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Julianne Moore Bio
Julianne Moore (born December 3, 1960 as Julie Anne Smith) is an American–British actress and children’s author. Prolific in cinema since the early 1990s, Moore is active in both art house and Hollywood films. She is particularly known for her portrayals of emotionally troubled women, and has received many accolades including the Academy Award for Best Actress.
After studying theatre at Boston University, Moore began her career with a series of television roles. From 1985 to 1988, she was a regular in the soap opera As the World Turns, earning a Daytime Emmy for her performance. Her film debut was in 1990’s Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, and she continued to play small roles for the next four years – including in the thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992). Moore first received critical attention with Robert Altman‘s Short Cuts (1993), and successive performances in Vanya on 42nd Street (1994) and Safe (1995) continued this acclaim. Starring roles in the blockbusters Nine Months (1995) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) established her as a leading actress in Hollywood, although she continued to take supporting roles.
Moore received considerable recognition in the late 1990s and early 2000s, earning Oscar nominations for Boogie Nights (1997), The End of the Affair (1999), Far from Heaven (2002; winning the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival), and The Hours (2002; winning the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival); in the first of these she played a 1970s pornography actress, while the other three featured her as an unhappy, mid-20th century housewife. She also had success with the films The Big Lebowski (1998), Magnolia (1999), Hannibal (2001), Children of Men (2006), A Single Man (2009), and The Kids Are All Right (2010), and won a Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe for her portrayal of Sarah Palin in the television film Game Change (2012). The year 2014 was key for Moore, as she gave an Oscar-winning performance as an Alzheimer’s patient in Still Alice, was named Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for Maps to the Stars, and joined the popular Hunger Games series.
Moore moved to New York City after graduating, and worked as a waitress. After registering a stage name with Actors’ Equity, she began her career in 1983 with off-Broadway theatre. Her first screen role came in 1984, in an episode of the soap opera The Edge of Night. Her break came the following year, when she joined the cast of As the World Turns. Playing the dual roles of half-sisters Frannie and Sabrina Hughes, the intensive work provided an important learning experience for Moore, who looks back on the job fondly: “I gained confidence and learned to take responsibility”, she has said. Moore appeared on the show until 1988, when she won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Ingenue in a Drama Series. Before leaving As the World Turns, she had a role in the 1987 CBS miniseries I’ll Take Manhattan. Once she had finished on the soap opera, she turned to the stage to play Ophelia in a Guthrie Theater production of Hamlet opposite Željko Ivanek. The actress sporadically returned to television over the next three years, appearing in the TV movies Money, Power, Murder (1989), The Last to Go (1991), and Cast a Deadly Spell (1991).
In 1990, Moore began working with stage director Andre Gregory on a workshop theatre production of Chekhov‘s Uncle Vanya. Described by Moore as “one of the most fundamentally important acting experiences I ever had”, the group spent four years exploring the text and giving intimate performances to friends. The same year, Moore made her cinematic debut in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, playing a mummy’s victim. Her next film role did not come until 1992, but introduced her to a wide audience. The thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle—in which she played the main character’s friend—was number one at the US box office, and Moore caught the attention of several critics with her performance. She followed it the same year with the comedy The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag. Moore continued to play supporting roles throughout 1993, first appearing in the Madonna flop Body of Evidence, which she later regretted, and then in the romantic comedy Benny & Joon with Johnny Depp. She also appeared briefly as a doctor in one of the year’s biggest hits, the Harrison Ford thriller The Fugitive.
The filmmaker Robert Altman saw Moore in Uncle Vanya, and was sufficiently impressed to cast her in his next project: the ensemble drama Short Cuts (1993). Moore was pleased to work with him, as it was Altman who had given her an appreciation for cinema when she saw his 1977 film 3 Women in college. Playing artist Marian Wyman was an experience she found difficult, as she was a “total unknown” surrounded by established actors, but it proved to be Moore’s breakout role. Variety magazine described her as “arresting”, and noted that her monologue, delivered naked from the waist down, would “no doubt be the most discussed scene” of the film. Short Cuts was critically acclaimed, and received awards for Best Ensemble Cast at the Venice Film Festival and the Golden Globe Awards. Moore received an individual nomination for Best Supporting Female at the Independent Spirit Awards, while the monologue earned her a degree of notoriety.
