Julianne Moore is one of a kind, she is fifty and fabulous. Her track record of character roles as multi-faceted as herself have established Julianne Moore a front row seat on the Olympus of Hollywood’s finest.
We met up with Julianne Moore at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival last month for a chat about her career, life and motherhood and surely this defines why we just love our job!
When you accepted the offer in ‘The Kids are Alight’, did you have any apprehension? Did you receive any criticism because it’s about a lesbian couple?
Lisa Cholodenko is a filmmaker that I’ve admired for such a very long time; I met her at a ‘Women In Film’ luncheon. I approached her because I loved her work so much. I’d seen ‘High Art’ and ‘Laurel Canyon’ and I loved them both so she was someone I was very interested to work with. So she said I want to write something for you and then along came ‘The Kids Are Alright’ and because of the subject matter, I mean because of the fact that it was about a lesbian couple, it took years to get some financing. So it was quite a long journey. The movie has been very well-received and it’s incredibly entertaining and really funny because of its depiction of a very ordinary modern American family. You know, it’s a portrait of a marriage, even though, it’s two women, and it’s a portrait of a marriage that’s been a long time union. It’s about what it means to grow up and move away from your parents but still stay connected to them. It somehow encompasses a lot of what we go through in terms of family. At the end of the day, I thought it was an important film and really reflected that there are many different kinds of family and all of them are very valuable.
Is it hard for you to get out of the world once you’ve developed the character and played this role? And what’s your method for extricating yourself from the world you’ve developed in the film?
It’s not hard, it’s easy to release yourself from something when you feel you’ve done your best. It’s when you’ve had a day when you accomplish what you’ve wanted to accomplish. So if you’ve gone through the day and you’ve shot the scenes that you wanted to shoot, and shot them in the way you and the director feel satisfied with, then it’s very easy. The only times it’s not easy to extricate yourself, is when you feel you haven’t done what you wanted to do. And then you go home and you’re angry and you’re upset and you think I want to shoot that again, I want to figure this out. Then you feel wrapped up in the character in this situation, but not when you’ve done what you wanted to do.
Was shooting ‘The Hours’ difficult?
It’s interesting, because when we shot ‘The Hours”, my son was very little and he was with me so that’s the other thing that makes it easy to extricate yourself if you’re a parent and you have to go and take care of a child, then you drop it. You know, my son was three and he was waiting for me at the end of every night and it was at the point when he wouldn’t go to sleep unless I was home. So it was important that I would get home, give him dinner, get him to bed, and talk to him. So when you’re a parent and you have to finish your work and go home and take care of your children, it makes it very easy then.
How much did your children affect your career? Especially in the sense of choosing roles?
Very much. I mean, certainly in terms of where and when I work. It makes a huge difference, I mean, at the time that I did ‘The Hours’, my son was three. It was very easy he went everywhere with me. He could travel, he wasn’t in school. Now that my children are eight and twelve it’s very important that my work is centered around New York, where they go to school. And if I do go away I try to work during the summer when they can travel. If I’m offered something, for example, something that shoots for four months in Germany during the school year, I can’t do it. I simply can’t. I’ll be away for too long. So it actually does, it’s like for any working parent, it obviously really affects what things you can choose.
How about with choosing the roles?
Children almost never see your films. I think people have very little interest in what their parents do. You’re kind of ego centered if you think that your children are ever going be that interested in what you do. I have always chosen roles because I think they’re compelling and interesting and have something to say about what it means to be a human being. So if in fact my children ever saw them, which like I say I doubt, I have every reason for choosing them for that reason. I mean that being said, it would be really nice to do something that was for children. I think my kids are always like ‘why don’t you do one of those movies?’. Everybody wants to do them, everybody wants to do the voice for the Pixar movies. I would love to, but you have to be chosen.
We talked about your roles and how you get in and out of them, but what about life as a celebrity? Do you consider that a role itself?
I think it’s a separate kind of thing, it’s also relative. I feel it’s a relatively new phenomenon. I mean, this kind of celebrity culture. It’s not the kind of thing I saw growing up as kid, and it’s not something that involved actors and what actors did. So, you know, I don’t know that there’s a huge effect of it in my life. I live in New York City, my kids go to school there. I have two kids. They’re both school age, so it takes up a tremendous amount of my private life and my interest too. We live a pretty ordinary family life. That’s what I want for them and for us. When I work I do my work but my private life is very family oriented.
What was your most defining moment as an actress? And what do you consider one of the most important lessons you’ve learned so far?
In terms of acting, I don’t know. I don’t think many of us reflect back and say well that was it. That’s the best it’s going to get. I think you tend to stay sort of in front of yourself looking forward and thinking about doing your current work. I think the one thing you do learn is that family, the people you consider your family, are really the most important thing of all. And it’s not something you understand when you’re 21 and just starting out. It’s the one thing you understand when you grow to really truly appreciate it.
You’re husband is a director and you’ve worked together, how is it like to work with your spouse?
It’s good, but it makes things more complicated. It’s actually a very easy working relationship. It’s more complicated in terms of your private life because you’re both busy at the same time.
