The only surprising thing about Julianne Moore’s recent Oscar win for her role as an Alzheimer’s sufferer in Still Alice was that it was her first time scooping a prestigious Academy Award. Recognised as one of Hollywood’s most talented and adaptable actresses, her CV runs the gamut from comedies like Boogie Nights and The Big Lewbowski to moving dramas like Children of Men and The Hours and big-budget franchises like The Hunger Games. So when she dominated awards season earlier this year, picking up not just an Oscar, but a Golden Globe, a Sag and a Bafta to boot, the only question on everyone’s lips was: how has this not happened before?
With a unique blend of grace and nerdiness, Julianne has such range and diversity as an actress that it’s impossible to pigeonhole her. “Some people say, ‘You play happy people,’ and I’m like, ‘No.’ Or ‘You play people who have affairs,’ and I’m like, ‘No.’ Or ‘You play lesbians,’ and I’m like, ‘No!’ I’ve made 50-something movies, so there’s a lot of different people. I like really human stories,” she says.
At 54, she is not only one of the most in-demand actresses in Hollywood (a rarity for a woman over 50), she is also one of the most popular (she counts everyone from Jennifer Lawrence to Liam Neeson among her friends). Everybody loves Julianne, it seems, and with good reason.
A true girl’s girl, she is passionate about combating sexism in Hollywood and giving a helping hand to other women in the industry. Asked who she admires among women in Hollywood, she replies, “Ellen Page [who stars as Moore’s girlfriend in the upcoming Freeheld]. Kristen Stewart, I just love her. Emma Stone is fabulous. I love Catherine Deneuve. I love Tilda Swinton.” She adds, “Women are fabulous. I like our camaraderie, our similarities, how we collaborate.”
Comfortable in her skin
Julianne’s ability to embody a range of complex characters so fully is perhaps owing to the fact she is so comfortable in her own skin. “The older you get, you have a clearer understanding about what you care about, what you value, and you begin to think laterally and not vertically. ‘Who are these people around me? Let me try to experience this.’ That’s what makes everything more valuable and more interesting.”
Being so sure of who she is, is a feat she has only achieved thanks to decades in the business – with a few mistakes along the way. “I’ve always felt that you’ve got to try to take the most from everything in life. It’s a bit like when actors say to me that they can’t get certain types of parts. I always tell them, ‘You can never say to yourself, I’m just doing this movie because it will be good for my career.’ That’s awful. Of course, I’ve done things that I haven’t liked, but I’ve always tried to learn from them. I’ve thought, ‘Well, now I know. I won’t do that again’.”
Prejudice in Hollywood
She rejects the notion that good parts are hard to come by for women over 40, and she should know. It wasn’t until she hit 39 that she graduated from third- or fourth-billed parts in popcorn flicks like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and The Fugitive to becoming a top-billed major star in Magnolia and An Ideal Husband. “Good parts, really interesting parts, are difficult for anyone to find at any age because this business is not set up in such a way that it’s about finding great parts for actors and actresses,” she says. “Major studios are looking for a great product that they can sell globally. So I can’t sit here and rail against the industry, because I do think that there’s interesting stuff out there, and it’s not anybody’s job to find it for me but mine. You’re always responsible for trying to figure out what to do with your own career.”
Now, thanks to her standing in Hollywood, she now has the power to pick and choose roles and even rewrite scripts as she sees fit. “At this point in my career, that part is always pretty fluid,” she says.
She shot the Oscar-winning indie Still Alice over a brief period when she was allowed some time off in between filming the futuristic juggernaut The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2. But despite her crazy-busy schedule, she has a healthy life-balance, making sure to carve out time for her husband, film director Bart Freundlich (nine years her junior, whom she dedicated her Oscar-win to), and two children, Caleb, now 16, and Liv, 11. “Some people think that actresses tend not to be practical or domestic. That we’re very flighty and emotionally vulnerable. Trust me, I’m not like that. My house is very clean and organised. I’m not a great cook – my husband does most of the cooking. But I make a hot breakfast for my children every day, and I always put out place mats and napkins.”
