Ju­lianne MOORE



Even af­ter decades of in­ter­view­ing Hol­ly­wood ac­tresses, there are still a few true greats who re­duce me to a starstruck teenager. Ju­lianne Moore is one of them – although I’ve met her be­fore and she’s al­ways de­light­ful. We’re meet­ing for lunch at Clar­idge’s in Lon­don to dis­cuss her new film Subur­bicon, a riv­et­ing, dark satire co-star­ring Matt Da­mon and di­rected by George Clooney, about prej­u­dice in the US in the 1950s. ‘It was a time when ev­ery­thing was sup­posed to be beau­ti­ful, but it was only good if you were white and male and if you had a job,’ says Ju­lianne, still sub­limely beau­ti­ful at 56.

Her 19-year-old son Caleb (with her sec­ond hus­band, film­maker Bart Fre­undlich, whom she met when she starred in his 1997 film The Myth of Fin­ger­prints) is in his sec­ond year at col­lege; her daugh­ter Liv is 15. ‘It’s shock­ing for par­ents when their kids get older. Sud­denly they’re 18 and do­ing things on their own. Child­hood seems to last for ever, but ado­les­cence goes by in a flash. I was look­ing at my son’s room and I was, like, “He’s never go­ing to be back here.”’ And my hus­band said, “He’ll be back, but not in the same way.” Col­lege is a half­way house – they’re on their own and re­spon­si­ble, but ob­vi­ously not en­tirely re­spon­si­ble.’

Ju­lianne misses her son (‘It’s a big ad­just­ment’) but says that, on the bright side, ‘It’s also won­der­ful be­cause if you’ve done your job, they’re happy to move on and you have to al­low your­self to move on too.’ That en­tails, she sug­gests, ‘re­vis­it­ing your mar­riage in a dif­fer­ent way; any re­la­tion­ship takes ef­fort and needs care’. Be­cause of her hec­tic film sched­ule, she and her hus­band hadn’t had much time to­gether re­cently. ‘Last night our daugh­ter went to a friend’s birth­day party and I said, “Let’s go for din­ner and a walk be­fore I get on the plane.” And we had a lovely time. You re­alise, “Oh, this is why we’re to­gether.”’ Do they share in­ter­ests? ‘We do a lot of eat­ing to­gether,’ she laughs. ‘And we both like to hike. He’s very sporty, he plays bas­ket­ball and I do Ash­tanga yoga.’

An­other key to a ful­fill­ing mar­riage: a shared sense of hu­mour. ‘Yes­ter­day my hus­band was play­ing El­ton John songs as I was pack­ing, and I couldn’t con­cen­trate on what I was do­ing but didn’t know how to turn off the wire­less sound sys­tem. Then he put on some nutty honky-tonk song and I laughed so hard. If you didn’t laugh you’d be doomed, wouldn’t you?’

I re­mind her of one of our pre­vi­ous in­ter­views, at a time when my el­der daugh­ter was think­ing of ap­ply­ing to col­leges abroad, thou­sands of miles from home. Ju­lianne, who met my daugh­ter when she dropped in on the in­ter­view, told her not to. ‘Don’t do it! Don’t go far away,’ she prac­ti­cally shouted, ex­plain­ing that her fa­ther’s army ca­reer meant her own fam­ily had moved fre­quently dur­ing her child­hood. When Ju­lianne en­rolled at Bos­ton Univer­sity to study drama she had been liv­ing with her two younger sib­lings and their mother Anne in Ger­many where her fa­ther Peter was sta­tioned. It was dif­fi­cult, she says, ‘be­cause I couldn’t go home for week­ends’. Caleb is at col­lege in North Carolina (in­ci­den­tally, where Ju­lianne was born), so rea­son­ably close to the fam­ily’s home in New York – ‘but still too far away,’ she says.

I tell Ju­lianne that her ad­vice prob­a­bly had more im­pact on my daugh­ter than any­thing I could have said, as she ended up aban­don­ing her plan to do a de­gree over­seas. Do we view ac­tresses like her as role mod­els who seem to have all the an­swers? She has a dif­fer­ent view. ‘My the­ory is that peo­ple see them­selves and their own lives

re­flected through movies. That’s why they are so pow­er­ful, be­cause you see a char­ac­ter and say, “I like her… I don’t know why.”’

