In Depth

People In Film | Julianne Moore

Being Flynn's Mother

Photo by David Lee

While Paul Weitz’s BEING FLYNN focuses mainly on the complex father/son relationship between Nick (Paul Dano) and his dad, Jonathan (Robert De Niro), the mother, Jody Flynn (beautifully portrayed by Julianne Moore), is a key third figure in this family drama. Playing the mother from Nick’s childhood, Moore is paired with Liam Broggy, who plays the younger version of Paul Dano’s Nick. For Moore, the part was crucial to understanding the story. “The bond between a child and a single mother is a tight one,” she explains. “Paul Weitz captures the intimacy of that, getting a dynamic between Liam and I for our scenes together.”  For the real Nick Flynn (author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, on which BEING FLYNN is based), seeing Moore in action during filming was an overwhelming experience: “On the set I couldn’t even look at Julianne at first, except on a monitor. Finally, around noon, I was able to speak to Julianne, who was happy to talk with me. Then the next day, I went through it all again and so I left the set early. But I had to try to normalize that for myself so I would be able to watch the movie.” For audiences for nearly 30 years, Moore has brought that emotional reality and potency to the characters she plays, be it in drama or comedy.

An Army Childhood, A Training in TV

While Julianne Moore is well-known to movie-going audiences as a glamorous and confident woman, she claims that she started out as just the opposite. The daughter of a colonel in the military, Moore was an army brat who grew up in towns across U.S. and Germany. “In grade school I was a complete geek,” she says. “You know, there's always the kid who's too short, the one who wears glasses, the kid who's not athletic. Well, I was all three.” Moving from school to school because of her father’s career, she found herself ignored by her classmates, but now sees the positive aspects of this, saying it’s “a good experience for everyone to have, to feel like they're not noticed because it teaches you to be empathetic.” However, as she became involved in acting, she found that her appearance made her anything but invisible. “My very first director told me that if you have red hair, somebody is casting you for a reason,” Moore remembers. “He said, ‘There will be parts that you don't get because, especially onstage, people can see you.’ I've been wigged plenty of times, but the funny thing is that even when I have a different hair color, people tend to still remember me as having red hair.” After graduating with a BFA in Drama from Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, Moore decamped to New York City, where she got a foothold in showbiz working on television. Her breakthrough role was playing Frannie on the daytime soap opera As The World Turns, starting on the show in 1985. By the time she completed her run on the show in 1988, Moore was also playing Frannie’s evil half-sister, Sabrina, the dual performance earning her a Daytime Emmy in the category of Outstanding Ingenue in a Drama Series. Her tenure on television was a surprise for Moore, who had a passion for theater and expected to instead find a career on Broadway. “One of the pathetic, secret parts of my personality is I love musical theater,” says Moore. “Dark is not something I am, but from the beginning people assumed my métier was tragedy. When I started out, I was cast on … As the World Turns as a quintessential good girl. I did that for a while and then they created the role of my evil, selfish half-sister/cousin. I played that too. They immediately thought of me as dark.” In April 2010, Moore returned for a walk-on part, briefly greeting her former characters’ parents, in recognition of the final months of the show’s 54-year run.

One Tough Broad

Making the transition from TV to movies, Moore had her first prominent role on the big screen in Curtis Hanson’s The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, in which she plays the chain-smoking, straight-talking best friend who warns Annabella Sciorra about Rebecca De Mornay, the psychotic, out-for-revenge nanny Sciorra has employed. Despite her delicate looks and petite stature (she is five foot five inches), Moore has shown she is as tough a broad as there is in Hollywood, facing off against hired killers (Assassins), dinosaurs (The Lost World: Jurassic Park), mutant aliens (Evolution), and legendary serial killers such as Hannibal Lecter (Hannibal) and Norman Bates (Psycho). Recently she played the leader of a group of underground freedom fighters in Alfonso Cuarón’s post-apocalyptic Children of Men, a no-nonsense FBI agent trying to prevent a nuclear disaster in the high-octane thriller Next, and in Blindness appeared as Mark Ruffalo’s loving and fearless wife, the only person who can still see in a world plunged into darkness by an ocular epidemic.

