Taking on the role of Sarah Palin in HBO's latest presidential election film venture, "Game Change" (premiering March 10), was every bit as risky for Julianne Moore as you can imagine.
"I did a tremendous amount of research," Moore said at the Television Critics Assn. press tour In Pasadena today. "It's a daunting task to play somebody who's not only a living figure but an incredibly daunting one, so the thing that was most important to me was accuracy."
Moore said that she, like much of the rest of the country, had "a collective gasp" when Palin was introduced to the national stage, but she necessarily had to move beyond that when playing the part.
"I certainly have profound respect for the historical nature of her candidacy," Moore said. "From where she was taken there was tremendous amount of pressure, and that was one of the things I was trying to capture."
For most Americans, especially those who haven't read the film's source material of the same name (written by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann), the impact of that pressure on Palin herself might come as a surprise. But screenwriter Danny Strong, adapting the book after having success on HBO's "Recount," said that the film's goal isn't to present a new Palin, just a dimensionalized one.
"It's not designed to change anybody's minds," said Strong, who added that his 25 interviews for the project included every critical person associated with the 2008 Republican presidential campaign except Palin, John McCain (played by Ed Harris) and speechwriter Mark Salter. "It's designed to show you the truth.
"When you dive into a subject the way you do (on "Game Change"), you get a perspective that is so much more profound than the caricature."
The combination of Palin's charisma and her lack of preparation for the role gets nuanced treatment in "Game Change," which also stars Woody Harrelson and Sarah Paulson and is directed by "Recount" helmer Jay Roach — though the filmmakers would have liked Palin's participation in the project.
"I personally on behalf of the (movie) reached out to Sarah Palin and made a personal request," Roach said. "I wrote a long letter explaining that I thought we would just do better at getting this story right if she would talk to us, and that our main motive was to try to tell the story as faithfully and authentically as we possibly could.
"I got a very quick e-mail back from her attorneys saying, 'I checked. She declines.'