Keep­ing it real

Ju­lianne Moore talks ex­treme vi­o­lence, mar­i­tal har­mony... and bananas, with Celia Walden

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - WILDLIFE - Pho­to­graphs by Jonas Unger. Styling by Rachel Wirkus

Ju­lianne Moore turns out to be the kind of woman who shows you pic­tures of her hus­band and chil­dren on her iphone. She’s the kind of woman who re­fills your wa­ter glass, turns ques­tions back at you and in­sists on see­ing what is in the shop­ping bag at your feet. She’s im­me­di­ately girl­ishly in­ti­mate, un­af­fected, and un­like most Hol­ly­wood ac­tresses seems to rel­ish the me­an­der­ing turns an in­ter­view can take. One of th­ese turns has led her to show­ing me her hus­band’s grin­ning head su­per­im­posed on a ba­nana on Snapchat (‘He sent it to me this morn­ing,’ she says. ‘And it’s still mak­ing me laugh so hard’). She ex­plains what I’ve al­ready guessed is a mar­i­tal in­joke. ‘Ev­ery morn­ing it makes me crazy that he slices a ba­nana in half and then leaves the other half of the ba­nana out. For what? For some­one else to eat? Oh, it drives me crazy!’ But she’s telling the anec­dote to il­lus­trate her point on mar­riage and what makes a suc­cess­ful one. ‘ It ’s def­i­nitely hu­mour, isn’t it?’ she flings back when I ask what has kept her and the writer-di­rec­tor Bart Fre­undlich to­gether for 21 years. ‘Be­cause at a cer­tain point you’ve just got to laugh.’ And she does.

We’re in a ho­tel room in Cannes and half­way through a photo shoot in which Moore is wear­ing a scary quan­tity of Chopard di­a­monds – which is why there’s a body­guard the size of an obelisk seated di­rectly be­hind her (there for the di­a­monds, not Moore), and why room ser­vice has

‘I’ve never in my life not had a shower and morn­ings are some­how al­ways so angst-filled’

just de­liv­ered a €50 club sand­wich. Traf­fic noise drifts through the open win­dow, and the oc­ca­sional shriek of a gen­darme’s whis­tle per­fo­rates our chat, but none of this is strain­ing the dy­namic. With one pale and lightly freck­led leg slung over the side of her vel­vet arm­chair, 56-year-old Moore has the un­flap­pable al­lure of a French film star. And when I tell her she was once de­scribed as ‘the clos­est thing to a French ac­tress the English lan­guage has’, she claps her hands to­gether. ‘Wow! I’ll take that. That’s awe­some.’

It’s also true – and prob­a­bly down to the child­hood the North Carolina-born ac­tress spent in Europe. The daugh­ter of a coun­selling psy­chol­o­gist and a mil­i­tary judge, Moore lived in 23 dif­fer­ent places around the world as she grew up, dis­cov­er­ing Ger­many at 16, ‘and from there a whole new world: the UK, France, Italy’. She ob­serves, ‘Back then each Euro­pean coun­try had a very de­fined cul­ture so you could re­ally no­tice the dif­fer­ences in be­hav­iour and cul­ture.’

Moore spent her teenage years watch­ing films by Sam Peck­in­pah, Robert Alt­man – who would later cast her in Short Cuts – Truf­faut and Go­dard. ‘There was this one Go­dard film,’ she tells me, ‘and all I re­mem­ber is that Nathalie Baye gets out of bed, puts on her clothes and walks straight out of the door. She doesn’t even wash her face or brush her teeth – and she was so, so beau­ti­ful!’ Moore pauses. ‘I’ve never in my life not had a shower and morn­ings are some­how al­ways so

angst-filled… Any­way, I re­mem­ber think­ing, I wish I were that woman.’ I know from the ba­nana story that Moore is not that woman. One quote re­curs in her in­ter­views, and it’s Flaubert’s, not hers: ‘Be reg­u­lar and or­derly in your life, so that you may be vi­o­lent and orig­i­nal in your work.’ I can see why it ’s a favourite: what­ever the genre, there is a vi­o­lence to Moore’s per­for­mances that de­fines her as an ac­tress. An easy and overused il­lus­tra­tion is the scene in Alt­man’s 1993 film Short Cuts where she de­liv­ers a mono­logue to her screen hus­band, Matthew Mo­dine, while naked from the waist down. But even when play­ing re­pressed housewives in Todd Haynes’s 1995 drama Safe (an af­flu­ent woman seem­ingly be­comes poi­soned by her en­vi­ron­ment) and his sub­se­quent Far From