A Director's Favorite

In addition to her collaborations with husband Bart Freundlich, Julianne Moore has made multiple movies with a three other directors. And looking at the caliber of those names, its clear that she is an actress whose work is valued by the best auteurs in the business, as she made two movies with Robert Altman (Short Cuts and Cookie’s Fortune), two with Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights and Magnolia), and three with Todd Haynes. Haynes gave Moore her first lead role in Safe (1995), reteamed with her on Focus Features’ multi-award-winning Far From Heaven (2002), and then cast her in a smaller role in 2007’s I’m Not There. Speaking about Moore during an interview on Far From Heaven, Haynes explained what makes her so special as an actress: “Nobody else could have played this part. She is completely different in every film she has been in. But none of the roles she has played are Julianne Moore, the person, so each time she reconstructs a person from scratch. I don't think that's what many actors do; they rely on their innate personality and charm. In many ways she almost harkens back to actors from an earlier era. There is depth and levels to read – it's not all on the surface.”

A Creative Family Unit

For Julianne Moore, her creative life and personal life are intertwined. In 1996, she starred in first-time writer-director Bart Freundlich’s dysfunctional family drama The Myth of Fingerprints, and the two began dating during production. ''We started to see each other about two weeks into it,” Moore recalls. “It was casual. I don't think either of us was thinking that we were going to have two children!” Now, however, many years later, the two are married and have a daughter, Liv, and a son, Cal. Moore and Freundlich have also collaborated on a further two films – the introspective road movie World Traveler (2001) and the relationship comedy Trust the Man (2005)––and in an interview with Charlie Rose the pair admitted that the only trepidation they had over working together was about who was going to look after their kids! In the case of Trust the Man, they found a partial solution to the problem by casting both Liv and Cal in the movie. (Cal has a memorable role which involves him kicking David Duchovny in the crotch.) In 2007, Moore found another way to involve her children in her artistic output when she published Freckleface Strawberry, a kids’ book based on her experiences growing up as an awkward, redheaded little girl.

Awards Darling

In 1997, Julianne Moore received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress for her performance as Amber Waves in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 ensemble piece about the golden days of porno, Boogie Nights. And since then, she has been a power player come movie awards season. In 1999, she was in the remarkable position of receiving Best Actress Golden Globe nominations for both An Ideal Husband and The End of the Affair, in addition to Oscar, BAFTA and SAG Best Actress nominations for The End of the Affair and a SAG Best Supporting Actress nod for Magnolia. In 2002, she was once again honored for multiple roles, earning the Independent Spirit Award for Best Actress and Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG Best Actress nominations for Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven, while simultaneously getting Best Supporting Actress nominations for her work in The Hours at the Oscars, Golden Globes, the BAFTAs and the SAG Awards. In 2009, Moore was once again Best Actress nominated at the Golden Globes, this time for her work on Tom Ford’s A Single Man. Remarkably, despite all these numerous nominations, Moore has never been a winner at the Oscars or the Golden Globes. However, she keeps the importance of awards and accolades in perspective, saying in 2000 after failing to win the Best Actress Oscar, “Only five people got nominated in that category, and that's not very many people. So I did all right.”

Comic Timing

In Lisa Cholodenko’s THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, Julianne Moore showed her remarkable comic timing as Annette Bening's life-partner. In the story, their tight-knit family – which includes a daughter who is about to go off to college, Joni (Mia Wasikowska), and teenage son, Laser (Josh Hutcherson) – is turned upside down when the kids track down Paul (Mark Ruffalo), the sperm donor who is their biological father. In casting Moore, Cholodenko explained the arithmetic to USA Today: “Julianne was a person in that age range, and I could believe that she was a mom of teenage kids. She was somebody who was super-confident about her physicality, and she could pull off the comedy and drama and wouldn't be timid about the sexuality. There aren't that many great A-list actresses in that age that have all those qualities and that look their age but look super-sexy and are in their prime.” But Moore brought even more than this to the role as Bening’s partner. As critic Claudia Puig simply puts it, “Two of the best actresses of their generation, they make even a contrived porn gag feel like plausible situational humor.”


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