By Phebe Wahl By Phebe Wahl | January 18, 2023 | Lifestyle Feature culture
Acclaimed actress Julianne Moore dazzles once again this season in the new high-stakes thriller Sharper, and encourages us all to seize the moment.
It is the laugh that first gives it away. Easy and resonating with an uninhibited sense of self, Julianne Moore’s laugh and overall presence reveal a charisma grounded in a mindfulness fueled by an engaging intellectual curiosity. As she fires questions right back at me, I find myself being interviewed by the acclaimed actress as she masterfully delves deeper and beyond the surface. Moore clearly isn’t here to merely check the box, but instead share a real conversation.
Often, celebrity interviews can be harried and hectic—smushed in between packed schedules. Actors are often short on time due to production schedules. Editors have pressing deadlines. Yet, Moore seems to somehow operate outside this sphere of the celebrity circus. Throughout our conversations, she is fully present and laser focused on the now rather than the next.
Born in Fort Bragg , N.C., Moore moved often as a child during her father’s military career. Her start on the small screen included an Emmy-winning role playing half sisters on soap opera As the World Turns in the 1980s. “They were sisters and cousins. It was one of those baroque soap opera relationships,” she says, laughing. “At that point in my career, I was just really happy to have a job—to come out of school and to get to be employed. And to be able to support myself acting. And to go to work every single day and have to figure out how to do something or fail, based on my own actions. That was just an amazing opportunity,” she says. “And to be able to play those crazy half sister/cousins—it was just fortunate. It was really lucky.”
A flurry of big-screen roles followed, including cult classics like The Big Lebowski, Boogie Nights and an Oscar-winning best actress role in Still Alice. Like many actors, Moore doesn’t watch her films. “I don’t watch anything,” she says. “I don’t think I’m unusual. I don’t think most actors watch their films, right? Once it’s done, it’s done. There’s nothing you can do about it. I’ll watch playback or something when I am trying to determine how to shape a character—so that’s when I feel it’s valuable to watch something,” she says.
“I’m super excited that [Sharper] is a movie that I put together myself for the first time in my career,” she shares. “It’s just the kind of movie that I really responded to because the script is very original. … And it was really, really surprising. The great thing about this movie is that you really don’t know what’s gonna happen.”
The Benjamin Caron-directed film speaks to both voyeurism and society’s fascination with wealth. “I think that this movie is very much about money,” Moore says. “And it’s about how much we value money and how, right now, people seem to value money more than anything else. That was one of the things that I was really attracted to when I saw the script.” This meditation on shifting value systems fascinates Moore. “When I was growing up, the thing that I felt that people really valued was education,” she explains. “And then, suddenly, when the banks deregulated it all went away. And it really wasn’t about what could you learn, and what could you contribute, but suddenly it was all about how much money were you making. I think that this is a movie that reflects that ideology.”
Regarding Sharper’s twists and turns, Moore remains tight-lipped—but she hints it will be an unexpected ride. “I think it’s really pleasurable to watch something unfold,” she says, offering that the film is also a study of relationships. “I’m very, very into people,” she says. “I love watching people talk to each other. I love seeing how these relationships are revealed—and why they’re important. And I like to see power dynamics. And I see all the things that exist in our real world, dramatized in a really spectacular way. And I think that this [film] does that.”
Written by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, the film unfolds in both Manhattan’s tony Fifth Avenue penthouses and dark corners of Queens where “nothing is as it seems.” Moore worked as a producer on the Apple Original Films and A24 film with husband Bart Freundlich along with Jessica Switch and Erik Feig of Picturestart, as well as Gatewood and Tanaka.
“The older I get, the fewer ground rules I have about anything,” says Moore when asked if she has any secrets to share about working with a spouse. “Everything changes so quickly—and in our business in particular. It’s a volatile time in the world right now too. So I think the one thing that I’ve learned or am continuing to try to learn is to take everything one minute at a time—not getting ahead of yourself. There’s this constant idea of ‘What’s next, what’s next? I gotta get this done so I can get to the next thing.’ You know, right? I don’t want to do that. I really just want to be where I am.”
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Moore’s view on work-life balance is refreshingly grounded in gratitude it seems. “First of all, it’s a great privilege to be able to do what I’m doing. It’s an amazing privilege to get to work the way that I’ve worked. And it’s also a privilege to get to have a family. I’m always aware of how lucky I’ve been with these things—and they were things that I wanted. I really wanted a family. I really wanted to be an actor,” she says. Even now that her two children are more grown, Moore is careful to not miss a moment. “You have to be present with all of that,” she says. “I don’t want to hurry any of it up. ... With kids, I think you are always navigating. I want to make sure I’m navigating what’s happening now and not thinking about what’s next. In our culture, one thing happens and people are like, ‘What’s next? So what’s next for colleges to get into? Or grad school? Or they’re getting married?’ I’m like, ‘Maybe we can just be in this place—with them now.’”
This sage perspective on parenting (and life) has clearly paid off . Her stunning daughter, Liv Freundlich, recently joined Moore for an Hourglass Cosmetics campaign. “I think the thing that was so satisfying as a parent was just to be in a professional situation with my daughter, and to watch how beautifully she rose to the occasion,” says Moore. “I was really thrilled to watch her professionalism. It was kind of a gift for me, honestly, as a parent to watch your kids do that kind of stuff .”
As the face of countless campaigns ranging from Hourglass to BVLGARI, Moore has also been an outspoken advocate for the fallacy of using terms like anti-aging. “I think we should just stop talking about it,” she says. “There is no positive or negative. It simply is,” Moore offers regarding aging. “The only way that you can be where you are and appreciate what you have is to be in that moment and not think about what’s next or always think about ‘I wish it was yesterday.’ You know? So, honestly, your life progresses—you’re either gonna get older or you’re gonna die. Those are really our only options.” Moore suggests we all refocus on something much more meaningful instead. “I think just a concentration on how do you make your life more interesting? How do you deepen your friendships? And how do you make your primary relationship with your partner better? And how do you become more involved in the world? And what can you do that you haven’t done before? Why don’t we concentrate on those things instead of harping on physicality all the time?”
The award-winning actress has also used her voice to combat gun violence as an advocate for Everytown. “We are the only developed country in the world that has easy access to weapons, and we have the gun violence to show for it. It is important for me to state that, because even people I know who are very well informed will say, ‘What about gun violence in entertainment? What about mental health issues?’ To which I reply, the entire world consumes the same entertainment as we do in the U.S.; the entire world struggles with mental health issues and suicidal ideation. The gun violence in our country is correlated to our ability to obtain lethal weapons quickly and easily. Common sense gun laws are the one thing we can do that will really and truly make a difference.”
Up next, Moore will star in the Todd Haynes film May December. “Natalie Portman plays an actress who comes to observe my family as she prepares to play me in a movie,” Moore says. “Charles Melton is my husband in the film. He and I are a couple that first met when he was 13 and I was 36. It’s a story of gender, public interest, tabloids and identity—about who we think we are and who the world tells us we should be. How do we absorb ideology? How have we been marinating in expectations? And where does it come out? And where do we subvert it? And then how do we tell the stories?”
Photography by: Photographed By Xavi Gordo; PHOTO COURTESY OF TRUNK ARCHIVE