For a cinephile, Film Festivals represent the utmost excitement of being among the first of audiences to partake in the year’s newest cinematic offerings, and there is the anticipation of sussing out the buzz-worthy from the non-starters; the good from the bad. Every festival-goer knows the anxiety of having to solidify their itinerary, faced with the difficulty of resolving scheduling conflicts, work out the logistics of traveling between venues, finding time to eat, and in case of the writer, trying to set aside blocks of time in which they can journal their thoughts, and, hopefully write some reviews. With all of this considered, there is a real need for some down time, and what could be better than to enjoy some much needed relaxed entertainment?
Unlike most other film festivals, the Toronto International Film Festival features a series of formally organized, though intimately carried out talks with actors and filmmakers. This year, what could be a greater joy than, one of the most exciting of these selections (selling out within the first hour of indivual ticket sales), the opportunity to see and hear Julianne Moore reflect on her landmark career?
When Cameron Bailey (TIFF’s Artistic Director) introduced Julianne Moore to a packed audience in TIFF Bell Lightbox’s Cinema 1, his temptation to rattle off a list of her achievements was evidently too great: Julianne Moore is an Academy Award and Emmy Award winning actress, and the only American actress ever to be awarded top competitive acting prizes from the Venice, Berlin, and Cannes Film Festivals. Yes, we already understood that we were in the presence of a living legend. But, as her attendance would be in the flesh, everyone was also here to see Julianne Moore, the person. Thankfully, the luminous, impossibly beautiful fifty-four year old actress, came to the talk with her head squarely fixed on her shoulders, and really opened up in a way that was personal, and showed how, she, too, is also human.
Julianne Moore is a nearly perennial fixture of TIFF. 2015 marks the second consecutive year that she has had two films play at the festival (Still Alice and Maps to the Stars both played at TIFF14, and Maggie’s Plan and Freeheld are her current upcoming entries), and she has been to Toronto to support, to name but a few, What Maisie Knew, Chloe, Blindness, and as far back as Vanya on 42nd Street, her debut and career-making lead role in film. Moore began the talk with a gratefully delivered reminiscence of the reactions toStill Alice, the film to finally net her a long overdue Oscar which premiered at TIFF “on a Monday at 4:30“, noting how “everyone was crying,” and saying that it was the most overwhelming response she had ever experienced.
Julianne brought the discussion back to her roots, remembering what it was like to work in soap operas (she played Frannie Hughes in 19 episodes of As the World Turns in the late ’80s). Working in soaps taught her how to work quickly and efficiently under a time constraint, and she had the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of her success, and “fall on [her] own sword,” when her performance didn’t land as well as could have been hoped.
It was the beginning of a work ethic, which is still very real. Julianne also spoke about the effort required and differences between working in independent films and huge scale blockbusters; drama and comedy, joking in between about her daughters complaints that she only ever plays characters who are “dying or getting divorced.” Julianne spoke about her role as President Coin in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2, and confirmed that roles that are peripheral and not as filled in require more preparation, as an actor, in order to understand what a person is like, while also realizing that the film does not reflect their point of view, and the humility of having to remember her place in the scale of such a huge production. Julianne continued to share that comedy demands even more of her, saying that it requires still having to identify “what the emotional thing is, but then there’s timing and tone on top of it.” As to her success in drama (and melodrama, in particular), she remembered watching the Sirk melodramas of the 1950’s on her television, and learned the “rhythm” from listening to their actors.
“Rhythm” and “language” appear to be a deal-breaker for this actress, stating that she always turns down a pitch, as she needs to see how the words, the most important part of what draws her to a role, flow in order to imagine herself as a part of a project. And, despite her passion for directing and writing (though a writer of children’s books, “it’s not Philip Roth!” she laughed), having been married to director Bart Freundlich, she has seen the years of commitment and preparation they take, and subsequently refuted the question of whether or not she plans to direct, unable to imagine herself attached to one all-consuming project for so long.
Freeheld, a marriage equality drama and her current Oscar bid, is a big reason why Julianne is here, for TIFF, and the audience was privileged to see a new clip of her playing Laurel Hester, the dying cop who was the subject of the 2007 Academy Award winning documentary short. Moore recalls how, starting to read the screenplay for the first time, she almost did not finish it, as it looked like a police procedural drama, and “I hate police procedural dramas!” she complained. But, coming back to the script, she eventually saw it evolve into a beautiful, moving love story, and hopes that “we’ve done justice to this story.”
On the subject of equality, Julianne shared some final thoughts about a hot button topic in Hollywood: the lack of movies about women. Julianne confessed that if there are not films in theatres near her about women, she doesn’t go to see any; when they are in theatres, she makes sure that she pays to go see them. Finance is key in Hollywood, so, she urged the audience to “go see movies with women in them!”
[author title=”About the Author” image=”https://scontent-lax3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xaf1/v/t1.0-9/480895_10151462730045981_1761013921_n.jpg?oh=ec50ec414b7d1c9da635d28281ffb0a1&oe=5661826D”]David Acacia lives in Toronto, Canada, posts regularly on AwardsWatch forums, and is the self-appointed High Priest of the Church of Meryl Streep. He is also a member of the International Cinephile Society where he writes for film festivals and film reviews.[/author]