Short Cuts was one of a trio of successive film appearances that boosted Moore’s reputation. It was followed in 1994 with Vanya on 42nd Street, a filmed version of her ongoing Vanya production, directed by Louis Malle. Moore’s performance of Yelena was described as “simply outstanding” by Time Out, and she won the Boston Society of Film Critics award for Best Actress. Moore was then given her first leading role, playing an unhappy suburban housewife who develops multiple chemical sensitivity in Todd Haynes‘ low-budget film Safe (1995). She had to lose a substantial amount of weight for the role, which made her ill and she vowed never to change her body for a film again. In their review, Empire magazine writes that Safe “first established [Moore’s] credentials as perhaps the finest actress of her generation”. The film historian David Thomson later described it as “one of the most arresting, original and accomplished films of the 1990s”, and the performance earned Moore an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Actress. Reflecting on these three roles, Moore has said, “They all came out at once, and I suddenly had this profile. It was amazing.”
Moore’s next appearance was a supporting role in the comedy–drama Roommates (1995), playing the wife of Peter Falk. Her following film, Nine Months (1995), was crucial in establishing her as a leading lady in Hollywood. The romantic comedy, directed by Chris Columbus and co-starring Hugh Grant, was poorly reviewed but a box office success and remains one of her highest grossing films. Her next release was also a Hollywood production, as Moore appeared alongside Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas in the thriller Assassins (1995). Despite negativity from critics, the film earned $83.5 million worldwide. Moore’s only appearance of 1996 was as the artist Dora Maar in the Merchant Ivory film Surviving Picasso, which met with poor reviews.
A key point in Moore’s career came when she was cast by Steven Spielberg to star as paleontologist Dr. Sarah Harding in The Lost World: Jurassic Park—the sequel to his 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park. Filming the big-budget production was a new experience for Moore, and she has said she enjoyed herself “tremendously”. It was a physically demanding role, with the actress commenting, “There was so much hanging everywhere. We hung off everything available, plus we climbed, ran, jumped off things … it was just non-stop.” The Lost World (1997) finished as one of the ten highest-grossing films in history to that point, and was pivotal in making Moore a sought-after actress: “Suddenly I had a commercial film career”, she has said. The Myth of Fingerprints was her second appearance of 1997, where she met her future husband in director Bart Freundlich. Later that year, she made a cameo appearance in the dark comedy Chicago Cab.
The late 1990s and early 2000s saw Moore achieve significant industry recognition. Her first Academy Award nomination came for the critically acclaimed Boogie Nights (1997), which centers on a group of individuals working in the 1970s pornography industry. Director Paul Thomas Anderson was not a well known figure before its production, with only one feature credit to his name, but Moore agreed to the film after being impressed with his “exhilarating” script. The ensemble piece featured Moore as Amber Waves, a leading porn actress and mother-figure who longs to be reunited with her real son. Martyn Glanville of the BBC commented that the role required a mixture of confidence and vulnerability, and was impressed with Moore’s effort. Time Out called the performance “superb”, while Janet Maslin of The New York Times found it “wonderful”. Alongside her Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, Moore was nominated at the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards, and several critics groups named her a winner.
Moore followed her success in Boogie Nights with a role in the Coen brothers‘ dark comedy The Big Lebowski (1998). The film was not a hit at the time of release but subsequently became a cult classic. Her role was Maude Lebowski, a feminist artist and daughter of the eponymous character who becomes involved with “The Dude” (Jeff Bridges, the film’s star). At the end of 1998, Moore had a flop with Gus Van Sant‘s Psycho, a remake of the classic Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. She played Lila Crane in the film, which received poor reviews and is described by The Guardian as one of her “pointless” outings. The review in Boxoffice magazine regretted that “a group of enormously talented people wasted several months of their lives” on the film.
After reuniting with Robert Altman for the dark comedy Cookie’s Fortune (1999), Moore starred in An Ideal Husband—Oliver Parker‘s adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play. Set in London at the end of the 19th century, her performance of Mrs. Laura Cheverly earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. She was also nominated in the Drama category that year for her work in The End of the Affair (1999). Based on the novel by Graham Greene, Moore played opposite Ralph Fiennes as an adulterous wife in 1940s Britain. The critic Michael Sragow was full of praise for her work, writing that her performance was “the critical element that makes [the film] necessary viewing.” Moore received her second Academy Award nomination for the role—her first for Best Actress—as well as nominations at the British Academy (BAFTA) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards.
