Julianne Moore: Walk of Fame Honoree Made Sarah Palin Human, Tamed ‘Dude’

Thesp finds key to inhabiting flawed characters

Film directors love Julianne Moore and she must love them back. After all, she’s married to one (Bart Freundlich). Muse to Paul Thomas Anderson and Todd Haynes, a complicit partner to Robert Altman and Lisa Cholodenko, a fleshed-out Sarah Palin (“Game Change”) seemingly more genuine than the article, Moore has worked with some of cinema’s most accomplished talents — both behind and in front of the camera.

In fact, the four-time Oscar nominee’s work has been so consistently strong over the years that it’s almost easy to take her for granted. Her name doesn’t always come up in conversations about the grand dames of English-language cinema, perhaps because she doesn’t call attention to the craft as conspicuously as Meryl Streep or Cate Blanchett, nor does she attract the tabloid attention of Nicole Kidman or Angelina Jolie, whose creative risks are either viewed as acts of bravery or served up as the red meat of schadenfreude.

However she has played damaged mothers (“Boogie Nights”), unfaithful wives (“The Kids Are All Right”), comically driven artists (“The Big Lebowski”) and women paralyzed by fear and depression (“Safe,” “The Hours”) with equal aplomb and complexity.

Popular on Variety

New York Times critic Manohla Dargis has waxed eloquently about the duality of Moore’s appeal as registered by her face, both transparent and opaque. “With her milky complexion and lapidary features, Ms. Moore can seem alarmingly fragile, as breakable and translucent as fine French porcelain,” writes Dargis. “It’s a face that suggests vulnerability, femininity and an almost otherworldly ethereality. But there is a tough side to the actress, too, a core resolve that can harden her beauty into a mask, and it is in the space between her perceived delicacy and this mask that Ms. Moore does her best work.”

Even when the role is secondary, like her elegant mess of an alcoholic in “A Single Man,” or her grieving widow in “Don Jon” attests, she delivers memorable work.

Variety’s review of the latter film underscored the cast’s ability to navigate “the movie’s tricky tonal mix — none better than Julianne Moore, who plays an unexpected confidante Jon meets while attending night school, using her gift for nuance to spin a small part into the film’s soul.”

“The interesting thing about the character is that she’s in a place in her life, due to her circumstances, where she can’t be anything less than kind of 100 percent authentic,” Moore tells Variety, “and that’s the most interesting thing about her. She’s very, very present.”

It’s clear from speaking with the actress, who is due to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Oct. 3, that she approaches her work with utmost seriousness. She’s an avid reader who reacts most favorably to strong writing and characters that surprise her.

When she received Haynes’ script for “Safe” (1995), a breakthrough film for both actress and director in which she plays a pampered wife whose adverse reaction to the environment could be seen as psychosomatic or symbolic, she became “desperate” for the role. “I’ve never read anything quite like it,” she says. “Todd and I had a very brief meeting and didn’t speak very much. I was so fortunate because he told me later that I walked out of the room and he said, ‘that’s Carol White.’ I was like, ‘ah, thank God.’ I was so struck by the quality of his writing and it was so interesting to see a movie about identity. That was the beginning of that relationship.”

In the upcoming “Carrie” remake, directed by Kimberly Peirce and starring Chloe Grace Moretz in the title role, Moore delivers what might prove to be the most sinister, Grand Guignol performance of her career, as Carrie’s unhinged mother, Margaret, played by Piper Laurie in the 1976 original. But leave it to the actress to find the humanity beneath the horror.

“She’s inflicting harm, but she’s not intentionally inflicting harm,” Moore says. “She’s doing what she believes is the best thing for her child, and she’s mentally ill. Kim and Chloe and I really talked about them being in their own world, in their own house and where Margaret White feels safest and the refuge she takes in her religion and the nature of that mother-daughter bond. So whenever you’re working on a character, everyone’s a hero in their own story, nobody’s a villain.”


What: Julianne Moore receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
When: 11:30 a.m., Oct. 3
Where: 6250 Hollywood Blvd.

More Film

  • Pulsar Boards 'Wild Indian' With Jesse

    Pulsar Content Boards 'Wild Indian' Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Greyeyes (EXCLUSIVE)

    Pulsar Content, the Paris-based sales company launched at Toronto, has acquired “Wild Indian,” a thriller executive produced by and starring Jesse Eisenberg, along with Michael Greyeyes (“Fear the Walking Dead”). The film marks the feature debut of Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr., whose shorts have played at Toronto and Sundance. “Wild Indian” was developed at the [...]

  • The Night Clerk

    'The Night Clerk': Film Review

    In “The Night Clerk,” Tye Sheridan and a very busy Ana de Armas star as a hotel clerk with Asperger’s and the solicitous beauty who shows up after a murder. The chemistry between Sheridan and de Armas is involving. The casting of Helen Hunt as a enabling mother and John Leguizamo as a police detective [...]

  • A still from Rebuilding Paradise by

    'Rebuilding Paradise': Film Review

    Ron Howard, over the last decade, has directed a handful of documentaries (all of them about popular musicians), and maybe it’s no surprise that he has turned out to be an ace craftsman of the nonfiction form. But “Rebuilding Paradise,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, is a different kind of Ron Howard documentary, [...]

  • "Winerreise"

    MK2 Leaps Into 'A Winter's Journey' Made By 'Loving Vincent,' 'Despicable Me' Artists (EXCLUSIVE)

    MK2 has boarded Alex Helfrecht’s “A Winter’s Journey,” a feature blending live-action, CGI and hand-painted animation made by the creative teams behind “Despicable Me” and “Loving Vincent.” Adapted from Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise,” the film stars Gaspard Ulliel, John Malkovich, Martina Gedeck, Charles Berling  and newcomer Gabriella Moran. Set in 1812 Bavaria, the film tells the [...]

  • Shorta

    Berlin: Charades Scoops Up Edgy Danish Drama 'Shorta' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Charades has scooped up international sales rights to “Shorta,” the buzzed-about Danish project that was presented at Les Arcs’s work-in-progress and Goteborg’s Nordic Film Market. “Shorta,” directed by Frederik Louis Hviid and Anders Ølholm, unfolds in the aftermath of the killing of 19-year-old Talib Ben Hassi while in custody. The film follows two police officers, [...]

  • Stefan Ruzowitzky

    Berlin: Stefan Ruzowitzky, Stephen Susco join 'Alone' remake (EXCLUSIVE)

    Stefan Ruzowitzky, director of the Oscar-winning “The Counterfeiters,” and “The Grudge” screenwriter Stephen Susco have boarded “Alone,” a remake of the 2007 supernatural Thai thriller by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom. The new film follows conjoined twin sisters from an Asian family in Boston whose loving relationship is tested when one of them befriends a [...]

  • A couple wearing face masks walk

    Coronavirus May Hurt China's Long-Term Entertainment Industry Goals

    Halting all film releases and closing cinemas over Chinese New Year was the most dramatic possible expression of the emergency response to the novel coronavirus threat that spread from the city of Wuhan in January. The movie distribution and exhibition sectors had been counting on a billion dollars of box office revenue over the 10-day [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content