Os­car win­ner Ju­lianne Moore sheds a tear for her Scot­tish mother

Ju­lianne Moore is the army brat who be­came the doyenne of in­de­pen­dent film. Shortly be­fore she lifted the best actress Os­car, she spoke to Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE - TARA BRADY

Ju­lianne Moore has, as we meet, not yet won her Os­car for Still Al

ice. That’s to say the stat­uette has not been phys­i­cally placed in her hands. She is, how­ever, such a strong favourite that the cer­e­mony is be­gin­ning to look like a for­mal­ity. At 1/50 with most book­ies, Moore – on her fifth nom­i­na­tion – is the surest thing since He­len Mir­ren won for The

Queen. In­deed, some book­mak­ers . . .

“For real?” she in­ter­rupts, aghast at the Ir­ish Times’ odd­s­mas­tery. “Spend some time at the track, do ya?”

Maybe a lit­tle. So has she al­lowed her­self to take the win for granted?

“Oh good lord, no. I think I’m so lucky to even be in a con­ver­sa­tion about this stuff. There are so many great per­for­mances ev­ery year and so many great films. So to get to the point when you’re be­ing spo­ken about in this way . . . Oh my god, what an hon­our.”

Moore prob­a­bly de­served the Os­car. Her per­for­mance as a mid­dle-aged woman stricken with Alzheimer’s dis­ease pulses with all the nu­ances we ex­pect from this fine ac­tor. But it can’t be de­nied that the Academy was des­per­ate to put a nude gold man her way. Raised as an army brat, later a soap opera star, the for­mer Julie Anne Smith has been the best thing in good films for a quar­ter of a cen­tury now.

There’s some­thing else: every­body just loves her. Through­out our con­ver­sa­tion, Moore dis­plays an un­forced open­ness that must be hard to main­tain while run­ning the gru­elling press gaunt­let. And, dar­ling, she looks fab­u­lous. Now an ab­surdly un­likely 54, Ju­lianne, her emer­ald dress in sym­pa­thy with those fa­mous gin­ger looks, seems to have barely changed since she emerged in films such as Safe and Short Cuts.

Trav­el­ling act­ing school

Born in North Carolina to a sol­dier dad (later a mil­i­tary judge) and a Scot­tish mother who worked as a psy­chol­o­gist, Moore moved around a great deal as a kid. Many ac­tors say that sort of life­style of­fers ac­ci­den­tal train­ing.

“Yes, I think there are so many times when you talk to ac­tors you dis­cover they’re min­is­ters’ kids or cor­po­rate kids, or their par­ents are in the state depart­ment or the mil­i­tary, or are trav­el­ling sales­men or all th­ese dif­fer­ent things. So, I think that mov­ing around, you re­alise that be­hav­iour is mu­ta­ble, that be­hav­iour can change so how you be­have is not who you are. You can go some­where and be­have a com­pletely dif­fer­ent way and at the core of it there are cer­tain things.”

That makes sense. But she still had to flog the idea of an act­ing life to for­mi­da­bly suc­cess­ful par­ents. There is a cheeky scene in Still Alice that finds Moore’s char­ac­ter, a lin­guist, press­ing her daugh­ter, played im­pres­sively by Kristen Ste­wart, into sidelin­ing her act­ing am­bi­tions and tak­ing a “proper” de­gree. I imag­ine most of the cast must, at some point, have been on the other end of that con­ver­sa­tion.

“I’m telling her not to be an ac­tor?” she says. “Well, when I told my par­ents I wanted to be an ac- tor they said: ‘You can’t go to a con­ser­va­tory. You need to go to col­lege, be­cause if it doesn’t work out we want to make sure you can go to grad­u­ate school.’ I thought, in ret­ro­spect, that’s fan­tas­tic ad­vice, but I think I even ac­cepted it then. I was like, okay, that seems rea­son­able. They paid for school and ev­ery­thing.”

Trust Moore to be nice about it. It re­ally is im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine her fling­ing soup in her par­ents’ faces and call­ing them fas­cists. Four years ago, in hon­our of her late mother, who was born in Greenock, she ap­plied for UK cit­i­zen­ship and is proud to con­sider her­self Scot­tish.

“When my fa­ther was ap­ply­ing for some jobs for grad­u­ate school he wasn’t al­lowed to be mar­ried to a for­eign na­tional, so she had to go and get her cit­i­zen­ship, so they made her re­nounce her Bri­tish cit­i­zen­ship,” she says. “I was seven years old, she was 27, and she came home cry­ing hold­ing an Amer­i­can flag. I’ll never for­get it. It broke my heart. And so, you know – oh my god, I’m go­ing to cry – so when they changed the rules I wanted to do it for my mother. She would have loved it.”

She does in­deed begin to tear up. Some swal­low­ing goes on. Hands are flut­tered be­fore eyes and, a pro­fes­sional from head to toe, she stub­bornly pulls her­self to­gether.

Twin­spin

Fol­low­ing col­lege, Moore shuf­fled be­tween theatre roles and mi­nor TV parts be­fore se­cur­ing the dual roles of war­ring twins Fran­nie and Sab­rina Hughes in the day­time soap opera As the

World Turns.