In between her two Golden Globe-nominated performances, Moore was seen in A Map of the World, supporting Sigourney Weaver, as a bereaved mother. Her fifth and final film of 1999 was the acclaimed drama Magnolia, a “giant mosaic” chronicling the lives of multiple characters over one day in Los Angeles. Paul Thomas Anderson, in his follow-up to Boogie Nights, wrote a role specifically for Moore. His primary objective was to “see her explode”, and he cast her as a morphine-addicted wife. Moore has said it was a particularly difficult role, but she was rewarded with a SAG nomination. She was subsequently named Best Supporting Actress of 1999 by the National Board of Review, in recognition of her three performances in Magnolia, An Ideal Husband, and A Map of the World.
Apart from a cameo role in the comedy The Ladies Man, Moore’s only other appearance in 2000 was in a short-film adaptation of Samuel Beckett‘s play Not I. In early 2001, she appeared as FBI Agent Clarice Starling in Hannibal, a sequel to the Oscar winning film The Silence of the Lambs. Jodie Foster had declined to reprise the role, and director Ridley Scott eventually cast Moore over Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett, Gillian Anderson, and Helen Hunt. The change in actress received considerable attention from the press, but Moore claimed she was not interested in upstaging Foster. Despite negative reviews, Hannibal earned $58 million in its opening weekend and finished as the tenth highest-grossing film of the year. In three more 2001 releases, Moore starred with David Duchovny in the science fiction–comedy Evolution, appeared in her husband’s dramatic film World Traveler, and acted with Kevin Spacey, Judi Dench, and Cate Blanchett in The Shipping News. All three films were poorly received.
The year 2002 marked a high point in Moore’s career, as she became the ninth performer to be nominated for two Academy Awards in the same year. She received a Best Actress nomination for the melodrama Far from Heaven, in which she played a 1950s housewife whose world is shaken when her husband reveals he is gay. The role was written specifically for her by Todd Haynes, the first time the pair had worked together since Safe, and Moore described it as “a very, very personal project … such an incredible honor to do.” David Rooney of Variety praised her “beautifully gauged performance” of a desperate woman “buckling under social pressures and putting on a brave face”. Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “what Moore does with her role is so beyond the parameters of what we call great acting that it nearly defies categorization.” The role won Moore the Best Actress award from 19 different organizations, including the Venice Film Festival and the National Board of Review.
Moore’s second Oscar nomination that year came for The Hours, which she co-starred in with Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep. She again played a troubled 1950s housewife, prompting Kenneth Turan to write that she was “essentially reprising her Far from Heaven role”. Moore said it was an “unfortunate coincidence” that the similar roles came at the same time, and claimed that the characters had differing personalities. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the performance “wrenching”, while Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian praised a “superbly controlled, humane performance”. The Hours was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Moore also received BAFTA and SAG Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress, and was jointly awarded the Silver Bear for Best Actress with Kidman and Streep at the Berlin Film Festival.
Moore did not make any screen appearances in 2003, but returned in 2004 with three films. There was no success in her first two ventures of the year: Marie and Bruce, a dark comedy co-starring Matthew Broderick, did not get a cinematic release; Laws of Attraction followed, where she played opposite Pierce Brosnan in a courtroom-based romantic comedy, but the film was panned by critics. Commercial success returned to Moore with The Forgotten, a psychological thriller in which she played a mother who is told her dead son never existed. Although the film was unpopular with critics, it opened as the US box office number one.
In 2005, Moore worked with her husband for the third time in the comedy Trust the Man, and starred in the true story of a 1950s housewife, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. Her first release of 2006 was Freedomland, a mystery co-starring Samuel L. Jackson. The response was overwhelmingly negative but her follow-up, Alfonso Cuarón‘s Children of Men (2006), was highly acclaimed. Moore had a supporting role in the dystopian drama, playing the leader of an activist group. It is listed on Rotten Tomatoes as one of the best reviewed films of her career, and was named by Peter Travers as the second best film of the decade.