Would you like to direct?
I don’t know. It’s always fun to try things. It’s always fun to experience a film from different points of view. I said yesterday at the press conference that my friend Wallace Shawn, a playwright, when he was writing plays he took acting lessons, because he was trying to understand what it’s like to be an actor before he wrote plays. Sometimes I think how interesting, or what an interesting perspective, if you’re going to work in a movie why not try to experience what it’s like to be in all those positions so you’re not so be single-minded about it.
If you weren’t an actress what would you have liked to do?
Well, I was primarily interested in stories, in books, when I was a kid. I loved reading I went to the library a lot. I spent my allowance on books, but when I started acting, it was sort of a discovery it was like being inside the story, like being in the book. And I was surprised that I could do that. But if I weren’t an actress, I would’ve liked to be a doctor. I think I would’ve enjoyed that. I still fantasize about that occasionally.
What are your upcoming projects?
Right now, I have ‘The Kids Are Alright’ which is opening across Europe and other parts of the world right now. Next spring, there’s a comedy with Steve Carrel called ‘Crazy Stupid Love’.
You wrote a children’s book before. What inspired you to do that?
I had a friend, who worked in the publishing business and he said to me out of the blue oh you should try it sometime you might really enjoy it. It seemed kind of far-fetched to me. I couldn’t imagine it because I hadn’t written anything but I did it. I sat down. I was on an airplane. I did some revisions and I received several offers to publish it, so it kind of took me by surprise. At the time, my children were little; they were three and seven, so I was reading a lot to them and experienced these stories and knew what kind of stories they responded to and what I like to read to them and the voice that I thought they liked and that was kind of how it happened.
Are you interested in politics?
I think that everybody is political. I think you can’t help but be political in the virtue of being a human being in the sense that everyone says that a person is political. How you live, who you associate with, where you go, how you work. All those things are political acts. So yes I am, we all are.
What do you think of Obama?
I think that he’s had a really hard time turning everything around. I think we were left in a very difficult position with the last administration and he had to work very hard.
Your campaign with Bulgari was very sexy. How did you feel about it and if you got a certain amount of confidence for actually doing that?
You know, the photographers I get to work with Mert and Marcus are kind of world renowned fashion photographers. They are incredibly talented, almost like a painterly sense of composition and color. It was kind of an honor to be chosen by Bulgari, I was sort of surprised. There’s not really anything to see. You see legs and arms but other than that, I’m holding all these baby lions and there are all these purses lying around. It was really fun to do and they made me look quite beautiful. It was a fun project.
Have you always loved your red hair?
I think that the thing about being a red-head is that you stand out. One thing that kids don’t want to do ever is to stand out. So I wished that I had any kind of hair, mostly dark hair. I didn’t want to have any freckles, I just wanted to have dark hair. I wanted to look like everybody else. The thing about being a red-head is that I didn’t realize how heavily identified I was with it until I had to dye it for ‘Blindness’ when I was a blonde and I didn’t like it at all and I thought I was visible as a red-head, but I was even more visible as a blonde. I felt like I had lights on my head all the time. I couldn’t stand it. I don’t think you know how much you appreciate something until it goes away; at least I had an opportunity to go like ‘uh I am a red-head and I like it’. It’s okay, but I still don’t like my freckles, but I do like my hair.
In a few weeks you’ll be 50. How does that affect your career?
I think that the thing about age is that, all you can do is be where you are. I’m lucky to be 50, not everybody gets to be 50 years old and that’s what we forget. There’s a tremendous amount of importance in our culture placed on aging. Like, we try to avoid aging, and if you avoid aging that means you’re dead, so honestly I think that you have to be in a place where you welcome every year you have and every experience you have. Otherwise, you know, you’re not experiencing your life.
How do you keep looking fabulous like that?
It’s pretty boring; I do yoga a few times a week. I try to eat pretty well, except when I’m travelling I eat terribly. Try to rest and be moderate. Very boring.
How important is it to you to give your name for a cause or stand up for something?
I think it’s a completely personal choice. I mean, for me, I have several charities that I work with pretty consistently over the years that are meaningful to me. I am the United States Ambassador for ‘Save the Children’ because in the United States we talk a lot about poverty all over the world and we don’t really address poverty in our own country. That’s something I saw a great deal of growing up because we moved around so much and one of the things that I really noticed is that there is a tremendous inequality in the United States School system whereas we are proponents of everybody receiving the same education. It depends on where you live, and what tax bracket your particular county falls into. So that was something I saw first-hand so let’s say the children of the United States. It goes into areas, where they have fewer resources that bolster up the local school system. That to me is very important. So I think that you’ll find with any human being supporting a certain cause or charities that it’s quite personal to them.
What do you think women want?
I think what we’re most interested in is balancing our family and career. I think that’s the most challenging thing for any of us. I think, for men and women. Maybe particularly women because we feel we have different sets of expectations in terms of being a parent. That’s certainly what I wanted and that’s something I talk to my children about, too, it is valuable to have a family but equally valuable is to have work that you care about.