Does Julianne Moore seek out all those aggressively eccentric parts she does so well, or do they just land in her lap courtesy of some avant-garde delivery service? That’s one of the questions I was burning to ask the four-time Oscar nominee, who’s long been one of the more eclectic presences to put a charge into our artistic landscape, as her career spans big-budget films, labors of love, and cable TV. Her newest film is the ethereal What Maisie Knew, reimagined from the Henry James novel about a child caught in a custody battle, with Julianne as a misguided mama who’s only good behind a microphone. Julianne, it turns out, can articulate her feelings under any circumstance. Here’s what Mikey learned.
Hi, Julianne. You made your somewhat obnoxious character way more understandable than most people could have managed. I feel intention is everything and nobody means to be mean. She’s not capable of communicating any way except for her music.
Maybe she should just sing to her daughter. Did you like the way the film was adapted from Henry James? It’s very loosely adapted. People have a tendency to think of broken families as modern, but obviously there have been lots of iterations of that theme throughout history. It’s sad that it has that much elasticity — you can set it in any time period.
Do you seek out these types of offbeat roles or do they just come to you? They come to me somehow. But it’s what I’m interested in, too. I read this script and said, “Ha! I haven’t done this before.” Not just somebody who’s a bad mother, which is dull as an idea, but somebody connected to their career as a musician.
Did you learn anything about parenting from this movie? Hell, no! I am a parent. I’ve been doing it for 15 years. My oldest child is 15 and a half. My husband and I were just talking about how great our kids are. I’ve learned on the actual job, and hopefully my parenting doesn’t bear any resemblance to that.
We’ll wait for the tell-all. Funny. [laughs]
You often travel between quirky indies and Hollywood big stuff. Fun? It’s a pattern in my career where I’ve done a more commercial movie, then an independent thing. For one thing, it’s a necessity because you don’t make a living in independent film. But I love my experiences.
And you have a lot of them. You have five more movies coming out this year. You’re the new Jessica Chastain. That’s funny. You never have any control [over release dates]. I literally have three movies opening on the same day in October. I thought, “Are you kidding me?” In Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon, I play a lady he meets at night school.
And you’re mama Margaret White in the Carrie remake. Is she the bible-thumping crazy lady we expect? She’s the same character that you read in the book. I don’t think anybody could be better than Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. Rather than take it from that movie, we looked at the book and based it on that. It’s so much about that mother-daughter relationship and what that mother believed she was protecting her from. Of course [Margaret] was terribly abusive, but she believed she was protecting [Carrie] from the world at large.
Shades of Maisie’s well-intentioned but bad mother? Don’t even go there. That’s only two of the five, by the way.
I know! You’re not being typed! You were superb as a good mother in The Kids Are All Right, by the way. Thank you very much. It’s such a wonderful exploration of a relationship. When Lisa [Cholodenko] wrote the end of it, I thought, “That last line!” Laser [the son] says, “I don’t think you guys should break up. You’re too old.” At the end of the day, with a long-term relationship, love is time invested. It’s a huge portion of your life.
When you played short-term candidate Sarah Palin in Game Change, was that another case of playing the intention rather than the perception? You always have to examine the humanity in everybody you play. Just because they don’t share the same beliefs as you doesn’t mean you should caricature them. There were so many expectations since I was playing a very present person in the culture. And the experience of doing it was so satisfying. It was a great place to go to work every day.
Were there any Republicans in the cast? No, but we did have Republican advisors.
You’re one of the most present people in the culture yourself. You and your family regularly walk the streets of New York with a wonderfully natural attitude. Do people’s eyes pop out? People in New York are great. A lot of people smile and say hello. A lot of people won’t say anything. Or you don’t think someone knows you, then they say, “I really like your work.” You only get people who want to take your picture in midtown. What I like about this town is everybody does everything. It’s not a special thing to be an actor in New York. There are certainly other more interesting people.
Like directors! Anyway, thank you, Julianne. See you at the indie-plex.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 1, 2013