Entertainment Magazine

Julianne Moore: The Hollywood Flashback Interview 2002: Far From Heaven, The Hours, Safe, and Boogie Nights

Posted on the 16 October 2022 by Thehollywoodinterview @theHollywoodInt
Julianne Moore: The Hollywood Flashback Interview 2002: Far From Heaven, The Hours, Safe, and Boogie Nights

By Terry Keefe

Approximately 20 years ago, I did the below interview with actress Julianne Moore, which appeared on the cover of Venice Magazine. I had lost my only copy of this for decades and only just found it at the bottom of a box recently, which is why this is just getting posted now. It was a big Oscar season for her in 2002, and I saw both Far From Heaven, which reunited her with filmmaker Todd Haynes, and The Hours, all within less than 20 hours before I met Moore at her loft in Manhattan. 

I first saw Moore in Short Cuts, was sold as a fan a few years later with Safe, her first film with Todd Haynes, and was sold lock, stock, barrel after Boogie Nights. I wished we had more time this day to speak about her work in Boogie Nights, but I did least get out my question of what became of Amber Waves years down the road.

When I arrived at her front door, having just done a near Julianne Moore film festival, she met me with a warm smile, a handshake, and “Hi, I’m Julie.” I recall that she held her young baby for a bit while we did the interview, and another of her children, a bit older, played nearby. 

What was your first reaction after reading the script for Far From Heaven

Julianne Moore: Oh, I was so excited. Todd had called me. You know, we had been in contact over the years after Safe. And one day he just called me out of the blue and said, "Hey! It's me. How are you? Listen, I've just finished a script that I kind of wrote with you in mind. Can I send it?" And I was like, "Send it! Send it!" I got it on a Saturday morning and I read it on the subway going to the gym. A funny thing happens to you when you read a script like that. You're thrilled in your bones or some­thing. Just the idea that there was material like that out there and he wanted me to do it. It moved me so tremendously. And he was like, "Do you like it?" I said, "I'm in! I am so on board with this!" It's an incredible honor to have something written for you that way. I've had a couple of parts written for me before but I've never had a whole movie written for me. 

You and Todd really seem to bring out the best In each other's work. Why do you think that is? 

I don't know. I'm so honored to be kind of in a partnership with him because he's such a tremendous talent. I think that we have a similar methodology in our prepa­ration. I think we're both very thoroughly prepared. And kind of quiet about it. We also like the creative experience on the set. When you look at Todd's lens, he communi­cates so much emotion in a shot, in a frame. So for me to work with someone like that who is so careful, so nuanced, so completed in a sense, gives me tremendous freedom to do my own emotional stuff. We kind of meet on the set in a sense. He does his work, I do my work, and then we come together and it kind of becomes something else. And it's exciting! It's exciting to bring voice to his ideas and his characters. I think we're both proud of what we do and it's intensely meaningful to us. We're both very polite. We're both good-natured. Todd always says we're both masochistic. [laughs] So we have a lot of personal char­acteristics which are similar I think. 

What Is your working relationship with Todd on the set? Does he have to give you much direction? 

[shakes her head] I don't like to talk and Todd kind of knows that about me. Every actor needs something different and some­times you need a director to talk to you. I don't care to. I feel that it's sort of evident in Todd's language and his photography. And the excitement is waiting to see if I've mate­rialized what he's imagined, you know? So I almost don't want him to tell me. I want to say like, "Is this it?" and then, hopefully, we come together. 

Did you study many of the Douglas Sirk-style melodramas prior to shooting? 

A few of them. Not as intensely as you might think. Todd sent me some that he wanted me to look at because he was refer­encing them rather directly in the film. Like Written on the Wind (1956). All That Heaven Allows. A Max Ophuls movie called The Reckless Moment (1949). And I knew Imitation of Life. But I just kind of looked at them, you know? I had them all in my trailer thinking that I would reference them later on but I actually never pulled them out. Because you don"t even realize it but this particular style has almost become a part of our emotional language. You see it on televi­sion. We grew up with it. We're sort of incul­cated with it. 

Was the acting style something you found immediately then? I don't know how to describe the acting style exactly. Sort of hyper-reality? 

Yeah, slightly artificial, slightly elevated. I didn't find it difficult to do. I think partially because Todd's language was so precise. And then also again, this ridiculous familiari­ty we have with it from growing up with it on television.. I mean, when I was a kid these movies were on all the time. They still are; we have the classic movie channels and stuff. But it used to be that you'd turn on “The Million Dollar Movie” and it would always be a Douglas Sirk thing. 

I know. Imitation of Life was always on…

Always, always onl [laughs] 

Did the other actors ease Into the act­ing style as smoothly as you did? 

Yes, they really did. I think that was the one thing that Todd was worried about - how do you strike the tone in this film, and is everybody going to be in the same movie? It never seemed to be a problem. I think that's a tribute to Todd and his language and his ability to orches­trate all of that. You never thought, "Hey, what movie is that guy in?" 

I guess one of the other challenges was to make sure it never veered Into a parody of a melodrama. It never does. 

