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

Over the years, Moore has picked roles in more winners than clunkers. Her secret to sifting cinematic gold? “I’m a really good reader,” she says. “Sometimes I think if I’d followed what interested me, I’d have ended up a librarian or an English teacher. When I started acting in high school, it just felt like reading aloud. So when I read a script now, when I can hear it and it comes alive, it’s like, This script is great! I’ll do this.”

Back in 1996, one script she loved on first read was The Myth of Fingerprints, a family drama written by Freundlich, then an aspiring director and nine years her junior. She signed on and found herself scheduled to do her most difficult, emotional scenes at the start of shooting. “I was very focused. Then, when I’d done all of that, I woke up at the end of the first week and went, ‘Oh, he’s cute,’ ” she says, laughing. “So it kind of happened then.”

What happened was that the two became involved, her first (and last) on-set affair with a director. A romance between actress and director seemed to Moore a show business cliché; she says, “I was hugely embarrassed about it, so I tried to keep it a secret. Ellen knew. I was on the phone with her and I wouldn’t admit it, but she knew and she was going, ‘Don’t do it.’ But I always say, it all worked out. We stayed together, and we have these kids together.”

The couple wed in 2003 with their offspring in attendance. Barkin, who had been at the hospital with Moore for Caleb’s birth and rubbed her feet when she was in labor with Liv, lent her friend a pair of long, dangly diamond earrings for the wedding. “It was the something borrowed,” says Barkin. “She looked beautiful.”

Moore says she and her husband realized on their most recent wedding anniversary that they’ve now been hitched longer than they lived together pre-ceremony. “We were like, ‘Wow, we did it!’ Marriage is commitment; it’s the ultimate challenge. It’s a very mature, adult kind of thing to do, to say I choose to have a household with you, children with you, to spend time with you.” And that gets her back, as so many things do, to the idea of narrative. “Family is the ultimate narrative,” she says. “It gives a story to your life in a remarkable way. And a witness.”

HER FAMILY focus is so strong that she celebrated a recent birthday by going to Paris with her husbandandkids, because the couple couldn’t bear to leave them behind. And yet most years, Moore manages to act in two or three movies; Being Flynn opens March 2. She also appears in advertising campaigns, saying the lucrative paychecks from companies such as Talbots, Bulgari, Revlon and Coach enable her to take roles in microbudget indie films.

Her nonacting activities are so extensive that she clearly could teach a course in time management. Maybe even to beavers. She volunteers for Save the Children, Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign (which advocates for marriage equality, among other goals). And she writes children’s books, including the best-selling semi­autobiographical series Freckleface Strawberry, about a girl with red hair. The first Freckleface book has been adapted to a long-running Off-Broadway musical, and a non-Freckle kids’ book is in the works. This backup career, she says, “isn’t terribly remunerative, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Moore’s identity appears to be cheerfully grounded in reality, and that attitude extends to the question of plastic surgery. She hasn’t had it and doesn’t plan to: “I feel that, with a few exceptions, people always look like they’ve had surgery; they don’t look any younger. I’m 51, and no matter what I do to my face, I’m still going to be 51.

“Age is about life span, about the journey we take,” she says, and then returns to her favorite trope. “It gets back to narrative: You have to be where you are in your story and enjoy it for what it is.” And with that she departs, heading home to add another page to the unfolding story of her life.

First published in the March 2012 issue

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