Julianne Moore on what it takes to be happy
Article taken from Harper’s Bazaar.
“My mother always told me that for a person to be happy they need love and work,” says Julianne Moore. “This is important to every human being – not just to men, not just to women – but to all of us. We obviously need support in order to have these things too.”
For her latest film After the Wedding – a remake of Susanne Bier’s 2006 feature – the actress followed this advice to the letter, blending the personal and the professional by collaborating with the director Brad Freundlich (who also happens to be her husband). This project marked the partners’ fourth cinematic outing, and Moore greatly enjoyed joining forces with her spouse again. “We’ve been a team for 23 years and we’re each other’s best advocate. It’s obviously a lot. I don’t know that we could do it all the time. It’s nice that we work together sometimes and we also have a break from one another.” She pauses, before bursting into laughter. “From working together, that is, not from being together!”
Moore plays the affluent businesswoman Theresa in the movie, who we learn a lot about before she even appears. Anticipation builds for her arrival, an awestruck employee proudly explaining how his boss built her multimillion-dollar media company from nothing, as he and Theresa’s guest Isabel (Michelle Williams) are chauffeured across New York to the towering, glass-fronted skyscraper that houses her office.
Once inside, Moore lends stature and grace to the self-made (and somewhat self-satisfied) Theresa, emitting a slightly spiky, corporate warmth that she prevents from dipping into affection; she emotionally distances herself behind a screen of easy sophistication and wealth that inevitably comes crashing down later in the film, whose narrative threads tangle into a messy family melodrama. In this nimble dance of hinting at emotion then retreating from it, Moore is undeniably superb.
For all her slipperiness, Theresa has achieved a steady work-life balance (as Moore’s mother advocates), ringfencing her time on the clock so she can bond with her children in the lavish comfort of her Oyster Bay estate. “One thing that’s fascinating to me about Theresa is that she is somebody I see much more often in real life than in cinema,” the actress says. “New York City, where I live, is filled with women who have very big lives that are deliberately constructed to fit their professional commitments and their wonderful families. It was exciting to get to do that onscreen.”
Theresa is, by film standards at least, an anomaly for the way she conducts her relationships. Unlike her career-woman contemporaries, slavishly grinding themselves towards burnout at the expense of romantic and filial love, she tucks her twin boys into bed at night and devotes herself to planning her elder daughter’s nuptials. Does cinema need to start recognising these undersung women? “Movies don’t lead the charge, they reflect culture, so these things will show up onscreen once we’ve seen them in life. Film should be a representation of what’s happening in the real world.”
For After the Wedding and this summer’s Gloria Bell, Moore earned another screen credit to supplement her usual top billing: that of executive producer. Like many A-list actresses, she is expanding her career in this field but, in her case, largely due to the dearth of interesting parts for women, rather than a burning desire to step behind the camera. “I’m really in the very beginning stages of it. It’s not like I’m sitting here building an empire!” she admits. “It’s a natural extension for actors, in a sense, because a lot of the experience you accrue can be used as a producer. I absolutely think that the rise of actor-producers has affected the way women are represented onscreen. Everything Reese [Witherspoon] has done has certainly been very female-identified. When you have female producers, you have a tendency to hire more women.”
Another modern-movie trend that Moore showcases with this film is gender-swapping, as the Danish-language original starred two male leads. For the actress, After the Wedding’s decision to cast women protagonists was not a case of bandwagon-jumping. “I don’t think you should do a gender-switch just for the sake of it,” she says. “There’s often not a need to do something again. In this case, we felt that it really worked for the story – it added drama and made it much more emotional.”
Moore is poised to further bolster her feminist credentials in next year’s The Glorias, for which she shares the part of the legendary women’s-rights campaigner Gloria Steinem with a group of actresses that includes Alicia Vikander. “Truly the best part about doing that movie was getting to spend some time with Gloria Steinem. It was v-e-r-y exciting,” she says, reverentially drawing out each letter. “She is amazing – so smart, incredibly thoughtful, very open, unbelievably kind, able to speak with anybody… Gloria is a true activist.”
Although Steinem’s radical politics were more relevant to her mother’s generation, Moore fondly remembers stumbling across her writing in college. “It wasn’t until I was older that I really understood what Gloria had done and what she represented. How she was really able to assemble a collective of very diverse women’s voices. In the early Eighties people thought feminism was over, but now, my God, we’re dealing with third-wave feminism, which is extraordinary.” Whether she’s playing Gloria Bell or Gloria Steinem, Julianne Moore never tires of showing us the many beautiful facets of womanhood.