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More and More of Moore

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

While it’s not physically possible to be in more than one place simultaneously, Julianne Moore has found a way to defy physics--in a very short time she’ll be in three different movies that are all in theaters at the same time.

Two of the films--"The End of the Affair” and “A Map of the World"--debuted in theaters the same day, Dec. 3, which also happened to be her 38th birthday.

The auburn-haired actress’ third film, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia,” opens Friday.

That’s how fast-paced 1999 has been for Moore, who also performed this year to laudatory reviews in “An Ideal Husband” and “Cookie’s Fortune,” bringing her 1999 output to five feature films.

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“It’s weird,” says Moore by telephone from her parents’ kitchen in Maryland, where she spent the Thanksgiving holiday. “The release order of a film has little to do with you. I made these films over a period of a year and a half, and then they all came out in a completely different order.”

“You can’t plan an acting career,” Moore continues. “You just take one job at a time.”

From the devious, almost wicked Mrs. Laura Cheveley in “An Ideal Husband” to the ditzy, tragic Cora Duvall in “Cookie’s Fortune,” however, her roles do demonstrate Moore’s commitment to make films with “a strong story and a point of view.”

In “A Map of the World,” a film based on Jane Hamilton’s novel, Moore co-stars with Sigourney Weaver as a mother who bravely suffers the loss of a young child. Last year, Moore appeared in “Psycho” and “The Big Lebowski,” on the heels of her Oscar-nominated performance in 1997’s “Boogie Nights.” Over the course of her career, she’s also worked for notable directors ranging from Robert Altman (“Cookie’s Fortune,” “Short Cuts”) to Steven Spielberg (“The Lost World: Jurassic Park”).

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Clearly, Moore is an actress adept at playing a variety of characters. For writer-director Neil Jordan, who led Moore through her portrayal of Sarah Miles in “TheEnd of the Affair,” Moore’s ability to immerse herself so effectively in a role can often render her “slightly invisible.”

“She has this extraordinary quality--she can look so different in different roles that sometimes I don’t recognize her,” says Jordan. “When I saw her in ‘The Big Lebowski,’ it was 20 minutes before I realized it was her.”

Jordan auditioned Moore and several other actresses before casting Moore as Miles, an Englishwoman who conducts a steamy extramarital affair with a novelist (Ralph Fiennes) against the backdrop of World War II London.

In the film, Miles’ lover is severely injured during a bomb attack, and she pledges to God that if her lover lives, she will never see him again. This promise, however, proves almost impossible to keep, and Moore’s Miles must decide between her faith and her love.

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Moore was so moved by Jordan’s script, an adaptation of Graham Greene’s semiautobiographical novel of the same title, that she wrote Jordan a note asking if they could discuss her playing the part.

“Obviously I was looking for an English actress. I was worried about the accent and the ability of an American to play the role,” Jordan recalls. “Julianne gave an extraordinary read of a difficult scene, which was a scene that could lead other actresses to tears. But Julianne didn’t do that, she didn’t cry. There was this stillness and simplicity to how she played it.”

“Sarah has this staggering nobility,” says Moore. “She goes from being a pretty ordinary person, living a pretty compromised life, to making this extraordinary self-sacrifice from which she learns what love is, and that transforms everything.”

While Moore says she rarely has to audition these days, she had no problem complying with Jordan’s request for a screen test. For her role in “Magnolia,” however, Moore did not need to audition, as writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson created the part of Linda Partridge explicitly for her, as he had porn star Amber Waves in “Boogie Nights.”

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“The irony is that when I didn’t know her, and I was writing Amber Waves for her, I actually wrote someone who is closer to the real Julianne,” says Anderson. Someone “very warm, motherly and caring.”

“There is nothing more flattering than to have something written with you in mind,” says Moore. “It’s a really great gift.”

Like “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia” is episodic in structure with plenty of juicy parts to go around for its ensemble cast. Moore plays a woman who married a much older man (Jason Robards) for his money. As he lies in bed dying of cancer, she realizes she loves him deeply, and is overwrought with despair.

“Paul wanted me to go out on a limb,” says Moore. “I love and trust him, so I did that. I learned some stuff about myself and how far I can push things. She’s emotionally outrageous, really out there.”

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"[Linda] is borderline hysteric through 90% of the movie, which is a major challenge because to get a handle on hysterics is so hard,” says Anderson. “I was taking advantage of knowing Julianne and knowing how [expletive] good she is.

“ ‘Magnolia’ is a drama with a capital D,” Anderson continues. “There’s nothing to hide behind like the porno in ‘Boogie Nights.’ It’s pretty naked, a lot more naked than ‘Boogie Nights,’ which is a movie about being naked.”

Moore says she worked with Anderson on her characterization of Partridge, a trophy wife. “I said she’s got to look good all the time. That’s how she defines herself. So even in the worst circumstances, she’s going to put on her jewelry, her boots and her fur coat, and she’s going to blow-dry her hair and put on her makeup, because that’s what she does. This is not a woman who spends a lot of time figuring out who she is, or how she feels, or what things mean to her.”

Moore hopes, however, that her portrayal will help dispel some stereotypes of women like Partridge. “You just shouldn’t judge people,” says Moore. “You shouldn’t jump to conclusions.”

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Her performances in “Magnolia,” “An Ideal Husband,” “Cookie’s Fortune” and “A Map of the World” impressed the National Board of Review, which named her best supporting actress of 1999.

Jordan says Moore is a director’s dream actress. To illustrate, he recalls an instance filming a pivotal scene from “The End of the Affair,” which had to be shot several different ways. “We had almost exhausted ourselves,” he says. “Normally with an actor you know when you’ve gone as far as you can go, but I got this strange feeling from Julianne that she could go on forever discovering things.”

Moore, whose real-life romantic partner is director Bart Freudlich (he directed her in 1997’s “The Myth of Fingerprints”) says she’s always tried to understand what directors do, as she feels that benefits her work. “The best thing you can do for yourself as an actor is to work with a great director whose vision you can lend yourself to. That’s something great directors share is a really wonderful, personal vision.”

Cutting her teeth in the mid-1980s on the soap opera “As the World Turns”, she has also appeared on stage, in Caryl Churchill’s “Serious Money” and a workshop production of Wendy Wasserstein’s “An American Daughter.”

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“I’m not an elitist about different kinds of media,” says Moore. “I think it’s all valuable. The thing about acting is you can’t do it by yourself, you can’t practice alone, and the only way you can get better is by doing it. So it doesn’t matter where it is.”

While Moore won’t say what her next film will be, she’s close to deciding on a theater project that would put her on stage in New York next year. For now, Moore, who lives in Greenwich Village, plans to mull over future film work and to spend time with her 2-year-old son and his father, Freudlich. In fact, Moore recently turned down an obligation that would have caused her to miss her son’s birthday.

“When you have a partner and children,” she says, “you have responsibilities that maybe you wouldn’t keep if it were just you. But then your life wouldn’t be as full, and if you don’t feel anything, or experience anything, then you don’t have anything to say.”


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