By Debra Wallace
In addition to a rich life as an actress, Julianne says that family life is equally important to her and she keeps her work close to home as a result. She, her husband, director Bart Freundlich, and their children, Liv, 11, and Caleb, make their home in New York.
During a recent spring chat Moore was friendly, charming and eager to talk about her latest movie. The English Teacher, which opens on Friday, May 17.
The well-written and expertly acted indie movie, which was featured at the recent Tribeca Film Festival, is about Linda Sinclair, a 40-year-old unmarried high school English teacher in the small town of Kingston, Pennsylvania. Linda is so immersed in her collection of great literature and her students that she has no close personal relationships aside from those she has with her favorite authors.
Linda’s life is far less complicated than the dramas on the page, and she is comfortable with the status quo – a nice quiet apartment, two Siamese cats, and a predictable routine.
Linda’s simple life turns an unexpected page when her former star pupil Jason Sherwood (Michael Angarano), returns to Kingston High School after trying to make it as a playwright in Manhattan. Now in his 20s, Jason wants to abandon his art and is pressured to go to law school by his overbearing father Dr. Tom Sherwood (Greg Kinnear). Not wanting Jason to give up his dreams, Linda figures out a way for the high school drama department, led by flamboyant teacher Carl Kapinas (Nathan Lane), to stage a production of his play.
With Linda out of her comfort zone, The English Teacher is a page turner on film – funny, touching, charming, dramatic, clever and well-written – everything you want a film to be.
Have you shared this movie, The English Teacher, with your family, or your children, yet?
JULIANNE MOORE: No, but my kids have never seen anything that I’ve done. I don’t really show it to them. They don’t have an understanding of this. It’s kind of something that’s separate. It’s my job. I’m just their mother. My husband sees stuff. He saw it. But the kids, I kind of don’t do that.
Do your kids affect your choice of film roles?
JM: Absolutely. If there’s something that they wanted to see or they wanted me to be in, that would be great, great to be able to do something like that.
What are your personal challenges in doing this film and in general being an actor?
JM: Everyone has this issue, it’s not just actors – everyone wants, as Freud says, you need love and work, that’s what you need. So you want to have a relationship and a family and a personal life and that’s a rich life that way. And you want to have a rich and interesting creative and work life. And trying to have that, for all of us, it’s the balance that you want to create. But it’s great to have those options, we’re so lucky to have those opportunities. But I think that’s the day-to-day challenge.
Will your character of Linda have that?
JM: I think she does, and that’s Linda’s story. She’s someone who’s only been in the book. She’s only been in the narrative and she hasn’t stepped out of it. She’s kept her choices very restricted, and she sort of blows it open at the end by making all these mistakes and kind of being present in the real world.
This was a terrific ensemble with Nathan Lane, Leo Norbert Butz, Jim Breuer and John Hodgeman, more like a stage play than a movie.
JM: That’s right. It was a pretty extraordinary cast, actually. They were great, really, really, great people. Jim Breuer I had already done SNL with. My son was two months old, so that was 15 years ago. We had a great cast.
One of the things about this movie is that everybody does something they should apologize for. But not everybody apologized. Please talk about that.
JM: I think one of the nice things about the movie is that people don’t apologize. They all do some things…it’s kind of one of those cause and effect things, where at the end of the day, a lot of people are very shamed, but there’s a kind of forgiveness that they all offer one another, and looking the other way… Maybe they weren’t all their best selves at that moment, but they had the best intentions. There’s a humanity; I think, to their recovery that’s very nice. In the sense that your mother always told you – just let time go by. It’s true, they all let a little time go by and it all settles down again.
I found your character to be inherently sweet. Is that something that you did for that character?
JM: I love Linda. I was like Linda, I was the kid that read all the time and went to the library and won the summer reading contest and ended up in the drama club after school. I wasn’t athletic, I couldn’t do anything else, and it was sort of another extension of reading. I feel like it would be very easy for me to have been Linda if I didn’t have a high-school English teacher who told me I could be an actress. So I found her incredibly relatable, and I loved her. I loved her [that] she’s sort of innocent, and I thought she was really endearing, actually.
Can you talk about the sex scene? Because I think it’s so sweet and funny. It’s funny. Talk about how you worked on that.
JM: I’ve had a lot of experience with them, so – you know – Michael was more, I guess we do this, than we do this?
Tell me more.
JM: I just kissed him because I wanted him to feel comfortable, like he didn’t have to be afraid. We were just going to do it. You’re always doing it [comedic] as well, so a little bit of the onus is off. You know you’re going to play with the props and throw some things around. I took my hair down, took my glasses off. All of those really silly things, and it was funny to go from that, ‘oh, you poor kid, your dad is so bad to you’ – to a love scene. It was fun.
Have you ever had anybody who you knew years earlier come back to you, and say you’ve influenced me…?
JM: Not yet! But I’ve had someone who has influenced me greatly.
Who was that?
JM: My high school drama teacher, Roble Taylor, was the one who said to me – you can be an actor. I was in plays, but I’d never met an actor, I’d never seen a real play, I didn’t think you could make a living doing it, I didn’t know anything about the theater. And she said – here’s a copy of Dramatics Magazine, and here are different schools that you can go to, and I was like, oh, okay. Had I not met her, I don’t think I would have done that. She changed my life, and she knows that, I told her. I met her years later when I was in LA for a while, and she was in Arizona. She altered the course of my life.
How do you juggle your career and family life? It’s always been a bit of an issue for women can you have it all… What do you think about that?
JM: It’s that thing that everybody says – yeah, you can have it all; you just can’t have it at the same time. You can’t. There’s going to be compromises somewhere. There are some jobs you’re not going to do. I don’t go to Australia and work, I can’t shoot the film in Romania, I can’t do that kind of stuff, it’s just too far away. So, if I shoot a movie, I shoot here in town, or in the summertime, they can come with me or they’re at camp or something. Or we break it up into little pieces. You figure it out.