Moore made her Broadway debut in the world premiere of David Hare’s play The Vertical Hour. The production, directed by Sam Mendes and co-starring Bill Nighy, opened in November 2006. Moore played the role of Nadia, a former war correspondent who finds her views on the 2003 invasion of Iraq challenged. Ben Brantley of The New York Times was unenthusiastic about the production, and described Moore as miscast: in his opinion, she failed to bring the “tough, assertive” quality that Nadia required. David Rooney of Variety criticized her “lack of stage technique”, adding that she appeared “stiffly self-conscious”. Moore later confessed that she found performing on Broadway difficult and had not connected with the medium, but was glad to have experimented with it. The play closed in March 2007 after 117 performances.
Moore played an FBI agent for the second time in Next (2007), a science fiction action film co-starring Nicolas Cage and Jessica Biel. Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, the response from critics was highly negative. Manhola Dargis wrote, “Ms. Moore seems terribly unhappy to be here, and it’s no wonder.” The actress has since described it as her worst film. Next was followed by Savage Grace (2007), the true story of Barbara Daly Baekeland—a high-society mother whose Oedipal relationship with her son ended in murder. Moore was fascinated by the role, but the film was considered controversial for its explicit depiction of incest. She told an interviewer, “Obviously you do have some trepidation about that kind of stuff, but it’s not being celebrated. This is presented as a tragedy.” Savage Grace had a limited release, and received predominantly negative reviews. Peter Bradshaw, however, called it a “coldly brilliant and tremendously acted movie.”
I’m Not There (2007) saw Moore work with Todd Haynes for the third time. The film explored the life of Bob Dylan, with Moore playing a character based on Joan Baez. In 2008, she starred with Mark Ruffalo in Blindness, a dystopian thriller from the director Fernando Meirelles. The film was not widely seen, and critics were generally unenthusiastic. Moore was not seen on screen again until late 2009, with three new releases. She had a supporting role in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, and then starred in the erotic thriller Chloe with Amanda Seyfried and Liam Neeson. Shortly afterwards, she appeared in the well-received drama A Single Man. Set in 1960s Los Angeles, the film starred Colin Firth as a homosexual professor who wishes to end his life. Moore played his best friend, “a fellow English expat and semi-alcoholic divorcee”, a character that Tom Ford, the film’s writer–director, created with her in mind. Leslie Felperin of Variety commented that it was Moore’s best role in “some time”, and was impressed by the “extraordinary emotional nuance” of the performance. A Single Man was named one of the 10 best films of the year by the American Film Institute, and Moore received a fifth Golden Globe nomination for her work.
Moore returned to television for the first time in 18 years when she played a guest role in the fourth season of 30 Rock. She appeared in five episodes of the Emmy-winning comedy, playing Nancy Donovan, a love interest for Alec Baldwin‘s character Jack Donaghy. She later appeared in the series finale in January 2013. She also returned to As the World Turns, making a cameo appearance as Frannie Hughes when the show was cancelled in 2010. Her first big-screen appearance of the new decade was Shelter (2010), a film described as “heinous” by Tim Robey of The Telegraph. The psychological thriller received negative reviews and did not have a US release until 2013 (retitled 6 Souls).
Moore next starred with Annette Bening in the independent film The Kids Are All Right (2010), a comedy–drama about a lesbian couple whose teenage children locate their sperm donor. The role of Jules Allgood was written for her by writer–director Lisa Cholodenko, who felt that Moore was the right age, adept at both drama and comedy, and confident with the film’s sexual content. The actress was drawn to the film’s “universal” depiction of married life, and committed to the project in 2005. The Kids Are All Right was widely acclaimed, eventually garnering an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The critic Betsy Sharkey praised Moore’s performance of Jules, who she called an “existential bundle of unrealized need and midlife uncertainty”, writing, “There are countless moments when the actress strips bare before the camera—sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally … and Moore plays every note perfectly.” The Kids Are All Right earned Moore a sixth Golden Globe Award nomination and a second BAFTA nomination for Best Actress.
“I read her biography, books that were written about her and the election, listened to her voice endlessly on my iPod and worked with a vocal coach. I basically immersed myself in the study of her, and attempted to authenticate her as completely as possible … It was tremendously challenging to represent someone so very well-known and idiosyncratic, and so recently in the public eye.”
