By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Julianne Moore has played her share of movie moms, many of whom were a little off-kilter, but she’s never played anyone quite as iconic as Margaret White, the overbearing, fanatical head case she depicts in “Carrie.”
The North Carolina native tackles the literary character created by horrormeister Stephen King in the novel that launched his career. The book previously was adapted for the screen in 1975 by Brian De Palma, and starred Piper Laurie as Margaret and Sissy Spacek as her outcast teenage daughter.
The 52-year-old actress says her job was not to try and recreate Laurie’s Academy Award nominated performance, but to reference the original source material and the Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa script, and create an entirely new interpretation of the disturbed parent.
Directed by Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry,” “Stop-Loss”), this “Carrie” is updated for a generation where humiliation by other kids goes far beyond school yard taunts. It is digitally recorded and goes viral across the Internet.
Moore has defied the odds that befall many over-50 actresses in Hollywood, as she remains very in-demand. Already this year, the four-time Academy Award nominee has been seen in the dramas “Don Jon,” “The English Teacher” and “What Maisie Knew,” in which she also played a dysfunctional mom.
The titian-haired actress joins the popular “Hunger Games” franchise, playing President Alma Coin in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay,” the two-part final installment next year.
If that weren’t enough on her plate, Moore recently published the children’s book, “My Mother is a Foreigner, But Not To Me,” about her Scottish-born mom (from whom she inherited that fabulous red hair.)
A mother of two—Moore is married to director Bart Freundlich—the always pleasant Moore recently spoke about taking on an iconic horror character, her white-hot career and being a published author.
Q: Is this the craziest person you’ve ever played?
Moore: Probably. She’s pretty darn crazy. Barbara Baekeland (the mother in “Savage Grace,” in which she played the alcoholic mother who coerces her gay son into having sex) was pretty crazy too, but she was more of a sociopath. This woman’s a psychopath.
Q: This is an interesting year for you. You seduce Michael Angarano in “The English Teacher” and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “Don Jon,” and now you terrorize your daughter.
Moore: I’ve had a great year. (She laughs.) I said to (my manager), “Did I have two movies in the spring?” And he said, “Yeah!” It’s been a busy year. I have a book out! It’s called “My Mom is a Foreigner, But Not To Me.” It’s about growing up with a mother from another country. My mother was from Scotland so it’s sort of a tribute to her. The response has been great, especially from people who grew up with foreign moms or foreign parents. It’s really nice. People always tell me they started crying when they read it in the bookstore. So I’m really happy about it.
Q: How was it working with Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays your daughter in “Carrie?”
Moore: I love her!
Q: Is there anything in her that reminds you of yourself when you were that age?
Moore: She’s so professional. She always was so prepared. The thing I love about her the most, honestly, is that she’s a mama’s girl. She’ll tell you that. She loves her mother. She loves her brothers. She’s a family girl. It made it very easy for me to get close to her because she’s in that kind of relationship. I wanted, more than anything else, for her to feel super-safe with me. I wanted her to feel like if she had a question, she should come to me. If she had any kind of need or desire, she should come to me. We joked around a lot. I hugged her a lot. I adored her. She’s very responsive. She’s a great (scene) partner. That bond for us was important because then we were able to do whatever we needed to do together. I wanted the abuse to be complicated. I wanted her to feel that horrible thing where you feel complicit in the abuse. That’s why (Margaret does) the self-mutilation. She’s comes home and I’m banging my head on the wall. It’s my fault. It’s a horrible complicity. So I wanted (Chloe) to feel that I was the safest actor in the world for her to be with. Together, I think we really achieved it.
Q: That opening scene where you’re giving birth to Carrie is so disturbing. Of course, it’s pretend, but was that a weird moment for you?
