. I didn’t know what was happening with him, and then with the final reveal, I was like, “Whoa.” It really, really struck me.
I turned to Bart at the end and said, “Now that’s a part I’d like to play.” Then later on when they were talking about it and they mentioned the gender flip, I got very excited, and I was like, “Well, I’m in.” I was also really compelled by the idea of somebody — especially with the gender flip — who had built this huge life for herself, this big, big career, this company that she cared about. She cared about her employees. She cared about who she was going to sell it to.
At the same time, she had this really wonderful family that she was very invested in. Sometimes when you see boss ladies in movies, they’re paper thin, they’re usually evil, and they exist to be a foil to somebody else.
But I know a lot of women who’ve built big lives, who have big careers and big families, and care about it all equally, and I wanted to see that represented, and I wanted to play that. So, I was very excited, and also, sadly, I think we knew a couple of people who had done exactly what Theresa had done, which is…I don’t want to give it away.
Michelle has the lead. I wrote her an email, and I said, “My husband and I are working on this movie, and we want you to play this lead character,” but I just was drawn to the other one. I really was.
Were you comfortable playing a mom to a young adult?
We have a 21-year-old son. When we saw Abby’s audition, we were both so blown away by the depth of her talent and how perfect she was for the part. We really needed to have someone who was exactly at Abby’s place, which is a young adult who’s still not a full adult.
This character’s in this very delicate place. She’s so sensitive, too. You think, she’s legal, she can get married, but maybe she’s too young to get married. Abby was able to embody that really perfectly, and that’s a really tough line to walk … that stage of early adulthood.
This story feels so real. Why is that?
They all made a decision based on their knowledge at the time, the best decision they thought they could make. And now they’re all realizing that these decisions have had real consequences, tremendous consequences that haven’t necessarily been good ones, but they’re very human, you know? I love the judgment. I feel with Isabel and Theresa, they both morally think they’re coming from the right place, and they have tremendous judgment about the choices that the other one made, and I wanted to make that clear.
You have so many things on your plate, so how do you juggle?
I don’t have a company. It’s not like I have Verizon Media [like Theresa’s company], but I’ve managed to do what I’d hoped to do, which is to have a career that I love, that I care about, that I’m very invested in, and a family that I love, that I care about and that is the whole center of my life. So, I wanted to represent that.
I hated that whole period where they kept saying to women: You can’t have it all. I’m like, “What? Yes, you can.” It’s not easy. I don’t think there’s a person in the world who has a job and a family who thinks that it’s easy. There are always things that go on on either side, but it’s valuable. It’s worth it. It’s the most valuable thing in the world to have that. It’s wonderful for you as a human being. It’s wonderful for your family. Everybody needs to have love and work. That’s what Freud said. It doesn’t have to be paid work.
But to have something that you care about that’s personal to you, and then to have someone to love — if it’s a human being, your family, animals, whatever, but you have to have those things. I guess it’s my way of saying, it’s nice to see that. It’s a good thing, and I don’t like it when people are like, “Oh, well, you can’t have that. You’ll sacrifice that.” I wanted to represent that.
What’s your dream role?
I don’t know. I always say character doesn’t come first for me. Story comes first. Narrative comes first. So, somebody could say, “Oh, you can play the Jolly Green Giant and you get to wear these clothes and you get to shoot it in character,’ and then I’m like, “But what’s the story? What is the Jolly Green Giant doing?” Then I’ll know whether or not I want to do it. So, I have to wait for the story to present itself.
What motivates you to keep working at such a high level given all of your accomplishments over the years?
That’s an interesting question. It’s funny because I’ve talked to a couple of my peers about that, too. Other women whose work I admire. We talk about why am I doing what I am doing, but it’s interest. I’ve always been compelled by these stories and by human behavior, and so I think if it stops being interesting to me, I’ll stop doing it, but I really like it.
I feel like I’ve changed so much from where I started wanting to be an actor, not really even understanding why I was drawn to it, and now my interest is deeper. It’s an exploration of something, you know? And back to the Freud thing about work: What’s your work? What’s that thing that makes you light up? When you find that, I think you want to keep digging and keep doing it because it make you feel alive.