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Interview - Julianne Moore: Who needs an Oscar anyway?

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Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore in Map To The Stars

Julianne Moore in Map To The Stars

Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore

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Julianne Moore

You might think a Hollywood star would be touchy when it comes to failure. Not Julianne Moore. The red-head lets out a big laugh when we discuss the rather delicate subject of the Academy Awards. Four Oscar nominations - including twice at the 2003 ceremony, where she was up for Best Actress for Far From Heaven and Best Supporting for The Hours - and how many has she won? "Zero!" she cries, rocking back on her seat.

Thankfully, the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild and the Emmys saw fit to award her for her unnerving Sarah Palin - opposite Ed Harris' John McCain - in the 2012 HBO television drama Game Change. Still, you have to wonder if she was hurt by these constant knock-backs from the Academy. "At the end of the day, everyone likes to be validated - blue ribbons, prizes, stars," she nods. "We all like that stuff. But more important than that are the jobs." A model of diplomacy, then, unlike her Palin.

We're in Cannes, where Moore's latest Maps To The Stars has just played to a rousing reception at the film festival. A viscous Hollywood satire, directed by the masterly David Cronenberg, you might say it was preaching to the choir - and indeed, Cannes' cineaste crowd has always had time for Moore, a free-spirited performer far removed from Hollywood's cookie-cutter starlets of today. By the time the festival is over, Moore will walk away with Best Actress; a prize at last.

It seems almost ironic that she claimed this richly-deserved reward for playing a monstrous, ego-centric fading actress - everything that Moore is not. In a story that criss-crosses the Hollywood has-beens and hangers-on with the wannabes and the wackos, Moore's character, Havana Segrand, is by far the most memorable; attempting to win a role in the remake of a film that starred her actress-mother, she reeks of desperation, cruelty and self-loathing.

For Moore, this was never a film about Hollywood - which is "just a place where people make movies," she notes. "Really, this is a movie about people who are so desperate to be seen and heard and acknowledged as human beings, and they're seeking outside validation to obtain that, by being famous, celebrities or whatever... it's really about who we are as human beings and what people want, and how sometimes they're not able to get it."

From an explicit threesome scene to a stomach-churning moment where she's barking orders at her assistant (Mia Wasikowska) whilst on the toilet, it's one of Moore's most exposing roles - in a career that's made up of her putting her body and soul on the line. Think of her tragic porn star in Boogie Nights (her first Oscar nod, and an obvious forerunner to Havana), her pill-popping unfaithful wife in Magnolia or back to her breakthrough turn in Robert Altman's Short Cuts, where she conducted one scene naked from the waist down.

It's hard to imagine many actresses putting themselves through such trials - never mind one that turns 54 in December. Of course, it helps that she's aged beautifully. Today, looking slim and elegant in a long-sleeved, high-necked dress, it's no surprise that L'Oréal snapped her up as a brand ambassador for the Age Perfect skincare range. In the past, she's criticised cosmetic surgery. "I don't know why women do Botox. It doesn't make them look younger, it just makes them look like they had work done. You are not going to look the same as you did at 25."

Maybe it sounds harsh, but Moore leads by example; perhaps this is why she's developed a reputation as the most fearless actress of her generation. She screws up her face at the idea. "I think to be courageous, you have to be afraid. For me, it feels very courageous when I go skiing because I'm very, very afraid to ski. It's dangerous! I feel very scared. But when I'm acting, I don't feel very scared." These are not exactly performances you can phone in, I say. "I don't want to," she retorts. "I like my job. I want to be engaged to my work."

Born in North Carolina, Moore's chameleon-like qualities doubtless came from her unsettled upbringing. With her Scottish-born mother Anne a psychologist and social worker, her father Peter's work as military judge forced the family to move some 23 times - everywhere from Alaska to Paris. "It makes you adaptable," recalls Moore. "Every different social group that I encountered had its different set of rules, so you learn very quickly how to pick up the nuances and change yourself accordingly. When you are not from anywhere, you have to try to find what's universal. You are always trying to fit in."

While she began acting in school, Moore didn't undertake a professional role until she graduated from Boston University with a theatre degree and moved to New York. Like many, she made ends meet waiting tables; typically, she didn't just see it as a means to an end. "A good waiter or waitress will see you because they're always looking around - they're hyper-aware," she says. "And I think that's important in life. You have to be in yourself but engage with the world, and see what's going on. So I think that was an important lesson to learn."

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This aside, her training came not from drama school but on the job. In 1985, she won dual roles as half-sisters in the long-running soap As The World Turns, remaining on the show for three years. During this time, she met and married actor John Gould Rubin - although it didn't last. They eventually separated in 1993, divorcing two years later. Not that she had to wait long to meet her second husband - Bart Freundlich, who directed her in 1997's The Myth of Fingerprints.

They've made two films since - World Traveller and Trust The Man - and, rather more importantly, two children, 16-year-old son Caleb, and 12-year-old daughter, Liv. "They live a very regular life," says Moore. "They both go to school in the city. I get up and make breakfast for them. My husband drives them to school. And we go to basketball games. Both my kids play a lot of basketball - my son's a really, really good player. We go to those games all the time. We have family vacations. We're very involved in their lives and they don't work! They don't have jobs. I don't think it's a good thing for kids to work."

It was her children that inspired Moore's next role - that of President Alma Coin in the highly-anticipated Mockingjay, the forthcoming two-part finale to The Hunger Games franchise. While she's battled dinosaurs in Jurassic Park: The Lost World and Anthony Hopkins' series killer in Hannibal, Moore's not a blockbuster regular. But when her kids read the books by Suzanne Collins, she followed suit, on holiday in Mexico. "I picked up her book and tore through it, and loved it. And then downloaded the next two - and read them all lickity-split and thought, 'These are terrific!'"

Moore has made her own forays into writing, penning the 2007 children's book, Freckleface Strawberry and two follow-ups, all dealing with a girl who gets teased for her freckles (as happened to Moore when she was young). Actress, writer, mother-of-two... the list of achievements is impressive, even without that Oscar. Is there anything she can't do? "I'm not much of a cook," she sighs. What does it matter? She can always order take-away.

Maps To The Stars opens on September 26.


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