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MOORE, JULIANNE: Myth of Fingerprints

THERE’S MUCH MOORE . . .
Julianne Moore, nominated for an Oscar for her outstanding performance in Boogie Nights, is also on our screens in The Myth of Fingerprints, to be followed by the Coen Brothers' latest film, The Big Lebowski. PAUL FISCHER spoke to the actress at the last Toronto Film Festival.

One notices a considerable difference in Julianne Moore as she settles in for our interview at the Toronto Film Festival. Ah yes, she's pregnant. "It really is this most extraordinary feeling", she says coyly. The father happens to be the director of her latest movie, The Myth of Fingerprints. "I know it's a bit of a cliché, right? The leading actress falling for her director."

Her professional life isn't doing too badly either, from The Myth. . . to her Oscar-nominated Boogie Nights and the upcoming Coen Brothers comedy, The Big Lebowski. "I hope I remember what I do in which movie", she adds glibly. It's Myth, though, that she loves talking about, a miniscule-budgeted gem about a dysfunctional New England family reuniting on a cold Thanksgiving weekend. The Myth Of Fingerprints begins with the familiar process of the family re-assembling at Mum and Dad's New England house during Thanksgiving week. The only one who still lives with her parents (portrayed by Roy Scheider and Blythe Danner) is Leigh (Laurel Holloman), the sprightly youngest child who has a boundless well of enthusiasm and good cheer.

"I liked that she was so unrepentantly angry and so inarticulate about what she felt." on Mia, in Myth of Fingerprints

The same cannot be said of the other returning children. There's Warren (Noah Wyle), who hasn't been home in three years since breaking up with his high-school sweetheart (Arija Bareikis). There's the perpetually angry Mia (Moore) who arrives with her latest significant other, therapist Elliot (Brian Kerwin), in tow. Their relationship is clearly on the rocks, and Mia's fascination with an old grade school pal (James LeGros) doesn't help matters. Jake (Michael Vartan) shows up with his flighty girlfriend, Margaret (Hope Davis), who amuses Jake's Mum by insisting that she and her boyfriend share the same bed. The film came to Moore while working as a judge at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. "Someone pushed this script at me and asked me to read it." Her agent strongly urged her to give Myth special attention, even though its theme of a dysfunctional family confronting its past "sounded like a story we had already heard before." Moore says she was surprised to discover that Myth was like nothing she had read before and that Mia, the character she was being sought to play, the oldest and most angry sibling in the cracked clan, was like no one she had ever played.

"Usually, characters like Mia are so compromised that they just aren't real," says Moore. "The fact is that you're far more likely to find people like Mia in real life than you are in movies, and not for an instant did Bart [Freudlich, director] give her away. "I liked that she was so unrepentantly angry and so inarticulate about what she felt. I am so tired of actors saying 'this is what's wrong with me,' when most of us never know, and if we do, we don't just blurt it out. I mean, this girl's problem is obviously her father, but she never says 'Oh, my father!' because she has no idea."

"That was like a line you couldn't cross, like getting involved with your teacher," on romance with director Bart Freundlich

Moore was moved, she says, by a speech Bart wrote for Mia in which she recalls answering the phone at work and being unable to remember her own name. It was Freundlich's understanding of that "degree of feeling lost" that made her feel an empathy even before they met. She says she was "completely surprised by herself" when she started filming Myth and that empathy began to mutate into affection. She had never been involved with an actor with whom she worked ("at least since college") and had considered non-professional contact with a director "completely off-limits.

"That was like a line you couldn't cross, like getting involved with your teacher," says Moore. "There was an authority issue involved for me. So when it happened, I was very, very trepidatious, and we were very cautious not to let it affect the work or anything that happened on the set."

"...the toughest and most depressing of my career." on shooting Boogie Nights

Moore says that few of the cast and crew members were even aware they had begun a relationship until shooting had wrapped and that if it somehow seeped into Myth, she can't detect it. "We both have such disciplined work habits that it became a point of honour," says Moore, laughing. Moore's relationship with Freundlich was in full swing when she started filming the sexually graphic Boogie Nights, an experience she describes as "difficult and emotionally draining." Yet it was an offer she couldn't refuse; after all, the film's writer/director, Paul Thomas Anderson, wrote the role of the porn actress, Amber Waves, a coke-addicted surrogate mother to an ad-hoc, X-rated family, with Moore in mind. "I met him (Anderson) at a party, and he said, 'You're gonna be in my movie, man,' and told me what it was about, and I said, 'Umm, well, we'll see.' Then I read the script, and it was wonderful, and the part was wonderful. Amber is this incredibly well-intentioned but unbelievably deluded character. She's so sweet, and so tragic." At the same time, Moore concedes that she found the experience of shooting Boogie Nights "the toughest and most depressing of my career."

It seems that Amber Waves is a long way from Moore's beginnings as an actress. She comes from a long and vital tradition of Army brats who have spun their childhood ability to adapt to an ever-changing social milieu into an acting career. The daughter of a psychiatric social worker and a military judge, Moore alighted in some twenty-three different places all over the world before landing at Boston University. After earning her B.F.A. degree in acting from the university's School of the Performing Arts, Moore touched down in Manhattan, where she appeared in a number of late-eighties off-Broadway plays. She branched out into television with a short-term part on the daytime drama The Edge of Night, which led in turn to a three-year stint (1985 to 1988) playing half-sisters Frannie and Sabrina on As the World Turns, a dual role for which Moore earned an Outstanding Ingenue Emmy in 1988.

In her latest film, The Big Lebowski, she appears as a sinister seductress. It's a dark comedy about the confusion caused by two guys named Lebowski, and it features Moore in the Coens' very first choreographed production number, wearing a ridiculous outfit made of styrofoam. By this time, Moore was noticeably pregnant, and the combination of the costume, hormones and her lack of grace had made her feel like "the biggest loser who had screwed up a scene.

"The nudity I've done is specifically non-sexual." on nude scenes in Boogie Nights and Big Lebowski

"And at just the right moment, Joel [Coen] said to me, 'Don't worry, the clunkier you are, the funnier it is.' It was so reassuring. Plus, they're so direct, you always know what they want." As in Boogie Nights and Short Cuts, Moore is again nude in Lebowski, but is not concerned at the nudity she's done thus far on screen. Nudity is often mistaken for sexuality. "The nudity I've done is specifically non-sexual. Boogie Nights is about pornography, not sexuality. Short Cuts was about communication in a marriage, not sexuality. And this movie is about being a dilettante."

Since completing this interview Moore gave birth to a son: the actress says she wants to nurture her life as a mother "and give it my undivided attention."

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"I know it's a bit of a cliché, right? The leading actress falling for her director."

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"We both have such disciplined work habits that it became a point of honour," on working with Bart Freundlich

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"I read the script, and it was wonderful, and the part was wonderful." on Boogie Nights

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"And at just the right moment, Joel [Coen] said to me, 'Don't worry, the clunkier you are, the funnier it is.'" on being pregnant on set of Big Lebowski

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