Moore: Of course it is. I’ve worked with a lot of infants and children. The first thing for me is always is that child safe and comfortable and warm. Being a mother, at least I know how to do that. They put all that (afterbirth makeup) all over the baby and then they’d put her down, and then I’d close my legs on her (cradle-like) and rock her until she calmed down. She just needed to be contained. I didn’t really hold the scissors over her. There are lots of practical considerations. I’m glad the scene is in the movie. It’s in the book. That’s another key to who Margaret is and why that happened. She didn’t even know she was pregnant. She thought she had cancer and thought she was dying. She and her husband had broken away from a religious organization and formed their own church. He died. She doesn’t know she’s pregnant and gives birth alone. She thinks she’s dying and ends up with this baby, so that’s disorienting and sets up this isolation and thinking this is all I have. She also thinks, “I should have killed this baby because this is wrong. But I’m going to keep her anyway.” The guilt! Anyway, Stephen King’s a master. He really is.
Q: Have you met him?
Q: Taking on this role that defined Piper Laurie’s career, did that come with apprehension?
Moore: Everything does. Every time you do something, you think maybe it’ll suck and everyone will hate it. None of us are going to be better than Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek. They were great. They were iconic. The way we looked at it is that we’re not doing a remake. We didn’t remake Brian De Palma’s movie. It was more like, this source material’s pretty rich. Let’s do a version this way. In that sense, it kind of frees you up a little bit. I loved the original movie, I absolutely loved it, but I didn’t reference it at all. I didn’t (rewatch) it. I haven’t seen it since 1975. (She laughs.)
Q: Did you take the role home with you a little bit?
Moore: I don’t always feel it when I’m doing it. Sometimes I feel a sense of relief when I’ve wrapped it. I liked going to work. I love working with Chloe. I love Kim. I love Toronto (where the film was shot). It’s one of my favorite places. I make a movie there, basically, ever summer, it seems like. So my situation was I could go home (to New York) on the weekends. The job was about a month. Chloe’s mom was so sweet. You know what I look like in this movie—I’ve got no makeup on and my hair is all gray and stringy. And one day we were doing (interviews for the DVD) so I was all made up and wearing regular clothes, and I walked in and she said, “Oh, you look so pretty!” Then she said, “I didn’t mean anything.” And I said, “That’s OK.” So it was a relief to be done with the old hag stuff.
Q: Were you ever bullied as a kid?
Moore: No. It’s a huge, huge topic and we need to be careful with it. We can’t tar everything with the same brush. There’s a tremendous spectrum of behavior. One the one end, you might have teasing in the way kids tease each other and the way adults tease each other, and the way I’m teased by my family—by my children and my husband—so there’s that kind of stuff, but then there’s true bullying and isolation and real abuse. I always tell my kids to watch out for kids who are alone, because I think that’s one of the most detrimental things kids for children. Everybody wants to be in a community. Everybody wants to belong. There is no reason why a kid should be sitting alone at lunch. (I tell them) to go sit with them. The same with adults. It’s just not good for people (to be alone).
Q: How was the stunt work for you?
Moore: I was in a harness more times in this than anything I’ve done before. After a couple of weeks I’d realized we’d been doing nonstop stunts. I’ve done my fair share in a number of action movies but this was way more than I usually do.
Q: You’re going to be in the two-part final “Hunger Games” next year. How did that happen?
Moore: (She laughs.) In the regular way. I owe it to my kids. I bought the last book, “Mockingjay,” for my son. He had read the first two. He said, “Mom, I’m reading these really good books.” So I was in the bookstore and saw the third one.” So I bought it and brought it home and said, “Here, honey, here’s the third one.” But I didn’t read it. Then, a couple of years ago, we were on vacation in Mexico and my daughter was reading “The Hunger Games.” She was about nine or 10. She got up to play Ping Pong and I didn’t have anything to read so I picked it up and read it. I loved it. I thought it was amazing. So I downloaded the next two on my iPad because I was on my way somewhere. I was fascinated by it. I wanted to play this part from the books, actually, and my children loved the series.
Q: What’s next for you?
Moore: I’ve got a movie called “Non-Stop” with Liam Neeson. It’s a thriller on an airplane. It’s all these people on a plane. Somebody has planted something, possibly a bomb. One of the passengers has done it but you don’t know who. I’m sitting next to Liam Neeson.
Q: What’s a good day for you when you’re not working?
Moore: Oh, reading.