Julianne Moore on Starting Out in Soaps, Romantic Scenes and Her New Film, ‘What Maisie Knew’

julianne-moore-what-maisie-knewFour-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore has had her share of difficult moments in her career.  But she’s taken those opportunities and learned from them—even her days working on soaps.

“I learned to be a professional,” she said in an interview with NPR.  “You might have, as a character, 30 pages of dialogue a day if you’re what they call a ‘front-burner story.’  So you go home, you learn your lines for the next day, you get up, you’re there at seven in the morning, you do a quick rehearsal, you’re on camera, you might leave, you know, at seven at night and start the whole thing over again.  And you have to do it.  Everyone’s working very, very quickly.”

“There’s not a lot of time to help anybody, you know, and they have to get it down, too.  Unless somebody really blows a line, that’s going to be the take they use.  That’s just how it is.  So you sometimes don’t give the kind of performance you want to give, and there’s just not enough time.  And you go home, and you watch it, and you’re like, ‘Wow, I was terrible.’  And so you think, ‘How can I make this better?’”

Although Moore might not have had an opportunity to connect with cast members during her soap years, she does find ways to interact with her co-stars more now.  Moore found herself working with a 6-year-old on her new film, What Maisie Knew.  “One of the things that I would do with Onata [Aprile, who play Moore’s daughter]—especially in the scenes where the behavior was extreme—I’d say, ‘Listen, you know, I’m going to yell in this scene,” she recalled.  “I just want you to know, I’ll talk like this [whispering], I’ll talk like this and then I’m going to yell really loud, so don’t be scared.’”

“Or you know, ‘At this point I might be crying’ or ‘If I start crying don’t be upset.  It’s just part of the scene.’  I would tell her exactly what I was planning on doing, because then she was able to handle it…I never wanted her to be afraid with me.  I wanted her to be completely comfortable and relaxed, and I wanted to give her the room as a person and as an actor to be prepared for stuff and do her own work.”

Moore tries to give the same amount of courtesy to her costars and their families when she engages in steamy scenes.  “Whenever I’m doing anything romantic with an actor, or if there’s a director around, I never want anybody’s wife to feel threatened by me,” she said.  “So the first thing I do is go up and be like, ‘Hi, my name’s Julie, and nice to meet you, and how many kids do you have, and I have two kids and blah blah blah.’…But basically you want to say to somebody, ‘I’m not a threat.  I’m not a threat, and I want you to be comfortable with me, and I don’t want you to feel bad about any of this, because we’re just pretending.”

The actress, best known for her work in The Hours, Far From Heaven, and The Big Lebowski, didn’t always know she wanted to be a performer.  “I read a lot growing up.  It was kind of my comfort, you know; I loved it,” she said.  “I love story.  I love narrative.  I was academic.  I wasn’t particularly athletic.  I didn’t make the drill team.  I didn’t go out for sports.  There wasn’t much for me to do after school except the drama club, so when I kind of started doing drama club, it seemed to be something I could do.  It seemed more like an extension of reading.  It was like reading aloud, and it was all about story and being in the story.  Like, actually being in the book.”

“So I continued doing that just as my after-school thing, but it wasn’t until I was 17 and we had moved to Frankfort, Germany, and I had a teacher…who [was] our English teacher and the after-school drama coach, and rather than doing things like Afternoon in the Park, her first production there was Tartuffe—Moliere’s Tartuffe—which is pretty unusual for a high school drama teacher, and I found it incredibly challenging and really interesting.  And she said to me out of nowhere, ‘You know, you could be an actor.’  And I was shocked.  It never occurred to me that actors were real, that anyone had a job doing that.  Movies and TV seemed very far away.  I had never seen a real play.  I’d just seen, like, high school plays and community theater, and so I was like, ‘So that seems interesting.’  And she handed me a copy of Dramatics magazine with all these schools listed in it, and I came home and said to my parents, ‘I’m going to be an actor,’ at the dinner table, and they were shocked.”

What Maisie Knew is currently playing in select theaters.

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