Never. Because the style, although it's very artificial, it's coupled with this incredibly real, very emotive content. So when you have that much emotion happening within the lan­guage, it isn't parody because it's full. It was actually really rewarding. To have all that powerful emotion within that shape is exciting as an actor. 

The film does such a great job of lulling you Into its 1950s melodrama world that it's truly shocking when Dennis Quaid swears at you the first time or when you catch him kissing a guy In his office. You're suddenly jolted out of your complacency. 

Which is one of things that even Sirk did. But not to that extent. That's what Todd is doing: he's taking these characters, the African-American characters and the gay characters, characters that were marginal in a lot of these older films, and bringing them center stage. So that contrast is made even more intense. But it's interesting to see because those are the things which would be shocking to us now. We always feel superior to the "naive" 1950s. But the issues of race and sexuality that Far From Heaven deals with are entirely contemporary. 

The film sort of revisits the old melodrama genre but at the same time reinvents it, making it contemporary. It's dlfflcult to put Into words exactly what the film has done, but it works perfectly. 

I know, I don't know what you'd say either. Someone once said that the film kind of deconstructed Sirk, so maybe that's what's going on. Something that I love about this film is that people always talk about irony and intellect when they talk about Todd, but it's not present in this film. This is a film that is completely emotional. It's not particularly intellectual, it's not difficult. It's about people and how our lives are shaped by the commu­nities in which we live and by the mores of whatever time we're in. And how we're not heroes. We're regular people and we're weak and we don't always do the right thing and things are messy. It's very emotional. It's funny because I always think that about Todd. He moves me so much as a filmmaker because he's incredibly humanistic. 

Let’s talk about The Hours, which I just saw a few hours ago. It raises so many questions about life and its complexities. And forces you to think about them unlike any film I’ve seen in a long time.

Yes, yes. You should read the book, just for your own pleasure. It’s beautiful. It’s a book I got for my birthday a couple of years ago. A friend of mine is friends with Michael Cunningham. I loved it, loved it, loved it. I never even fathomed that it could be a film, because it’s very internal.

A very tough adaptation then?

Definitely. A few years after reading it, I got a call (asking me) to do the part that I so responded to, which was Laura. And it is a story about the choices that people make and how difficult life is, and ultimately how much life is and how enormous and how rewarding it is. How, even if it is arduous, this is what we have, so it’s everything, you know? I love the fact that there’s this tremendous reality in the movie. That these are “the hours of our lives.” These moments, that’s it. 

Despite what she says, do you think Laura would have chosen a different path had she known how her life was going to work out in the end? 

She didn't have a choice. I mean, I think that's what she said which is so incredibly moving. I think if Laura were Clarissa though, Clarissa had a choice. That's what Laura says about regret, "How can you regret something when you have no choice?" She's incredibly attached to that little boy. It comes down to what you can bear - when you think of what she has borne all those years! When you think of the choices people are forced to make. Virginia Woolf has to say to Leonard Woolf, "There's no one in the world who has made me as happy as you've made me." She couldn't have had a better marriage, she thinks, and still she makes her choice. It gives me goosebumps because it's so mov­ing and difficult and dense and thrilling. 

The scenes with you and your little boy are heartbreaking. He has that Intense gaze which Laura can't bear to look at. 

You realize the thing about children is that they see you. Here's this woman who doesn't even want to be in the world, she wants to be in a book. Nobody really sees her, nobody really notices her. Her husband doesn't, her friend Kitty doesn't. But her little boy sees her. He sees right through her. And it's the terror of that kind of acknowl­edgement. He has this knowledge of who she is, and her depression, and what she's going through. 

Her situation Is pretty much summed up when her husband Dan explains proudly how he chose this vision of hap­piness for both of them. Her own feel­ings about It are Irrelevant to him. 

Almost like a movie in a sense, right? Dan has this vision for their lives which is almost like a movie. 

How was working with the director Stephen Daldry? It was quite a dlrectorl­al challenge to balance all of these sto­ries while keeping the central themes Intact. 

He did a great job. This is his second film. His first was Billy Elliot, a very different kind of thing. I think it was a pretty daunting task to navigate these very dense, very diffi­cult stories. To coordinate the stories of the women, to get that sense of emotion that runs through each of them was a really tough thing to do. 

Let's talk about some of your earlier projects. Safe was your first collabora­tion with Todd Haynes. How were you originally cast In the role of Carol White? 

I auditioned for him. I was in Pittsburgh doing a movie called Roommates and I got this script. I read about 10 pages of it before I made a call to my manager and asked, "Who's doing this? Somebody must be playing this part because it can't be pos­sible that it's out there." And she told me that they were reading people. I flew back to New York to audition for Todd and I was so nervous to meet Todd. 

And in person, Todd is so disarming..

I know! I loved the script so much. I wore white jeans and a white t-shirt, of all things, because I wanted her to look like that. We didn't really say anything to each other. We were reading the scene over and over. I had no idea what type of impression I made. And Todd always tells the story that as soon as I walked out of the room he said, "That was Carol White!" I was so excited to get this job and kind of over­whelmed by it, too. It was still kind of early in my film career. 