Heaven, in which Moore has to deal with the clos­eted ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity of her hus­band in 1950s Con­necti­cut and em­barks on a scan­dalous af­fair of her own with their black gar­dener, you’re al­ways wait­ing for her to un­ravel. Be­cause no one un­rav­els quite like Moore.

In order to have this qual­ity on screen, she needs a mea­sured and or­derly home life. Moore has a love of place mats and nap­kins and has de­scribed her­self as ‘ob­ses­sive com­pul­sive’ in the past. Back in her early 30s, when she was do­ing

Un­cle Vanya in an aban­doned Broad­way theatre (an ex­per­i­men­tal af­fair that later be­came the film

Vanya On 42nd Street), she de­vel­oped a morn­ing break­fast rou­tine that could not be de­vi­ated from. ‘And that was a kind of su­per­sti­tion,’ she ad­mits now. ‘But I still find it re­ally com­fort­ing to have a rou­tine, be­cause what I do is such er­ratic and emo­tional work, so know­ing that the real stuff – get­ting up at the same time, do­ing yoga ev­ery day and eat­ing the things that I like – stays the same helps give me a lit­tle struc­ture. And I like struc­ture. I like to feel steady. I want to feel stead­ier the older I get.’ And does she? Moore con­tem­plates this. ‘I think so… I’m cer­tainly feel­ing that I’m con­trol­ling my life now, rather than al­low­ing it to con­trol me.’

She tells me about an Amer­i­can self-help writer, Perri Klass, who wrote about the par­tic­u­lar ful­fil­ment women tend to find in their 50s. ‘And I would have found it a sur­pris­ingly sat­is­fy­ing pe­riod had my mother not passed away.’ A brief in­ter­nal wran­gle plays out across her fea­tures as she strug­gles to con­tain a grief she clearly still feels, eight years af­ter los­ing her adored Scot­tish-born mother to sep­tic shock. ‘But… but… oth­er­wise I would say that I’m through the most chal­leng­ing part, where your kids are lit­tle and you feel al­most dizzy with emo­tion and tired­ness. And as they get more in­de­pen­dent, life does get eas­ier and stead­ier.’

By Flaubert’s logic, this in­creased steadi­ness would mean more on-screen ‘vi­o­lence’. And it has, if her lat­est of­fer­ing, Kings­man: The Golden

Cir­cle, is any­thing to go by. In the se­quel to Matthew Vaughn’s 2014 Bri­tish spy film, Moore plays a red-plaid-wear­ing vil­lain named Poppy with a fond­ness for 1950s nostalgia and the sadis­tic slaugh­ter­ing of ‘dis­ap­point­ing’ em­ploy­ees. By stylis­ing the ac­tion se­quences and in­ject­ing the plot with a heavy dose of black hu­mour, Vaughn gets away with some pretty ex­treme vi­o­lence, and it’s pre­cisely that ‘car­toon-like’ as­pect that Moore en­joyed. ‘Be­cause the tone is be­tween ac­tion and com­edy – and in all the most suc­cess­ful ac­tion dra­mas there is usu­ally a cen­tral char­ac­ter who of­fers you a lit­tle wit, so that’s what Matthew does with all of his char­ac­ters. He gives you the genre and he plays with the genre at the same time.’ When Moore first read the Kings­man script she was re­minded of the orig­i­nal Su­per­man, in which Gene Hack­man was the vil­lain. ‘I was so young when I saw it but that was my tem­plate: the com­edy doesn’t pre­vent it from be­ing shock­ing – but you’re still laugh­ing away.’

