Julianne Moore is being honored Tuesday night by the Museum of the Moving Image. For what exactly? For being a mensch. Forget “Still Alice” or “Game Change” or “Boogie Nights,” “Short Cuts,” “Far From Heaven,” “The Hours,” “The Hunger Games” (yes, she’s in that too), or a dozen other movie roles. Julie (her real name) got her start on “As the World Turns” in the mid 1980s. She won the Daytime Emmy Award for playing twin cousins (shades of Patty Duke!).
The mensch part? In 2010, when “ATWT” ended its 54 year run, Julianne returned for a special episode that reunited her with her former colleagues. No actor who’s gone on to such a film career has ever been that gracious and respectful. The episode was a winner. And now Julianne Moore may win the Oscar. She will be the most successful soap actor, in those terms, to reach that achievement.–RF
Here’s Paula Schwartz on “Still Alice”:
It’s definitely morbid and it’s not like a walk in the park,” Kristen Stewart
told journalists at a press conference recently at the Crosby Street Hotel for
“Still Alice,” starring Julianne Moore, as a Columbia linguistics professor with
early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Moore, who won the Golden Globe, is the Oscar
frontrunner for the film, which opened Friday. “The Twilight” actress plays the
wild-child unlikely daughter who helps take care of her character as her illness
progresses. (Kate Bosworth plays her other daughter and a restrained Alec
Baldwin portrays her husband.)
Moore, Stewart, Bosworth, co-writer-director Wash Westmoreland; along with
Lisa Genova, who wrote the book “About Alice” on which the film is based, all
turned up to promote the film last week and field questions from the press.
“It’s not always about having fun and making people laugh and going to movies
to have a great time. They can say something and I think this movie does,”
Stewart said. “I knew for a fact, as soon as I knew that Julianne was playing
this part, I knew that she was going to do something important. I knew this
movie was being made so she could do that. It would say something and it was our
job to just pull her up.”
Early in the press conference, when Moore was asked about some of her iconic
film roles, she noted that when people remember things in her movies and quote
lines to her, her reaction is, “What’s that? Especially when you’re referencing
movies from 10 years ago. I barely remember 10 years ago.”
Before she took on the role Julianne Moore told journalists she had no
personal experience and knew no one who had Alzheimer’s, so she contacted health
care professionals, went to Mount Sinai, spoke to myriad psychiatrists,
caretakers and especially patients to learn everything she could. “I immersed
myself in it. People were happy and excited that we wanted to know and that we wanted to get it right,” Moore said. “Alzheimer’s (patients) don’t feel seen. I think a lot of the times people look the other way and it’s hard to live with that, you know? They feel that there’s some kind of a shame attached to
cognitive decline, whereas, it’s easier, most of them wish they had cancer. If
it’s cognitive there’s a great deal of shame involved so it was great to have
the experience of these people.”
Bosworth, who plays Moore’s other daughter in the film, said the story was
personal to her as her grandmother has the disease. “I take care of my
grandmother with my parents,” Bosworth said, pointing out that she liked the
comedic elements of the film, that it mirrors life where there are moments that
are “tragic” but also “absolutely hilarious.” She added, “I felt this was an
opportunity to shine a light on this disease, and being able to work with
Julianne, I really just wanted to sit and watch her do what she does and it was
Westmoreland added that despite the heavy subject matter he didn’t want the
movie to be depressing. He hoped the movie conveyed “the possible connection
people can make even in the most difficult times, ” and that he hoped the movie
“had something very colorful to say about what it means to be alive.”
Unlike other movies about the same subject, Westmoreland said the film’s
purpose was to focus inside Alice’s head and how she feels and deals with the
disease and the challenge was “how to create that terrible subjectivity so
you’re with her and you sort of grieve with her and go through all the tension
and disappointment and triumphs with her.”
The film’s backstory is as emotional and devastating as anything in the film.
In December 2011, Westmoreland and his husband Richard Glatzer, who is also the
co-writer-director, received a phone call from the producers asking them to look
at the novel for possible film adaptation. Earlier in the year Glatzer was
diagnosed with ALS. The irony is that ALS debilitates the body but leaves the
mind intact and Alzheimer’s does the opposite but both are incurable and eat
away at the sense of self and identity.
After the press conference the director told me it is his and Glatzer’s 20th
anniversary as a couple this year and that they’ve worked together since they
made the film “Quinceañera” in 2006.
I asked Westmoreland how he was doing coping with his husband’s illness.
“Thanks for asking. I’m doing fine,” he told me. “I have really good friends.
And they sort of formed this little support network and the movie itself is
tremendous for us and so I’d say I’m doing all right.”
I also congratulated him on Julianne Moore’s Golden Globe win and his
achievement in bringing a three dimensional woman to life on screen. “It’s so
exciting,” he said about Moore’s win and the possibility of her winning the
Oscar. As for Hollywood’s inability or refusal to create rich roles for women,
Westmoreland noted, “I think there is ageism and sexism and then the stories
about real people that have relevance and to me that’s what’s going to win at
the end, right?
I said I wasn’t so sure.
“Obviously it needs to happen more often. I believe society is going to
progress and more and there’s going to be more and more movies about more and
more different sections of our American population, not just about straight,
young white men.”