Moore Than Meets the Eye

Sure, she’s a knockout, But it was Julianne Moore’s combination of blazing talent and quiet determination that propelled her from TV soaps to cinema stardom. Now she portrays controversial Sarah Palin in the new HBO movie Game Change while living a game change of her own—a happy family life with her younger husband 

by Leah Rozen
julianne moore image
Photograph: James White

Though Moore roots for New York teams now (she avidly talked up the Knicks with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show), she moved from place to place so often as a child that she could have accumulated a whole drawerful of home-team tees. She was born Julie Anne Smith—friends still call her Julie—in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where her father, Peter Moore Smith, an Army helicopter pilot and paratrooper, was based. He later became a mili­tary lawyer, judge and Army colonel. Moore’s Scottish-born mother, Anne Love Smith, was a psychiatric social worker. Her family, which soon included a brother and sister, pulled up stakes repeatedly for her father’s postings, among them overseas to Panama and Germany, an opportunity Moore now calls a gift. “The world is a much more global place than it was when we were growing up,” she says, “and I feel like I was given an avenue into it at a pretty young age.”

She became serious about acting while attending an American high school in Frankfurt, thanks to an English teacher who cast her in school productions of Tartuffe, Medeaand more. “She was the one who said, ‘You can do this for a living,’ ” recalls Moore. “I’d never known any actors or seen a real play except for high school plays, and the movies were very far away, so it had never occurred to me, but she encouraged me.” Moore applied to Boston University as a theater major and was accepted; her audition included a monologue from Butterflies Are Free and the song “I Cain’t Say No” from Oklahoma! “I wasn’t intimidated because I was so naive,” she says. “I mean, I was the only one there auditioning with my mother.”

She thrived at BU and, after graduating in 1983, moved to New York City, where she began winning parts in ­regional-theater productions and commercials. In 1985 she was hired to play dual roles on As the World Turns. Unlike some movie stars who have logged daytime duty, Moore fondly remembers her three years on the soap and her colleagues (including fellow up-and-comers Marisa Tomei and Steven Weber). “I averaged 4.5 episodes a week and worked really hard. I gained confidence and learned how to take responsibility for the work,” she says. She also won a Daytime Emmy in 1988 (beating out Robin Wright and Lauren Holly, among others). If anyone doubts her sincerity, know that when ATWT was canceled in 2010 after 54 years on TV, Moore returned for a farewell cameo.

But her film career has taken her far away from the soaps. Stardom came after she landed a trio of showy roles in a quick succession of memorable independent movies: Short Cuts (1993), Vanya on 42nd Street(1994) and Safe (1995). “They all came out at once, and I suddenly had this profile. It was amazing,” she says.

Once Moore became a star, she stayed one. “She’s a real hard worker,” says Barkin. “Julie makes things happen for herself. She’s not waiting to get lucky, and I don’t think she ever was.” Mark Ruffalo, who costarred with Moore in Blindness and The Kids Are All Right, also emphasizes her determination. “I would describe her acting style as one hand in a boxing glove and the other in an elbow-high velvet glove,” he says. “She has something pretty damn fierce about her, forward leaning and aggressive. At the same time, she is filled with exquisite poise.”

Even Alec Baldwin, he of the tart tongue and tarter tweets, has only compliments: “Julianne brings a beauty, warmth and intelligence to everything she does,” he says of the woman his Jack Donaghy wooed on 30 Rock. “Even when she is playing a middle-aged single mom who ‘sweeps dead squirrels off the porch.’ ”

First published in the March 2012 issue

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