There's something I've always wanted to ask you about Safe. When you were designing your performance, were you working under the assumption that Carol's illness was real or in her head? 

Todd had constructed it so that in every single scene where she gets sick there's an emotional reason and a physical reason. So she might be in the presence of exhaust but she's also incredibly tense. So you don't know. In that sense it's completely left up to the viewer. For me personally, it was always a combination. I really believe the chemicals were making Carol sick but she was also in a place where her life was crumbling, her emotional contacts were not strong. 

One of the most harrowing moments In any movie I've ever seen was when Carol White asks, "Where am I?" 

Oh, I know. That's the high point of her sickness. I remember when I was doing that scene I was really scared. It's awful, that kind of disorientation. She literally loses herself. Her memory is gone, her ref­erences are gone. I had a funny thing hap­pen to me at the very end of the film, when she does the speech about really hating herself. When we were shooting it, I literally lost my train of thought. The way the scene is constructed she's supposed to forget where she's going with it in the middle. That actually happened to me when I was doing the speech. I kind of did it and did it and then was like "What am I saying?" I was so kind of excited because I had man­aged to get myself to the place where Carol was, where she couldn't remember what she was going to say. 

We must talk about Boogie Nights and the famous Amber Waves. What was your first reaction after reading the script? 

Loved it. I met Paul (Thomas Anderson) at a party when he was 26. A friend of mine said, "This guy wants to meet you. He's got a part for you in his movie." And he was "Hey, you're going to be in my movie, man" ­And I read it and loved it and called him. I said, "Yes, I am going to be in your movie.­” I thought the script was insanely good and was very, very excited about it. And thrilled to be playing that part. It was evident to me right away that he was a major talent. 

Here's a "Whatever happened to?" question that I've been dying to ask. What do you think happened to Amber Waves 20 years down the road? 

I used to argue with Paul about this, that Amber would die. He didn’t want Amber to die because he loved Amber so much. Everybody loved Amber. But I said, "You know, Amber would die. She would be the one who would just overdose one day." She would just wear herself down with too many drugs. That's what I always thought would happen to her. [nods sadly] 

Did you actively pursue the Clarice Starling role in Hannibal

It came to me. I was actually in London doing press for The End of the Affair and I got a phone call. Inevitably, you're as far away from Los Angeles as possible when these phone calls happen [laughs] - and they were saying Ridley Scott wants to meet you for Hannibal. I was like, "When?" and they were like, "Now!" So I said, "Alright, let me just finish this up. Then I have to go to New York for my son." He was little, Cal, like 2. I said, "I can't stay overnight. I can literally only go out, have the meeting, turn around, and come back." So basically that's what I did. I met Ridley at a hotel, had a cup of cof­fee and we talked, and got back on the plane to come back that night. The next day I got the offer for the film. 

You made the Clarice role your own, but It must have been a balancing act to do so, because there had to be some continuity from The Silence of the Lambs. Did you watch the Jodie Foster performance at all? 

I did. I looked at it. I had seen it before and much admired it. It was a wonderful perfor­mance. And I really wanted to be careful vocally, that was the most important thing for me to do, was to be able to reference that accent. So I watched it and it was incredibly helpful. Because you had to ground that voice. 

And how was Mr. Hopkins to work with? 

Fan-tastic! I love Tony. I had worked with him before on Surviving Picasso and loved him so much. I spent my birthday with him in Paris working on that film. I was like, "It's my birthday, Tony. Take me outl" We had a tremendous time working together. He's great, a really exciting actor to be with. 

I wanted to ask about your background a little. Your father was a military judge. Did you move around a lot as a child?

We moved around a lot, yeah.

Do you think that had any influence on your becoming an actor? I’ve talked to a number of actors who grew up with parents in the military?

Isn’t that interesting? I think there’s a certain adaptability you gain by moving around like that. I think also you learn about exteriors, in a sense. You learn that people are very similar in a core kind of way. The way they move, the way they dress, the way they talk. You know, the rules are different everywhere you go and you kind of learn what those things are. But underneath this stuff they’re just people and choices and feelings. And the stuff on top of that is behavior.

I’ve heard that you read very script that you receive? True?

I do, I do. I want to have the knowledge myself of what’s out there. Because I think you need to. I think you need to have your own opinion of this stuff. You never know, somebody else might read something and go, “Ah, I don’t like this.” But you might feel completely differently about it. All of my reactions to scripts have been very personal and very immediate. You can get excited about the strangest things, you never know. So I think it’s very important that I look at them myself.

You do a really good mix of studio films and independents. Do you plot it out specifically that way every year?

No, not really. What I do is informed bywhat I’ve just done. So if I’ve just done a big commercial movie, then I usually want to do something smaller and more personal. And then if you’ve done a bunch of smaller movies, you’re thinking, “Maybe I should do a commercial movie and make some money.” [laughs] I like having a foot in both worlds and I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to do that, because it’s been rewarding. 

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog