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Highbrow to slapstick, Moore works the range

Thesp hasn't plotted acting course

HOLLYWOOD — Decades from now, when Julianne Moore looks back on her career, she’ll probably cast a particular eye on the year 2001, when she seemed to be everywhere, acting in every kind of movie.

The year would begin with her tense portrayal of Clarice Starling in “Hannibal,” notably unburdened by the 10-year-old legacy of Jodie Foster’s Oscared interpretation of the character. It would suddenly leap into slapstick for “Evolution,” in which Moore proved she could talk science one minute and do pratfalls the next.

In the fall and winter, she will complete an extraordinary period with the fest bows of her boyfriend-director Bart Freundlich’s “World Traveler,” in which she plays a vagabonding alter ego to Billy Crudup’s traveler; and the completion of roles in two major dramas: In Stephen Daldry-directed “The Hours,” she’s Laura Brown, a suffocating 1949 L.A. suburban housewife hooked on Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” and in Lasse Hallstrom’s “The Shipping News,” she plays Wavey, a Newfoundland woman whose life becomes involved with Kevin Spacey’s newspaperman.

In the midst of it all, Moore finds herself honored by the Deauville Film Festival, where “World Traveler” will premiere.

Right now, in the middle of 2001, Moore says she is just getting back her bearings after a dizzying period of back-to-back-to-back filming.

“I was telling Bart this morning that I hadn’t really been thinking yet about Deauville, and what I was going to say to them in my pidgin French,” says Moore by phone from New York. “It’s a lovely honor, but I don’t feel like I’m in a place to receive it, since I’ve only been at this 10 years.”

It hasn’t been a decadelong plan of carefully strategized career moves, either.

“Any actor who thinks they can plan out their work and roles is living in a dream world,” she says. “Even though it might seem that the list of my recent and new films is a balancing of independent and studio projects, this isn’t anything that’s plotted out. I like to work in different venues, different genres, and it can be fun to work on a big, fluffy commercial movie.

“I’m always staggered when people ask actors why they work on studio movies, as if actors don’t have to pay bills like everyone else.”

But, Moore agrees, “my specialty is tragedy,” referencing her galvanizing performances in Todd Haynes’ “Safe” or Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights.” But it’s important to note that Moore asked director Ivan Reitman if her role as a U.S. epidemiologist could be made funnier.

“I had never done pratfalls or a lot of physical comedy onscreen before, and I’ve always wanted to. I’m glad Ivan let me do it,” she says.

“I was a bit frightened by her proposal at first,” says Reitman, “because I didn’t want to turn one of the great actors of the screen into a clown. But she made it work. She’s a naturally warm person, she laughs easily and she’s unpretentious about the whole art of performance, so she came ready for comedy. ”

Moore is now in the rare position of having filmmakers like Haynes, Anderson and Freundlich write roles with her in mind.

“I’ll be working with Todd this fall in ‘Far From Heaven,”’ she notes, “and it’s a reminder that the deepest pleasure I’ve had as an actor is working with so many great directors.”

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