So chill­ingly per­fect is Moore as a dul­cet-toned she-devil, and so se­duc­tive is she in her red plaid,

‘I’m cer­tainly feel­ing that I’m con­trol­ling my life now, rather than al­low­ing it to con­trol me’

‘I had an agent who would tell me be­fore I went in to au­di­tions that I should “try to look pretty”’

that one feels the part must have been writ­ten for her – just as one felt when watch­ing her in David Cro­nen­berg’s Maps To The Stars (where Moore plays a needy, fad­ing ac­tress, a per­for­mance that won her Best Ac­tress at Cannes in 2014), and Richard Glatzer and Wash West­more­land’s Still Alice (she won an Os­car in 2015 for her por­trayal of a woman di­ag­nosed with Alzheimer’s). Cer­tainly, Todd Haynes will have had no one but Moore in mind for the role of a 1920s silent movie star in his much-an­tic­i­pated forth­com­ing mys­ti­cal drama,

Won­der­struck. In fact, since turn­ing 40, Moore has played some of the rich­est roles of her career. ‘I’ve been very for­tu­nate,’ she says – al­most apolo­getic. ‘But also I do hate to keep beat­ing that “there’s noth­ing for women out there” drum, be­cause I feel like the more you say it the more you make it true.’ The busi­ness is hard for men over a cer­tain age too, she points out, and like any busi­ness, it can’t func­tion on an ide­o­log­i­cal ba­sis. ‘So I al­ways try to re­mind my­self that we’re cre­at­ing a prod­uct that goes out in the world to be sold.’ O ne sub­ject Moore is happy to beat the drum for is equal pay. ‘I think what Jen­nifer Lawrence is do­ing is very, very im­pres­sive. Be­cause if a young woman with her de­gree of box-of­fice suc­cess can say, “OK, I am the value in this film and I need to be paid equally,” then it might make things change. We’re 50 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion and it ’s ridicu­lous that we’re not paid the same in ev­ery in­dus­try.’ She will also ad­mit to nig­gles of an­noy­ance over some con­tem­po­rary ter­mi­nolo­gies. The word ‘still’ could be ex­punged from ev­ery ‘still fab­u­lous’ head­line about a woman over 30, for ex­am­ple. ‘It’s re­ally say­ing, “Wow, look at her – she’s hanging on!”, isn’t it? And I hate it when they say “play­ing an age­ing…”, and you think, “Well, we’re all age­ing ev­ery minute of ev­ery day: that ’s what be­ing a hu­man be­ing en­tails, so why make it pe­jo­ra­tive?’’’

When she started out, did she feel that her looks were a help or a hin­drance? Moore does a lit­tle dis­be­liev­ing laugh into her curved palm. ‘Hon­estly, I think peo­ple are con­sid­ered more at­trac­tive than they are when they’re suc­cess­ful. So maybe I’m viewed dif­fer­ently now but back then I had an agent who would tell me be­fore I went in to au­di­tions that I should “try to look pretty”. Ap­par­ently the feed­back kept com­ing in: “Could she be pret­tier?” And I re­mem­ber think­ing, “Oh dear, I’m not sure I have much con­trol over that.”’ And yet around that time Moore won the part of Elena in Un­cle Vanya – who wasn’t sim­ply beau­ti­ful but the most beau­ti­ful woman Vanya had ever laid eyes on. ‘And again I kept say­ing, “I just don’t feel that I can do that. I don’t feel I am that.” And my agent said, “You don’t have to be the most beau­ti­ful girl in the world. You just have to be the most beau­ti­ful girl in that room.”’