That’s def­i­nitely the case with Ju­lianne’s roles. Even if her char­ac­ters’ lives are far re­moved from our own, it’s easy to re­late to their flaws, from the porn star in 1997’s Boo­gie Nights, which led to her first Os­car nom­i­na­tion, to the wife of a clos­eted gay man in Todd Haynes’s Far From Heaven (2002), which also landed her an Os­car nod – there have been five in to­tal. She was un­for­get­table as the les­bian mother who em­barks on an af­fair with Mark Ruf­falo, her chil­dren’s sperm donor, in The Kids Are All Right (2010), and as the lin­guis­tics pro­fes­sor di­ag­nosed with Alzheimer’s in the mov­ing Still Alice. That sem­i­nal per­for­mance re­sulted in a Best Ac­tress Os­car in 2014.

Subur­bicon is set in a sani­tised, post­war Amer­i­can neigh­bour­hood char­ac­terised by man­i­cured lawns, cookie-cut­ter houses and as­pi­ra­tional mid­dle- class res­i­dents – all white. Matt Da­mon stars as Gard­ner Lodge, a seem­ingly up­stand­ing sub­ur­ban dad, and Ju­lianne plays both his dis­abled wife Rose and Rose’s twin sis­ter Mar­garet. Chic and blonde (Mar­garet dyes her brunette hair to copy her sis­ter), Ju­lianne is stun­ning in a se­ries of el­e­gant 50s dresses. Matt, mean­while, is paunchy and stolid as Gard­ner – the po­lar op­po­site of his Ja­son Bourne char­ac­ter from the spy-thriller movies, though Ju­lianne in­sists, ‘I think he looks great.’ Her co-star is ‘such a de­light’, she adds. ‘He is so funny and chatty. And he has a lovely fam­ily; I love the fact that [when we were film­ing] it was Hal­loween and he said, “I gotta go – trick or treat­ing starts at 5.30!”’

The screen­play, which George Clooney wrote with the Coen broth­ers and his long-time col­lab­o­ra­tor Grant Heslov, is grip­ping and dis­turb­ing with some darkly funny scenes. Af­ter Rose is killed dur­ing a vi­o­lent bur­glary,

Mar­garet moves into the fam­ily house, os­ten­si­bly to take care of her young nephew (Bri­tish ac­tor Noah Jupe who played Hugh Lau­rie’s son in The Night Man­ager), but things are not what they seem. ‘Both Matt and I wanted to play or­di­nary peo­ple do­ing ter­ri­ble things,’ says Ju­lianne of their char­ac­ters. ‘They keep mak­ing the wrong choices and as they bum­ble along, their mis­takes get more morally rep­re­hen­si­ble.’

In a piv­otal sub­plot (based on real-life events from 1957 in Le­vit­town, Penn­syl­va­nia), a black fam­ily called the Mey­ers move in next door. Per­se­cuted by the lo­cal com­mu­nity, they’re turned into scape­goats af­ter the mur­der. ‘Mar­garet and Gard­ner are con­sumed with their own es­ca­lat­ing trou­bles and turn a blind eye to the prej­u­dice that’s de­stroy­ing their neigh­bours,’ ex­plains Ju­lianne.

The naive Mar­garet works in a su­per­mar­ket and fan­ta­sises about a more glam­orous life. ‘She’s a sin­gle woman, prob­a­bly un­e­d­u­cated, with no eco­nomic au­thor­ity, and her goal is to be mar­ried and have her own house,’ says Ju­lianne, point­ing out that women in the 50s had limited op­tions. ‘Birth con­trol was il­le­gal. You couldn’t get a credit card if you were a woman.’ Her own mother, Anne Smith, wasn’t given the same op­por­tu­ni­ties as Ju­lianne’s un­cle. ‘She was born in Scot­land in 1940. My mother’s fa­ther was a ma­chin­ist, her mother was a home­maker. They saved money for her brother to go to col­lege but not my mother. So she trained to be a nurse – that’s what a girl would do – and then she got mar­ried.’ (Her mother later went to col­lege and be­came a psy­chi­atric so­cial worker.) As a re­sult, says Ju­lianne, ‘My par­ents worked really hard and saved money for us all to go to col­lege. They val­ued ed­u­ca­tion.’

