Julianne Moore: Wanting Moore

On the verge of a long-overdue break from her incessant work schedule (more than a dozen films in the last three years alone) and awaiting the birth of her second child, two-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore discusses motherhood, money, on-screen nudity, on-set nooky and her latest film, The Shipping News.

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When the end of the year rolls around, and Hollywood releases its most award-worthy movies, you can pretty much expect to see Julianne Moore in one or two of them. Moore, who garnered Best Actress Oscar nominations for 1997's Boogie Nights and 1999's The End of the Affair, has become something of a prestige-film staple. But on one late-fall afternoon, when Moore has a lunch date with Movieline timed for the release of her latest project, The Shipping News, she is nowhere to be found. The unseasonably warm weather in New York City belies the fact that not far away, crews are still clearing the smoking rubble from a pit that was once the World Trade Center. While the first impulse is to worry that something unexpected has happened to Moore--perhaps she had to run to the doctor to check on her pregnancy with her second child by writer-director and longtime boyfriend Bart Freundlich--you suspect that she's simply forgotten, and is just as scattered as most New Yorkers walking around in a fog even a month after the unimaginable horror.

Sure enough, her publicist insists Moore was profusely apologetic when informed of her oversight, that it was the first time this has happened to her. Mutual friends who know Moore well testify that she's the antithesis of a flake, and imagine that, when she found out that she missed her appointment, she turned a shade of crimson that rivaled her hair color.

As predicted, an apology is the first thing I hear after I've driven, weeks later, to the New Jersey-based set of Far From Heaven, a movie that casts her as a 1950s suburban housewife and reteams her with writer-director Todd Haynes, for whom she turned in an acclaimed performance as a housewife who becomes allergic to her environment in 1995's Safe. That character seems to have endured, for there is a report in this morning's New York Post that Moore skipped the previous day's shoot because she suffered from an allergic reaction to sugar after being slipped a sugary drink, and had to be rushed to a doctor.

Recovering from her belated embarrassment, Moore warms to the gossip. "It's complete fabrication," she laughs. "I was picked up at 4 a.m. and worked all day, but what I liked about [the story] is that somebody slipped me the drink, so technically I'm not culpable. And also, I'm not allergic to sugar." She will prove it during lunch by consuming two large pieces of cake which surely would have induced a full-blown sugar coma, were she so afflicted.

Born in North Carolina to a military judge father and a social worker mother, the 40-year-old Moore moved more than two dozen times during her childhood. Upon graduation from Boston University's School of Performing Arts, she headed to New York, where she did theater and won a Daytime Emmy Award for her performance as half-sisters Frannie and Sabrina Hughes on the soap opera "As the World Turns." Television movies and miniseries led to feature films, including early roles in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, The Fugitive and, perhaps most memorably, director Robert Altman's Oscar-nominated ensemble film Short Cuts, in which, during an argument with her character's husband, played by Matthew Modine, she removes her skirt to clean a stain, and plays the rest of the scene naked from the waist down.

Since then, Moore has alternated between critically acclaimed independent projects like Vanya on 42nd Street, Safe and The Myth of Fingerprints (during which she met Freundlich, the film's writer-director) and studio-produced popcorn fare like Nine Months, Assassins and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Surviving Picasso, Psycho and Magnolia further reinforced her eclectic taste in material.

In person, Moore is not exactly what you expect, but you don't know really what to expect given that, unlike many female stars who essentially repeat the same performance in different movies, Moore is a risk-taker who is different in each film. The drug-addicted porn star in Boogie Nights is nothing like the temptress in The End of the Affair, who's nothing like the corseted bitch in An Ideal Husband, who's nothing like the spoiled rich girl who covers her body with paint, flings herself at a canvas and calls it art in The Big Lebowski. Even succeeding Jodie Foster's Oscar-winning performance in The Silence of the Lambs with Hannibal, which turned out to be a big hit, took moxie.

This risk-taking nature has made Moore one of the most prolific actresses in Hollywood. In 1999 alone, she made five films, and 2001 brought three more: Hannibal, the science-fiction comedy Evolution and The Shipping News, director Lasse Hallström's adaptation of E. Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1994 novel about a newspaperman (Kevin Spacey) who, after a painful breakup with his wife (Cate Blanchett), returns to his ancestral home in Newfoundland, where he slowly rebuilds his life through a relationship with a local woman, played by Moore. And she has already completed the marital drama World Traveler, written and directed by Freundlich, and The Hours, based on Michael Cunningham's PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novel centered on Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot) and co-starring Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman.

Although Moore rarely seems to slow down (offscreen, she is a spokesperson for Revlon cosmetics), this latest spate of work will be her last for a long time. After Far From Heaven, she plans to rest, have her baby and take a nice, relaxing break.

MICHAEL FLEMING: Word of your pregnancy got around quickly in Hollywood because you were expected to join John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in the John McTiernan-directed film Basic. Congratulations on having to drop out.

JULIANNE MOORE: Thank you. My son, Cal, is three and a half, so this is perfect timing. I love John McTiernan, but it was difficult because I was trying to keep this quiet. We were supposed to be having a creative conversation about the movie and I just finally said, "I'm pregnant. Please don't tell anyone."

Q: Pregnancies bring up insurance complications for movies. Was it a problem on Far From Heaven, or when you became pregnant with your first child?

A: I got pregnant with Cal on The Big Lebowski, which seems kind of funny, somehow. So I was barely pregnant when I made that movie, and there wasn't much to worry about. We were in preproduction on this movie when I told Todd. He said, "Great, congratulations," and not "But what about my movie?" He was so excited for me, and I said, "Listen, I think we're going to be OK. We'll be able to kind of hide it until the end." Then we went into the whole insurance thing, which wasn't easy.

Q: How far along will you be by the time this film wraps?

A: I'll be close to five months, so I don't know how much I'll show. It's not so bad now, even though they're already having to adjust my clothing. It's a '60s look, and I'm going baggy. My solution is to wear big pants and belt them low.

Q: You seem to have earned a rest. What did you make, like five movies over the past 12 months?

A: It has been bad, way more than I meant to do. I did Hannibal, which was just so much fun, and then I went right into my boyfriend's movie, World Traveler. Then I did Evolution, and that's when the rumblings began about a possible strike. I wanted to do another movie, and then The Hours and The Shipping News happened right on top of each other, both competing for the same slot. Both were movies I really wanted to do; I couldn't choose, so we squeezed both in. But everybody was in the same boat, working more because of a fear there would be a strike.

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