Make no mistake: this is no part-time Hollywood mum. “I have great kids,” she adds. “I have a great husband — and I know it sounds queer! My son and daughter both play basketball, and my husband and I do our best to go to every game. We try to spend time as a family. We just try to be super-involved in each other’s lives.”
Motherhood is a natural fit for her, and a role she’s been preparing for her whole life. “I knew from very early on that I wanted kids. I wasn’t one of those women who goes, ‘Well, if it happens, it happens.’ I really wanted a family. Although I didn’t actually have my first child until I was 37, I always felt I’d get there.”
For her, family always comes first. “If ever I do a film that’s a long way from home, we schedule it for the summertime and the rest of the family comes with me. Other than that, I’m never away for more than a week. If someone says to me, ‘Will do you this film in Hungary?’ I just go, ‘Sorry – if you can move it to New Jersey, then maybe it will work.’”
Style and grace
Although she is now regarded as one of the great beauties of her generation, thanks to her alabaster skin and famous auburn hair, she wasn’t always so confident with her appearance. At 16, she wore glasses and described herself as a geek who hated her red hair and freckles. In fact, she’s even published children’s books, including one called Freckleface Strawberry about a little girl with red hair and freckles. “I started writing the first one when my son was seven. What I wanted to say was, we all have issues with the way we look. I mean, I’d still rather not have freckles, but as you get older other things become more important. But although I’ve loved doing the books, I’m not about to give up acting – they’re more of a side project for me.”
She’s come a long way from that freckled face girl, and is now lauded for her style and grace. This redhead knows how to set the red carpet alight. “My style has gotten better, hopefully,” she laughs. “It’s like everything — practice makes perfect. There was one year when my kids were little, and every time I was photographed, I was wearing a pair of cargo shorts, a T-shirt, and a bandanna. It was so bad, my publicist was like, ‘Get it together!’”
And get it together she did. From the silver sequinned Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy gown she wore at the Golden Globes to the white strapless Chanel at the Oscars, she has been hitting it out of the park in the glamour stakes this year. Tom Ford, who dressed her in slinky red for the Baftas and also directed her in 2009′s A Single Man says, “When I looked at her through the [camera] lens it was startling: She is actually luminous.” And that luminous beauty has bagged her a lucrative beauty contract with L’Oréal. “They’re great because they have a range of women representing their brand, from very young women all the way up to Jane Fonda, who’s 77. It’s not about being beautiful for your age. It’s about being beautiful at your age,” she says.
A woman of substance and style, she is keen to talk about much more than who she is wearing on the red carpet, famously refusing to walk her hands through E!’s ‘mani cam’ at the Golden Globes, and shutting a reporter down when he asked her to lift her dress to reveal her footwear. “I’m 54 years old,” she says. “I can’t make my fingers walk; it’s humiliating! And a guy asked me to lift up my skirt to show them my shoes, and I said, ‘I don’t need to do that. Let’s keep some dignity.’”
That’s not to say she is a diva of any sort; she’s very grateful for her lot in life. “You know, I’m very aware of how lucky I am…” she says. “My life may be a pretty crazy life at times, but it’s a very privileged one – being able to earn a good living doing what you love. Not many people have such an opportunity.”
From dark thrillers like Hannibal, to blockbusters like The Hunger Games and haunting indie flicks like Still Alice, Julianne Moore has had her pick of Hollywood’s juciest roles and is well-known as a chameleon actress who cannot be typecast.
Although Moore admits that when her kids were young she was mostly to be seen in cargo pants and a bandana, on the red carpet she is always glam. Choosing gowns in attention-grabbing reds, jewel tones and metallics, this redhead always steals the limelight.
A woman’s woman
Close friends with Ellen Barkin, Julianne counts Kristen Stewart, Ellen Page, Tilda Swinton and Emma Stone among the fellow actresses she admires, She’s a staunch believer in fighting sexism in Hollywood.