In trib­ute to her mother, who died in 2009 at the age of 68, Ju­lianne be­came a UK ci­ti­zen in 2011 (she holds Bri­tish and Amer­i­can pass­ports). She has told me in the past how close they were. ‘I don’t want to start cry­ing,’ she says now. How does she keep her mother’s mem­ory alive? ‘I talk about her. I was on the phone to my son the other day, he was talk­ing about his mu­sic class and I said, “Nana al­ways said you were very mu­si­cal.” My grand­mother died when I was a teenager and I re­mem­ber my mother would al­ways talk about her.’

Subur­bicon is bit­ingly funny in parts, but at its heart the film is a sting­ing in­dict­ment of hypocrisy and prej­u­dice that seems res­o­nant in the light of the cur­rent racial ten­sions rag­ing in Amer­ica. Shot dur­ing the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, it was, says Ju­lianne, ‘a re­ac­tion to all those al­lu­sions to build­ing a wall, de­fam­ing Mus­lims, the anti-im­mi­gra­tion sen­ti­ment’. George Clooney has said he was an­gered by the ex­treme rhetoric from Don­ald Trump and that this mo­ti­vated his work on the screen­play. ‘We didn’t ex­pect that a year later there would be race ri­ots in Char­lottesville,’ she con­tin­ues, re­fer­ring to the re­cent clashes be­tween white su­prem­a­cists and counter-pro­test­ers. ‘What George is say­ing in this movie is how easy it is to look the other way while hor­rific stuff is hap­pen­ing out­side your door.’ Ju­lianne says she’s ‘ashamed’ at the way Trump has re­fused to specif­i­cally de­nounce neo-Nazis. ‘He ac­tu­ally gave them per­mis­sion to use their voices in the most dis­gust­ing way, by re­fus­ing to con­demn their ac­tions.’

Does she think Trump will be im­peached? She puts a hand on her heart. ‘I can only talk as an in­di­vid­ual,’ she says. ‘But I be­lieve he is cor­rupt and I also be­lieve that there was Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion.’ A sup­porter of Hil­lary Clin­ton, Ju­lianne is con­vinced that misog­yny was at play in her elec­toral de­feat, too. ‘It’s very cu­ri­ous to me that [al­most] ev­ery other na­tion has had a fe­male leader and the United States still hasn’t. Shock­ing, isn’t it?’

There have been sug­ges­tions that George Clooney should con­sider run­ning for pres­i­dent. Ju­lianne has strong views on the sub­ject. ‘Hon­estly, I can’t bear it, this idea of re­lat­ing lead­ers with en­ter­tain­ment fig­ures,’ she says. ‘What you want is a pres­i­dent who is ex­pe­ri­enced in gov­ern­ment. You don’t want a re­al­ity show per­son. I don’t even want to joke about movie stars be­ing pres­i­dent of the United States.’

George the di­rec­tor is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. Ju­lianne raves about how ‘pre­pared and thought­ful’ he is. And, she says, George is a changed man since his mar­riage to hu­man rights lawyer Amal, whom Ju­lianne met for the first time at the Venice Film Fes­ti­val in Septem­ber. ‘She is so lovely and you can see the dif­fer­ence

in George’s per­son­al­ity, how set­tled he seems with her, how fondly he speaks of her. I al­ways say it’s a great sign when some­one talks about their part­ner a lot and he adores Amal.’

She adds that George is lov­ing be­ing a dad to his five-month-old twins Alexan­der and Ella. ‘It’s al­ways dif­fi­cult to ex­plain to peo­ple the tremen­dous joy chil­dren bring to your life, so I’m happy he’s ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it.’ Like any new par­ent, he is sleep - de­prived, she adds. ‘I texted him when I got home af­ter see­ing Subur­bicon in New York – I didn’t want to call him be­cause it was the mid­dle of the night in Lon­don. Then my phone buzzed and it was George. He said he was up with his ba­bies!’