She left the se­ries in 1988 (af­ter win­ning a Day­time Emmy) and re­turned to the theatre. You can see her in The Hand that

Rocks the Cra­dle and The Fugi­tive, but it was her turn in Robert Alt­man’s Short Cuts, re­leased in 1993, that re­ally pushed Moore above ground. She rapidly be­came a favourite of many young, in­de­pen­dently minded film-mak­ers. Todd Haynes made stunning use of her in Far From Heav

en and Safe. She ap­peared in Paul Thomas An­der­son’s Boo­gie

My fa­ther wasn’t al­lowed to be mar­ried to a for­eign na­tional, so they made mom re­nounce her Bri­tish cit­i­zen­ship. She came home cry­ing, hold­ing an Amer­i­can flag

Nights and Mag­no­lia. Neil Jor­dan cast her in The End of the Af

fair. By the end of the last cen­tury, Moore was a kind of unof­fi­cial fig­ure­head for a resur­gent off­beat cinema.

“Of course the grand­daddy of them all was Alt­man,” she says. “They were all in­ter­est­ing films that were be­ing made for very lit­tle money so that we didn’t have to have the re­spon­si­bil­ity of hav­ing to make a lot of money back.”

Moore has dipped into main­stream films with var­ied re­sults – she is cur­rently a player in the

Hunger Games fran­chise – but she never strays too far from that in­de­pen­dent tem­plate. Di­rected by Richard Glatzer and Wash West­more­land, Still Alice at­tacks its sub­ject with great tact and sen­si­tiv­ity. More than a few Alzheimer’s groups have praised its ac­cu­racy and seen it as a use­ful ed­u­ca­tional tool.

“I knew noth­ing about it. I think I’m one of those rare peo­ple who didn’t have a fam­ily mem­ber af­flicted by Alzheimer’s,” she says.

Win­ning the Os­car is hardly “Oh, I like the clothes,” chuck­les Ju­lianne Moore while dis­cussing the ap­peal of the Os­cars. “It’s so fun to see all the pretty dresses. And keep in­mind th­ese are huge en­ter­tain­ments. I was talk­ing to a woman in the air­port and she said to me, ‘I love to watch the Os­cars, it’s so fun, and the dresses are beau­ti­ful, and peo­ple are funny and it’s a great show and great en­ter­tain­ment.’ And I’m like, yeah, itis.” likely to change Moore’s life very much. She was al­ready the ac­tor ev­ery re­spectable film-maker wanted to work with. Cer­tainly, there seems no sus­pi­cion that the award will shat­ter her rel­a­tively un­starry life­style.

Mar­ried to direc­tor Bart Fre­undlich since 2003, Moore, who has two chil­dren, lives among the hus­tle and bus­tle of down­town Man­hat­tan. Un­like those who squat be­hind great walls in Bel Air, she is among real peo­ple all the time. I imag­ine that must, for a celebrity, bring con­comi­tant dif­fi­cul­ties.

Garageparty

“Iron­i­cally, no. I’ve lived there a long time,” she says. “Com­ing back from LA af­ter the Golden Globes – we keep our car in a garage across the street – and every­body in the garage was all like: ‘Yaaaay!’”

Golden Globe? A mere pa­per­weight. The garag­istes of Green­wich Vil­lage re­ally have some­thing to party about now.

GONGS, GÚ­NAS AND GIG­GLES

STILL ALICE Di­rected by Richard Glatzer, Wash West­more­land. Star­ring Ju­lianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Ste­wart, Kate Bos­worth, Hunter Par­rish. 12A cert, gen re­lease, 101 min There is much to rec­om­mend Richard Glatzer and Wash West­more­land’s study of a (scarcely) mid­dle- aged woman’s decline from Alzheimer’s dis­ease, but Still Alice is likely to be for­ever re­mem­bered as the Film For Which Ju­lianne Moore Fi­nally Won Her Os­car. Moore plays a blin­der. The vet­eran thesp man­ages to get across the cru­elly grad­ual na­ture of the ill­ness, and holds firm to a char­ac­ter that re­mains tan­gi­ble through the mist of for­get­ful­ness. She is play­ing a per­son, not a dis­ease.

Sadly, the rest of the film doesn’t quite live up to its cen­tral per­for­mance. Such is the con­cen­trated mass of Moore’s black hole that it sucks grav­ity from all lesser satel­lites around it. Alec Baldwin is fine as a shal­lowly con­structed hus­band who, hard as he tries, can’t quite main­tain his pa­tience. Kate Bos­worth is less im­pres­sive as a tight-skinned el­der IVF-minded daugh­ter.

Kristen Ste­wart, play­ing Moore’s youngest child, fights hard­est against the en­ergy drain, but even she seems a lit­tle over­shad­owed.

Still Alice is un­ques­tion­ably well re­searched and sin­cere in its in­ten­tions, but at times it feels a lit­tle schematic. The con­ver­sa­tions con­cern­ing the ge­netic le­gacy of the dis­ease feel plucked from a doc­u­men­tary.

As a pro­fes­sor of lin­guis­tics, Alice would be at­tuned to crit­i­cal ver­nac­u­lar and would, thus, un­der­stand when we note that giv­ing our Alzheimer’s pa­tient that pro­fes­sion feels just a lit­tle “on the nose”. She is con­cerned with lan­guage – get it?

For all that, Still Alice is as mov­ing a film as you will see this quar­ter.

With that sub­ject and that per­for­mance, how could it be oth­er­wise?

Un­forced open­ness Ju­lianne Moore and, be­low, with Matthew McConaughey back­stage af­ter her Os­car win

Ju­lianne Moore: plays a per­son, not a dis­ease

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