Dark and light shades of Julianne Moore

Karlovy Vary star guest reveals the secrets of life-work balance

by Richard Mowe

"It was great to have something that we all cared about and that our whole family was involved in.” - Julianne Moore on After the Wedding at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.
"It was great to have something that we all cared about and that our whole family was involved in.” - Julianne Moore on After the Wedding at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Photo: Vertigo Releasing

Julianne Moore always has been adept at juggling family and career choices. She met and romanced her writer-director husband Bart Freundlich on his first film The Myth Of Fingerprints, a claustrophobic family drama about four siblings returning to their New England home for Thanksgiving.

It wasn’t exactly attraction at first sight - Moore, 58, admits to having been rather dismissive of her beau, some years her junior. “I guess I could be described as the aggressor because at the time he was 26 and I was 35,” she once confided to me.

She was married previously to actor John Gould but that relationship foundered. Now she and Freudlinch live in domestic and creative harmony and have just finished their fourth collaboration together, After The Wedding, chosen as the opening film at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival where she has received a Crystal Globe award for her contribution to cinematic endeavour.

She seems as content with her lot as ever. “As Bart was writing this I got to see several drafts and find out what he was thinking . When you are on the set together you know when he is tense and I will go up and ask ‘What’s the matter?’ whereas another actor would not probably register anything. It was great to have something that we all cared about and that our whole family was involved in. We are happy to have this partnership and collaboration.

Meet the media … Julianne Moore and Bart Freundlich at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Meet the media … Julianne Moore and Bart Freundlich at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Photo: Richard Mowe

“Bart and I have produced this film. We have formed a company and this is our first production together. Unless you decide to produce and develop projects yourself then you are not going to find interesting material. The film-making landscape has changed so much over the last few years. This interest develops as you accrue more experience - it is exciting and daunting to find material and develop it, not just for myself but other people too.”

Her daughter Liv, 16, had a role as a production assistant on the film and is attending the Festival with her parents while son Caleb, 21, stayed at home in the States.

Moore has earned Oscar nominations playing complicated characters in 2002's Far From Heaven and The Hours, and 2014's Still Alice, for which she won best actress. In After the Wedding (based on Suzanne Bier’s 2006 Danish film) she plays an equally conflicted character. “Bart flipped the genders to tell a different story. It was compelling because they were female. A portion of the plot mean there would be very definite actions. My character was of a woman who knew what she wanted and set herself goals and knew how to achieve them. Then suddenly she was at this part of her life where there were events she could not control. I know a lot of women who are that way. Bart and I both liked the family nature of the story and what kind of life these people are creating through their relationships.”

She credits motherhood with transforming her. In a previous interview she suggested: “It has brought me more happiness than I knew existed. I like the drama of it all. It is the most dramatic thing than can ever happen to you - someone gets born and although you don’t yet know exactly who they are, they already know you and go right to you. It really is miraculous.”

Both she and Freundlich have shared parenting duties equitably. “When I started out making movies the idea of going off to Timbuktu and living together with the crew seemed great. But the more work I do the more appealing it is to stay at home and make them on your own doorstep.”

Moore, despite illustrious co-stars such as Hannibal’s Anthony Hopkins, The Big Lebowski’s Jeff Bridges and Boogie Nights' Burt Reynolds, and a back catalogue of more than 20 roles for directors ranging from Robert Altman and the Coens, through Neil Jordan and Louis Malle to Steven Spielberg, has avoided the trappings of incipient star power and managed to steer a course between challenging independent films and studio excursions.

Although she tends towards the dramatic she relished her comedic role as a scientist in Evolution for Ivan Reitman and opposite David Duchovny and Seann William Scott. “It was physical comedy, and I thought: why not? It is funny to see somebody like me fall down. You think: ‘Oh, good she just hit the wall.’ I learned all that stuff at acting school.”

Moore’s father was a military judge, and her mother's family originally came from Dunoon in Scotland. Her Celtic colouring - reddish hair and porcelain complexion - make her feel perfectly at home in Scotland and Freundlich tells me they have a long-standing wish to bring their children back to their roots. Her family moved around a lot when she was a child, at an age when she preferred to take refuge in Henry James and F Scott Fitzgerald rather than courting popularity among her classmates. “In grade school,” she once said bluntly, “I was a complete geek. You know, there’s always the kid who’s too short, the kid who wears glasses, and the kid who’s not athletic. Well, I was all three.”

Moore suggests that her career has lurched from one job to another without any strong guiding principle. She was spotted by Robert Altman who gave her Short Cuts. Her portrayal of Marian, a painter trying to connect with Matthew Modine’s doctor husband, was unforgettable - and gained her a certain notoriety because it included a scene in which she had to deliver a five-minute monologue naked from the waist down. “It was not about trying to shock, rather it showed the true intimacy of marriage which is something only rarely seen on screen. Nudity isn’t a problem where it is important to a story, but when it is gratuitous or for titillation then you are crossing the line,” she says.

Power couple: Bart Freundlich and Julianne Moore at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival
Power couple: Bart Freundlich and Julianne Moore at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival Photo: Servis Karlovy Vary

She flirted briefly with the stage, after completing a theatre degree at Boston University. She tried her luck on the New York boards but soon discovered the financial rewards and her outlays failed to match up. Instead she took a three-year respite on a television soap As the World Turns.

Freundlich divulges the distinct difference in creating a part for his partner. “When you write for an actor who is a typical Hollywood star you have to put their personality into the role. She has none of that baggage. She just is whatever the role is. When you work in the film industry you spend a lot of time apart so when we work together it makes it easier on the family. Our daughter was a production assistant on After The Wedding and Billy is one of my best friends for 20 years. It really felt like a family affair. We have an unspoken communication which also was helpful. As a director you are jostling so many different aspects and usually an actor can wall themselves from all the anxiety stuff but because she can see the effect on my shoulders I think it may make it more difficult for her because she cannot ignore it. But it is wonderful to work with people with whom you have a common language.”

Moore appears in another reboot of a foreign language film but this time directed in English by the original director Sebastian Lelio. His 2013 Chilean drama Gloria (now known as Gloria Bell) chronicles the everyday life of a fiftysomething divorcee searching for love at LA dance clubs and looking after her adult children and new grandson. She begins a passionate courtship with the also-divorced Arnold (John Turturro), whose unscrupulous behaviour briefly sends her on a downward spiral of reckless partying and hookups, and then back on the path to self-discovery.

She also has small part in the upcoming The Woman In The Window . Moore says “It is really Amy Adams' movie and I think it is going to be wonderful. Gary Oldman plays my husband and he is great. We have worked together before.” The thriller, directed by Joe Wright from a screenplay by Tracy Letts, is scheduled to be released in October.

Moore and Freundlich in person seem upbeat and bright yet in their work together they can explore dark and tragic areas. “In that way we’re both similar. In our work we can inhabit difficult universes which makes the rest of our life seem pretty happy,” Freundlich says.

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