Thanks to so­cial me­dia, ev­ery room is now in­fin­itely large, and the com­par­isons much starker. As a mother to a 15-year-old girl, Liv (her son Caleb is 19), Moore ad­mits this a con­cern. ‘I think a lot about how aware girls are of their own im­age now – and all that comparing of your­self to other peo­ple. Our pool was smaller be­cause you were just do­ing those com­par­isons in your own school or com­mu­nity, but now girls are look­ing at all th­ese models and that’s the dif­fer­ence. It’s a lot of pres­sure.’

Like her own par­ents, who only al­lowed their daugh­ter to study act­ing once she had a de­gree, ‘so that then I could still go to grad­u­ate school if I needed to’, Moore has kept her chil­dren fo­cused and grounded by em­pha­sis­ing the im­por­tance of academia. ‘I grew up with a mother who fin­ished col­lege when I was in eighth grade,’ she ex­plains. ‘Her par­ents hadn’t even been to school and there was no ex­pec­ta­tion of her go­ing to col­lege be­cause she was a woman, so she trained as a nurse, had three kids and then got her de­grees piece by piece. She was al­ways re­mind­ing me how hard things used to be for women and how birth con­trol wasn’t even le­gal in the States un­til 1965 – which means I’m aware that the ben­e­fits I had were hard won, and I never take any­thing for granted.’

Rather than get­ting into any dis­cus­sion on the chang­ing face of fem­i­nism, how­ever, Moore is anx­ious to bring things back to the gen­eral con­cept of equal­ity. ‘Be­cause just as not ev­ery movie is for ev­ery per­son, there is no rea­son why ev­ery­thing has to be uni­fied. Al­lowances have to be made for ev­ery­body, male or fe­male, be­cause we’re all dif­fer­ent.’ This means, she main­tains, that peo­ple shouldn’t be told how to be­have, es­pe­cially within mar­riage and part­ner­ships. ‘If you want to pick up your hus­band’s socks as a woman, you do it. Af­ter all, mar­riage is a part­ner­ship and it ’s great to be in­ter­de­pen­dent with some­body and to do things for one an­other.’ Sud­denly re­mem­ber­ing the ba­nana photo and throw­ing her phone an amused glance, she says, ‘Be­cause that’s when you re­ally thrive.’ Kings­man: The Golden Cir­cle is re­leased on 20 Septem­ber

Pre­vi­ous page: flo­ral dress, Louis Vuit­ton; ear­rings fea­tur­ing pear-shaped di­a­monds, from the Pre­cious Chopard col­lec­tion, and This page: di­a­mond neck­lace, from the Haute Joail­lerie col­lec­tion, and ring, as be­fore, both Chopard (020-7287 8710)

Top and trousers, Chloé; sun­glasses, Céline; ear­rings, fea­tur­ing four kun­zites (a total of 96ct), di­a­monds, beryl and tan­zan­ites, from the Haute Joail­lerie col­lec­tion, Chopard (020-7287 8710). Pho­to­graphs: Jonas Unger at Bird Pro­duc­tion. Styling: Rachel Wirkus at The Wall Group. Hair: Mar­cus Fran­cis at Star works Artists. Make-up: Robert Ses­nek at The Wall Group. Nails: Lucy Tucker at One Rep­re­sents us­ing Nail­berry L’oxygéné pol­ish. Pho­tographed in Cannes, France, May 2017

KINGS­MAN:THE GOLDEN CIR­CLE 2017. Moore rel­ished the ‘car­toon-like’ vi­o­lence in her lat­est film, by the Bri­tish di­rec­tor Matthew Vaughn

STILL ALICE 2014. She won an Os­car for her por­trayal of a lin­guis­tics pro­fes­sor with early-on­set Alzheimer’s dis­ease MAPSTO THE STARS 2014. Her role in this David Cro­nen­berg film won her best ac­tress at Cannes

FAR FROM HEAVEN 2002. Moore re­ceived an Os­car nom­i­na­tion for her por­trayal of a 1950s housewife in Todd Haynes’s melo­drama

MOORE’S KEY MOVIES SHORT CUTS 1993. Her break­through film

VANYA ON 42nd STREET 1994. An ex­per­i­men­tal take on Chekhov, di­rected by Louis Malle

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