x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

A star that lives like an actress

One on one Julianne Moore's approach to life and career make her an actress' actress.

Julianne Moore's face is familiar on the big screen but this is as "Hollywood" as she wants to go.
Julianne Moore's face is familiar on the big screen but this is as "Hollywood" as she wants to go.

There is always a great sense of fear when one of your favourite novels is going to be adapted for the big screen. I imagine that's how most people felt when they heard that the Nobel prize winner Jose Saramago's apocalyptic book Blindness was going to be given the cinema treatment. But then I equally think that this was followed by a huge sigh of relief when it was made clear that the pivotal role of the only woman who can see in a city of people afflicted by a mysterious sight impairing illness was going to be played by Julianne Moore, the darling of independent cinema and four time Oscar nominee.

Moore is one of those actresses that everyone seems to adore, but isn't quite a superstar despite all the accolades and supreme performances. When we meet, the sun is beating down on her famous copper hair and she's wearing sunglasses. Fun and down-to-earth in person she's the total opposite of her usual screen persona of a confused woman on the verge of an enormous, nasty breakdown, a stereotype established by Todd Haynes when he cast her in Safe as a woman who quits her family life to live in a commune. In The Hours, her character almost kills herself and again deserts her husband and child. She struggled to escape from a loveless marriage in Far From Heaven and she's the adulteress in the Graham Greene adaptation The End of the Affair. Then there is her unforgettable turn as Amber Waves in Boogie Nights.

She reveals that she's attracted to these difficult, close to the edge roles, "not because they're transgressive, but because they're compelling". She adds, "Usually what interests me is stuff about relationships - people living their lives and what befalls them. That is what I respond to." Her role in Blindness fits exactly into this template; her character doesn't even have a name and is referred to as Doctor's Wife in the credits. She does everything for her husband, including sacrificing her own dignity so that she can look after him in his hour of need, living in the most disgusting conditions. Blindness is similar to Lord of the Flies in that it goes out of its way to show the self-interest of humans.

On the flip side, it also shows how quickly humans are able to foster a sense of community and find common goals, and the 47-year-old actress reveals that finding a sense of community is one of the reasons that she lives in New York City. "I like urban life a lot," she explains. "I like living in a community that is important to me. I think people tend to do well with communities where you have a lot of contact with neighbours and friends. New York is very much like that. You live closely. Contrary to popular belief, you do know your next door neighbour and people across the street."

Moore lives in New York with her second husband and the father of her two children, the film writer and director Bart Freundlich. They try to avoid the clichés of the Hollywood lifestyle and live a life as normally as possible. She says, "We don't have a nanny. Our kids are in school, and if I pick one up, he'll pick up the other and we have babysitters we can call when we need to. It's pretty much like anybody in the world and it's really important to us that it's like that."

As you talk to Moore, it becomes increasingly clear why she is never mentioned in the same breath as say a Meryl Streep or even her Hours co-star Nicole Kidman. She just doesn't put career before family and quality of life. She candidly admits that she's never seen the blockbuster Next that she claims she acted in because "they offered a wage that could pay my mortgage". Her serious attempts at venturing into big-budget Hollywood have often been the false moves of her career, like the attempt to fill the boots of Jodie Foster in Hannibal, the follow-up to The Silence of The Lambs or her role in Gus Van Sant's shot-by-shot remake of Psycho.

Moore has the sensibility of an independent actress. She works best when she has a director who'll not treat her as just another cog in the machine. That's why she brings up Far From Heaven when she talks about what her favourite roles have been. "All my characters mean different things to me. But Far From Heaven was really meaningful to me because Todd wrote the part for me. That is the greatest gift that can be given to an actor when someone likes you so much that they will write something with you in mind."