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You - 2021-10-10

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By Julianne Moore

COVER STORY

MAIN PHOTOGRAPHS: RICHARD PHIBBS

ulianne Moore, Hollywood superstar and legendary beauty, kicks off our conversation by telling me how she has spent the morning clearing up dog vomit. She and her husband, the film director Bart Freundlich, have two dogs – a ten-year-old chihuahua-mix called Milly and a labrador, Hope, whom they adopted as a puppy last November. Usually, Julianne says, the dogs bark when they wake, but today they were suspiciously quiet. ‘Finally, I went to check on them and the little one had thrown up and pooped.’ She shakes her head, as if she can’t quite believe she’s telling me all this. ‘So I spent the whole morning taking out the dog crates, washing off the dog, cleaning up everywhere. That’s what it’s been like.’ It’s not exactly how you expect an interview with an A-lister to start, especially not one who has become a byword for a specific kind of glamour over her 36-year career. On screen, Julianne is a Jmagnetic presence whether she’s playing a 1970s porn star in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, a struggling Alzheimer’s patient in Still Alice ‒ a part that won her a Best Actress Oscar in 2015 ‒ or, in her latest role as Heidi Hansen, the mother of a socially anxious teenager in the film adaptation of the hit musical Dear Evan Hansen. On the red carpet, she exudes classic style. She regularly tops lists of the world’s most beautiful women and, at 60, claims to have had no work done. How does she feel about her looks? ‘I still struggle with all the freckles,’ she admits. ‘I would give anything to not have them. But you know, this is what you have. And sometimes I think that about my hair… I’m so closely identified with my red hair, it would feel weird not to have it, but then I wonder whether it might be so much easier to get dressed if I had dark or blonde hair, you know?’ It seems anathema to me that Julianne Moore, the most famous redhead since Anne of Green Gables, should say this, but it’s also revealing that even the most beautiful people have their own insecurities. Today she’s speaking to me from her beach home in Long Island, New York State, her famous hair tousled, her face make-up free, and it’s almost shocking how good she looks. By her own admission, she’s grateful for her colouring: her fair skin means she has always kept out of the sun, and her lack of wrinkles and seemingly magical age-defying ways have led journalists to ask her what her secret is. To be honest, she tells me, she’s getting a bit sick of being the unofficial spokesperson for getting older. ‘It’s enough!’ Julianne says. ‘Let’s all live, not talk about dying.’ I agree. Let’s talk about nicer things, like dog vomit. The anecdote about her beloved dogs is, I will discover, classic Julianne. Although she might look unapproachably other-worldly, what makes her compelling to watch – and, indeed, to talk to – is her abiding fascination with what makes other people tick. She is the rare celebrity who asks me almost as many questions as I ask her ‒ about everything from my marriage to my yoga studio. Her interest in others, she says, stems from her upbringing. She was born on a military base in North Carolina, the eldest of three siblings. Her father, Peter, was a paratrooper, colonel and later a military judge, which meant the family travelled a lot when she was young. Her late mother, Anne, was a psychiatric social worker from Scotland. Over dinner, her parents would each talk about their cases, ‘so there was a lot of discussion about behaviour’ Julianne says. As the child of a military family, she changed schools frequently and learned early on how to adapt her behaviour to fit into new environments. ‘I think it teaches you to look, to watch. You always want to fit in, so you’re like, “Well, how does everybody talk here? How does everybody move? What are the cool things, what are the not-cool things?” Just trying to fit in. So you learn to adapt according to where you are and what is happening in that culture.’ She can remember ‘that real anguish of feeling like you don’t have any friends’ at school. It was a memory that served her well in her latest role. In Dear Evan Hansen she plays the mother of the titular lead. Her son is portrayed by actor Ben Platt, who played Evan Hansen in the original stage production of the Tony-award-winning musical about a socially awkward high-school student whose classmate dies by suicide. The film tackles important issues around mental health, isolation and bullying. I tell Julianne I was sobbing within the first ten minutes. Part of what makes it so moving is that, unusually for a film musical, the actors were asked to sing live, so you hear all the raw emotion and cracking fissures of their voice. How did she find that? ‘It was terrifying!’ she laughs. ‘The last time I sang was in high-school productions. So it was a big thing for me. It was a steep learning curve to sing this song, to work with this level of musical talent and try to deliver it. Usually you have a track and you lip-synch to it. But they were insisting that we sing live; it was so scary.’ Her one song was also the last scene she filmed, ‘so I

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