For her next project, Moore actively looked for another comedy. She had a supporting role in Crazy, Stupid, Love, playing the estranged wife of Steve Carell, which was favorably reviewed and earned $142.8 million worldwide. Moore was not seen on screens again until March 2012, with a performance that received considerable praise and recognition. She starred in the HBO television film Game Change, a dramatization of Sarah Palin‘s 2008 campaign to become Vice President. Portraying a well-known figure was something she found challenging; in preparation, she conducted extensive research and worked with a dialect coach for two months. Although the response to the film was mixed, critics were highly appreciative of Moore’s performance. For the first time in her career, she received a Golden Globe, a Primetime Emmy, and a SAG Award.
Moore made two film appearances in 2012. The drama Being Flynn, in which she supported Robert De Niro, had a limited release. Greater success came for What Maisie Knew, the story of a young girl caught in the middle of her parents’ divorce. Adapted from Henry James‘s novel and updated to the 21st century, the drama earned near-universal critical praise. The role of Susanna, Maisie’s rock-star mother, required Moore to sing on camera, which was a challenge she embraced despite finding it embarrassing. She called Susanna a terrible parent, but said the role did not make her uncomfortable as she fully compartmentalized the character: “I know that that’s not me”.
Following her well-received performance in What Maisie Knew, Moore began 2013 with a supporting role in Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s comedy Don Jon, playing an older woman who helps the title character to appreciate his relationships. Reviews for the film were favorable, and Mary Pols of Time magazine wrote that Moore was a key factor in its success. Her next appearance was a starring role in the comedy The English Teacher (2013), but this outing was poorly received and earned little at the box office. In October 2013, she played the demented mother Margaret White in Carrie, an adaptation of Stephen King‘s horror novel. Coming 37 years after Brian De Palma‘s well-known take on the book, Moore stated that she wanted to make the role her own. By drawing on King’s writing rather than the 1976 film, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that she managed to “[suggest] a history – one never told, just hinted at – of serious damage in [Margaret’s] past.” The film was a box office success, but was generally considered an unsuccessful and unnecessary adaptation.
At 53 years old, Moore enjoyed a considerable degree of critical and commercial success in 2014. Her first release of the year came alongside Liam Neeson in the action–thriller Non-Stop, set aboard an airplane. The response to the film was mixed but it earned $223 million worldwide. She followed this by winning the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her portrayal of Havana Segrand, an ageing actress receiving psychotherapy in David Cronenberg‘s black comedy Maps to the Stars. Described by The Guardian as a “grotesque, gaudy and ruthless” character, Moore based her role on “an amalgam of Hollywood casualties she ha[d] encountered” and drew upon her early experiences in the industry. Peter Debruge of Variety criticized the film but found Moore to be “incredible” and “fearless” in it. Moore’s success at Cannes made her the second actress in history, after Juliette Binoche, to win at the “Big Three” film festivals (Cannes, Venice, and Berlin). She also received a Golden Globe nomination for the performance.
In the third instalment of the popular Hunger Games film series, Mockingjay – Part 1, Moore played the supporting role of President Alma Coin, the leader of a rebellion against The Capitol. The film ranks as her highest-grossing to date. Her final appearance of 2014 was one of the most acclaimed of her career. In the drama Still Alice, Moore played the leading role of a linguistic professor diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She spent four months training for the film, by watching documentaries on the disease and interacting with patients at the Alzheimer’s Association. Critic David Thomson wrote that Moore was “extraordinary at revealing the gradual loss of memory and confidence”, while according to Kenneth Turan she was “especially good at the wordless elements of this transformation, allowing us to see through the changing contours of her face what it is like when your mind empties out.” Several critics commented that it was her finest performance to date, and Moore was awarded with the Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA for Best Actress.
Moore began 2015 by starring as an evil queen in Seventh Son, a poorly received fantasy–adventure film, co-starring Jeff Bridges. She also appeared opposite Ellen Page in Freeheld, a drama based on a true story about a detective and her same-sex partner, and in the romantic comedy Maggie’s Plan, with Greta Gerwig and Ethan Hawke. Both films were presented at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival in September 2015. In November, she will reprise her role of Alma Coin in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.
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