Interview: Julianne Moore - Need I say Moore?
Julianne Moore tells Will Lawrence she can identify with the tortured teenage character in the remake of 'Carrie', because her own schooldays were tainted by teasing and taunts
As a girl, Julianne Moore struggled with her looks, especially her complexion. In fact, when writing her first children's book, the four-time Oscar-nominated actress bestowed on her main character the nickname she had endured as a child – 'Freckleface Strawberry'.
The book, published in 2007, became a New York Times bestseller and spawned two sequels, with Moore hoping it would instill in children the confidence to overcome the teasing and taunting that might be directed their way at school.
If only she could have passed a copy of that book to the character of Carrie White, the fictional, bullied and telekinetically gifted figure in Stephen King's debut novel 'Carrie'.
Published in 1974, it was adapted for the screen by director Brian De Palma in 1976 and is now coming back to cinemas at the end of this month, with 'Boys Don't Cry' and 'Stop-Loss' director Kimberly Peirce at the helm. Young 'Kick-Ass' star Chloe Grace Moretz takes the lead role famously played by Sissy Spacek in the original adaptation, with Moore featuring as her overbearing mother, the religiously zealous and sartorially challenged Margaret White.
"I knew what I looked like," says Moore, who's 52, of her transformation into a vitality-sapped harridan. "It didn't bother me. What was funny was that Chloe's mum had only ever seen me like that.
"One day I had to come to the set and was wearing normal clothes. Chloe's mum went, 'Oh my goodness! You look so pretty'. I had to laugh. Margaret should look very, very outside. She should look like someone who doesn't care about her appearance. She should be a little scary looking."
Moore's character is as tragic as Moretz's, though it is the latter who invites the greater audience sympathy as a decent-minded, kind and hopeful girl who unleashes her terrible powers only when humiliated, continuously, by her high-school peer group.
The adaptation is timely. Childhood bullying, especially on the internet, has prompted multiple, horrendous headlines these past 12 months, and the new imagining of the 'Carrie' story highlights this modern-day problem. The famous shower scene that opens the De Palma movie is here played out, filmed on smartphones and then posted on the internet. "It is the anonymity of the internet that I find so appaling," says Moore.
Moore is a celebrated actress the world over, her four Oscar nominations coming courtesy of 'Boogie Nights', 'The End of the Affair', 'Far From Heaven' and 'The Hours', but she found her own childhood troublesome, her family following her father, a US army judge, as he moved from one military posting to another. She lived all over the US, from Virginia to Georgia, Nebraska to Texas. She even lived in Panama, Alaska and Germany. She was always the new girl trying to settle in.
"My upbringing has given me sympathy for the idea of isolation and what it is to be a new person in the room, where everyone else has some amount of familiarity and comfort," says Moore. When she was growing up, the internet was not yet even a glint in a computer boffin's eye, but still the bullying came from plenty of anonymous, as well as more obvious, sources. She cites as an example a US phenomenon called the slam book, which she says are now illegal in American high schools.
"A slam book is where people would take a notebook and they would write the name of a person on it and then they would pass it around school and people would write their comments anonymously.
"When I was a kid, those were illegal in school but, inevitably, somebody would do it. Now we have this occurring on the internet. People write comments anonymously, and that I think is absolutely reprehensible. I think you should be able to say whatever you want to say, but you should never say it anonymously. And that would change things tremendously.
"For children it is appaling. I have some understanding of the effects of social isolation, and I think they can be tremendously dangerous."
It was this theme of isolation, rather than a desire to write about wild telekinetic powers, that inspired King to write his novel.
"I read King's memoir where he talks about the inspiration for the 'Carrie' story," says Moore, "and the two actual young women who inspired it. 'Carrie' is a fascinating and really sad, dark and interesting book about the effects of social isolation.
"One of the girls that inspired the story was very marginalised by poverty. The other girl was very marginalised by her parents' extreme religious beliefs. They were so pushed outside the margins of society that it actually prevented them from living happy, long lives."
Thankfully for Moore, in spite of her migratory youth, she has grown up to live a happy life. She is married to film-maker Bart Freundlich – they tied the knot 10 years ago.
They have worked together on the movies 'World Traveller', 'Trust the Man' and 'The Myth of Fingerprints' and have two children, 16-year-old son Caleb and 11-year-old daughter Liv.
"He is great to work with, and he's a great director," she says of her husband. "We've always had an easy time working together. The hardest part is him working as the director, me as an actor.
"I don't think either of us takes the relationship for granted, though," she asserts, "and we certainly don't take our children for granted. I think that's something, the miracle of happy, healthy children, and we're in that together."
With the new 'Carrie' film highlighting the problem of high-school bullying, does she worry about her own children's experience at school? Surely being a teenager is harder now than ever before?
"Actually, I don't think it is," she says. "And I don't think it's really like it is in this movie. My son is in high school, and I don't think that is his experience. But it is an interesting time, adolescence, because as the mother of an 11 and a 16-year-old, you realise they're moving towards a time when they are no longer children and that transitional period is tough, because a lot of maturation happens very, very quickly.
"They're not quite adult enough to make all their own decisions, but you are giving them little bits of freedom."
Moore is raising her children in a settled environment. She and Freundlich live in New York City, and her son's school, she notes, has the maturation process well- marshalled.
"It is really wonderful," she says. "At my son's school you have to have lunch in the cafeteria every day all the way through elementary school.
"And then in middle school you get to go to another section where you stand in line. The next year, you get access to frozen yogurt. Then the following year you can go out for lunch with an older child from the school.
"Then, suddenly, you can go out to lunch on your own. So, gradually, they are giving them these tiny increments of independence, and that is what adolescence is really about – it is hard, though, what happens to kids.
"They all want to be the same, and worry about who is popular, who is nice, who is mean. Ultimately, that is what this 'Carrie' is exploring, along with the effects of social isolation.
"It is a great story. Of course, you worry about doing a film that has been made before, but we had the original source material. I don't think of it as a remake."
Moore loves to work, her career taking in more than 50 feature films, including blockbusters ('Jurassic Park 2' standing among the biggest), as well as literary-based pieces, such as 'The Shipping News', 'Blindness', 'Short Cuts' and 'Children of Men', to name but a few, along with those celebrated Oscar-baiting pictures such as 'The Hours'.
"I do like to work," she concedes. "I have my kids' books that I do, I have movies that I do and I model.
"When you have children, you don't have downtime, but I have a family life that is rich and fulfiling.
"Freud said that you need love and work, and Chekhov says that too.
"Everybody says that. Certainly, those are the things that I need."
Happily, she has both in abundance.