At this point my own phone vi­brates: it’s my younger daugh­ter mes­sag­ing me on the fam­ily group chat. ‘We do fam­ily texts, too,’ Ju­lianne smiles. ‘We text all the time… emo­jis, Bit­mo­jis, Snapchat. All that stuff.’ And we’re back to what con­sti­tutes a good mar­riage. Ju­lianne says she and her hus­band are ‘a really good team’ when it comes to par­ent­ing. ‘He’ll take our son surf­ing; he’ll play bas­ket­ball with our daugh­ter. I’m much bet­ter at or­gan­is­ing all the school stuff and meet­ings. I once joked that in my fam­ily I am pres­i­dent of busi­ness and he’s di­rec­tor of en­ter­tain­ment and food ser­vices,’ she laughs.

Tol­er­ance is es­sen­tial, we agree. ‘Ev­ery time I have to go away, I over-pack,’ she says. ‘I’m not one of those peo­ple who lays out their out­fits. I panic. My hus­band no longer does that, “Oh come on, it’s not a big deal,” thing. He knows I have to start pack­ing at mid­day.’ Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is an­other key. Ju­lianne and Bart ‘talk about each other’s work and about our fu­ture’.

They’ve dis­cussed down­siz­ing in New York when the chil­dren have both fin­ished col­lege: ‘And we’ll prob­a­bly get some­thing in Los An­ge­les, so we’ll be able to go, “Oh, it’s cold here, let’s go there for a bit.”’ And she says they dis­cuss the prospect of one day be­com­ing grand­par­ents. ‘That’s why we have a lit­tle beach house in Long Is­land, to make sure we have a place that ev­ery­body can bring their boyfriends and girl­friends and chil­dren to, so all the fam­ily can be to­gether. I mean, you need to be al­lur­ing as a par­ent, right?’

It’s hard to imag­ine a par­ent with more al­lure than Ju­lianne. And while it’s ob­vi­ous that fam­ily life is her pri­or­ity, her ca­reer is more ex­cit­ing than ever. She’s one of the few women in Hol­ly­wood who con­tinue to land com­plex roles in thought­ful dra­mas as well as star­ring in big-bud­get crowd pleasers such as The Hunger Games: Mock­ing jay – Part 1 and Kings­man: The Golden Cir­cle, the re­cent se­quel to Matthew Vaughn’s 2015 spy ca­per.

Was her Still Alice Os­car win a defin­ing mo­ment? ‘Of course! I think you’d be be­ing disin­gen­u­ous if you didn’t say that it’s cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant. My son was in a sta­tis­tics class and they were talk­ing about the chances of win­ning a No­bel Prize, an Os­car or a Pulitzer Prize. And he went, “Oh my God, that’s so weird, my mum won an Os­car.” It is a big deal!’

With the buzz of awards cir­cu­lat­ing for Subur­bicon, Ju­lianne is also en­thu­si­as­tic about an­other up­com­ing film of hers that has had great early re­views – Won­der­struck, based on a timeshift­ing chil­dren’s novel by Brian Selznick. ‘It’s about a girl from the 1920s and a boy from the 1970s who run away from home, and it’s a lovely ex­pres­sion of what it is to be a child,’ says Ju­lianne, who plays char­ac­ters from both eras. ‘This is the year of dou­ble roles!’ Next year we’ll see her play an opera singer in Bel Canto, based on the prizewin­ning 2001 novel by Ann Patch­ett.

Be­fore our in­ter­view is over, I ask Ju­lianne whether she is con­cerned about get­ting older – she cer­tainly doesn’t look her age. ‘There’s no guar­an­tee that you’re go­ing to get older. I could walk out of here and be hit by a car and that would be it,’ she says, drain­ing her cof­fee and leav­ing me with a fi­nal piece of sage ad­vice. ‘Either you age and you get more life or you die. End of story. We have just one tiny, brief life, so why not live it and be grate­ful that you have an­other day?’

Subur­bicon will be in cin­e­mas from 24 Novem­ber

From left: Ju­lianne with An­nette Ben­ing in The Kids Are All Right; as Cathy in Far From Heaven, and with Mark Wahlberg in Boo­gie Nights

Ju­lianne with co-star Matt Da­mon in Subur­bicon, top, and, left, with her hus­band Bart and their chil­dren Liv and Caleb

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