IN TWO decades of film work, Julianne Moore has proved resilient in comedies (Evolution), earnest in heart-wrenching drama (The End Of The Affair), game for popcorn thrillers (Hannibal) and worthy of Oscar nominations (Far From Heaven, The Hours, The End Of The Affair and Boogie Nights).
• Julianne Moore: 'I am still pretty busy, and I have been very lucky'
And at 49, a time when actresses are expected to complain about the lack of roles, Moore seems only to have landed better parts as the years have passed.
"I am still pretty busy, and I have been very lucky," she says. "It is very difficult no matter where you are and what age you are, if you are not getting jobs. I can't complain; and it's not just in our business, it's the case in any business.
"It is a freelance kind of job, and you learn to save money, just in case. There is a difference between a job and a life, though. I just continue to work on things that move me, and it all just sort of falls into place."
Slightly built, Moore is pretty in a fractured way, with angular features, long red hair, and freckled creamy skin inherited from her mother. Born Julie Anne Smith in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, she had a peripatetic childhood, attending nine schools in the US and Germany as the daughter of army parents. Her father was on the US Military Court of Appeals, while mother Anne was a social worker. She died suddenly last April aged 68.
It was her mother who used to put a positive spin on her daughter's teen angst about being a rare redhead on US military bases, by reminding her that she was only half-American. She took the family back to Scotland for holidays to visit sisters in Dunoon, Argyll. And it was also Anne who took her daughter's decision to act with equanimity, but insisted she get a degree so she would have an alternative to acting. In fact, she found work almost straight after college.
In her early twenties, Moore played twins, one good, one evil in the daytime soap, As The World Turns. At the same time she was also tackling New York's classical and experimental theatre on Broadway, training preserved in the late Louis Malle's last film, Vanya On 42nd Street.
"Every job that I did when starting out, I haven't regretted any of them. They've all been informative and interesting in one way or another. But Uncle Vanya was five years of my life. Every spare week in spring or if there were two weeks in summer we'd work on it before we filmed," she says.
Robert Altman spotted her during stage rehearsals for the play, and cast her in Short Cuts, where she bawled out Matthew Modine for five minutes – oblivious to being naked from the waist down – in a role Madeleine Stowe declined to take. It's a clich to describe body-baring roles as brave or bold, but Moore is remarkably unprecious about such scenes. In Boogie Nights, her porn star has literally nowhere to hide, and she even managed to eroticise tortured Ralph Fiennes when the pair starred as illicit lovers in The End Of The Affair.
"Poor Ralph," she says. "I didn't stop talking up to 'Action,' and as soon as they said 'Cut', I would start again because I find it relaxing. It stops things building up in your head. I have to be nice to the cameraman," she jokes. " The camera is close and I swear each time I won't do it again, but here I am."
Indeed. In director Atom Egoyan's new film, Chloe, she has another torrid coupling, this time with Amanda Seyfried. The film tells the story of a jealous wife (Moore) who hires a young escort to test her husband's fidelity, and the complications that follow. This is by no means Moore's first portrayal of a same-sex relationship: just last year she was a lesbian porn photographer in The Private Life Of Pippa Lee, and her upcoming slate includes The Kids Are All Right, in which she and Annette Bening play a gay couple whose relationship is thrown a curveball when the father of their teenage children shows up.
However, Chloe is her first explicit depiction of a sexual encounter for some time, and she admits she took the practicalities seriously.
"I admire Atom's work and that helped. And I'm not a Playboy bunny – I'm not supposed to communicate something completely unrealistic," she says. "But vanity comes to play and so, yeah, I dieted."
Chloe is an erotic thriller. It is also an Atom Egoyan picture, which usually means any claims either to actual eroticism or conventional thrills are theoretical at best. Egoyan has spent more than two decades fashioning complicated puzzles like The Sweet Hereafter and Exotica, in which characters misread one another. However Chloe was not his script or his original premise – it's a remake of the 2004 French film Nathalie, which starred Grard Depardieu, Fanny Ardant and Emmanuelle Bart. With its layers of erotic subterfuge, Nathalie is also highly reminiscent of Exotica.
"In ordinary adult life, sex has a different kind of currency than in most movies,'' Moore says. "Atom's films always understand that sexuality is meaningful.'' So beyond the front-page excitement of Egoyan venturing into soft-core sex, Moore was pulled towards the film for its portrayal of a mature relationship.
"Everybody I know has been married for more than ten years now and everybody has had something dramatic happen in their relationship. All these movies you see about people getting married suggest that when they do get married, that's it – the end. But, of course, it isn't."
Marriage and trust are at the heart of Chloe: themes which Moore says were discussed extensively on set. "Your relationship is never going to be what it was at the start – and the fact it's not is something that we struggle with. My husband and I try to spend time alone, but it is hard because the kids go: 'why are you going out, you went out last night?' So we try to make time for each other, and maybe take trips away together … but we're like everyone else in that respect."
Moore has two more films lined up that fit in with her availability. She prefers not to work during term-time and, if she does, the film set has to be close to her four-storey Manhattan apartment. However, she does read every script she is sent: "Otherwise, you can miss things." The one drawback to vetting projects is the time this takes. "Reading novels for pleasure has gone out the window," she says.
Nowadays, she saves intensity for her work, but until the end of her first marriage to actor Jon Gould Rubin, in her thirties, she admits she was so consumed by work she didn't have much of a life. "A lot of it had to do with being on my own at a young age," she says. "One of the reasons I got married so young was because I went straight to college, then moved to New York and felt I needed something like that. I think I got married a little hastily."
Her second marriage to Bart Freundich, an indie movie director nine years her junior, has been less fraught. The couple met on 1996's The Myth Of Fingerprints, the first of three films together, and wed four years ago in the garden of their New York home in the presence of their children, Cal, 12 and Liv, seven.
"For me the only reason to get married was my children," says Moore. "I had a therapist who said marriage is really a container for a family. Freud says you need love and work, and a family and a job give you a balance. One element can't give you everything. You can have friends in movies and plays you make, but they're not your family. And you can't expect family to give you the stimulation work is going to provide, because that is not their responsibility."
Chloe is released on Friday
This article was originally published in Scotland on Sunday on 28 February 2010