Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Reel Thoughts Interview: Julianne Moore is 'All Right' with Playing Gay
Julianne Moore remembers asking director Lisa Cholodenko that question when they first met at a "Women in Film" luncheon. “It was a very 'actorly' thing to say,” she laughed. The part in question went to Ally Sheedy, but Cholodenko ended up creating the role of Jules in The Kids Are All Right specifically for Moore, who has been attached to the project for five years.
Moore is an icon in the GLBT community for a lot of reasons. She’s played gay or bisexual characters in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, The Hours, Boogie Nights and this year’s Chloe, and also played the unsuspecting wife of a closeted Dennis Quaid in Todd Haynes’ gorgeous Far from Heaven. She’s committed to women’s reproductive rights and speaks out against policies like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and Prop 8. Playing Annette Bening’s committed partner was a joy.
“You know, I just loved (Jules). I love how she’s someone who’s so present emotionally and so good at connecting with people and communicating but is incredibly lost. Her oldest child’s leaving for college, the next one’s going to go in a couple of years, and she’s at a point in her life where she’s going “What have I done with the last eighteen years and what am I going to do with the rest of it?” Like Nic (Bening’s character) says, she really puts the cart before the horse, she acts “as if”. The searching quality I really loved about her. Emotionally, I think she’s the one who’s got the antenna. I liked that she feels first and thinks later.”
“The thing that Annette and I have going for us is that we’ve both been married for a really long time and we’re both parents. So the degree of affection that we show to one another commented on how the characters felt for one another and how connected they were. Even though there’s different stuff going on with them, they still touch each other and sit on the couch together and kiss each other hello. We wanted them to be affectionate and married.”
On meeting donor dad Paul (played by Mark Ruffalo), Moore remarked, “Jules is much more open to it. The one thing she’s secure about is her family. She’s not secure about herself, but she feels really solid about this family.”
One of the best parts of Moore’s performance is the way Jules seems to blossom when Paul appreciates her talent as a landscape designer. “I think what you’re noticing is that I have a real attraction for characters in transition and human stories. In film, you want to see someone go through an emotional arc. The great thing about film acting is that you want to put yourself in a position where you’re having an experience on camera.”
Moore understands how Jules and Nic get to the place where they’ve been together twenty years and pick on each other’s habits. “I think any of us who’ve been married or partnered for a long time, you know that there are ups and downs. It’s like Jules says, “Marriage is hard.” You’re not the same person you were when you met somebody, you’ve changed. There’s a lot of time, a lot of history ... there are going to be a lot of things about each other that you don’t like because that’s just how life is, and there are going to be things about someone that you can’t live without.”
And when one partner strays? “Another journalist told me that the person behind them at the screening said, “I wouldn’t take her back.” And I said, “Yeah? And how old were they?” They said, “About thirty.” I said, “Well, give them another thirty years.” Once you’ve invested the time and have the children and the life ... a lot of things happen in life. At my age, I know a lot of people who are getting divorced; and the ones who stay together haven’t gone through anything less than the ones who are getting divorced. They’ve hit the wall at some moment or the other. Everyone has a different tolerance level.” She gets why people would split up, but hopes people understand Jules’ motivations.
Moore concedes that GLBT couples face the pressure to be these perfect family units. “For same sex couples, it’s that thing that people used to say about race. If you’re going to be the only African-American student in the school, then you had to be the best student. For gay families, then you have to be the best parents. In this case, with these women, I think Nic, being the perfectionist, particularly feels that, and you see that energy in Annette’s performance.”
She noted a twenty-four year AMA study of the children of gay parents that was reported in the New York Times, saying, “They found that collectively, they are more well-adjusted, they are better students, all of that. They have been cherished and parented and “polished to a high shine”. I think there’s an incredible amount of pressure whenever you feel you’re a minority and you’re being watched that you have to be better than everybody else. I also think it’s interesting, as same-sex parents, you don’t have a baby by accident. You’re going into parenting with a real desire.”
I kind of liked that (Nic and Jules) each had a child biologically and that there were some genetic resemblances as well. It was kind of cool,” she explained, adding that she and Josh Hutcherson (who plays son Laser) subconsciously started matching each other’s energy.
Moore would be flattered if The Kids Are All Right garners Oscar attention, but wants people to see it more than anything. Moore has a few intriguing roles coming up, including the thriller Shelter with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, as the Virgin Mary in the comedy Elektra Luxx and opposite Steve Carrell in an untitled romantic comedy.
on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
Interview by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.