What’s the deal with gay directors and Julianne Moore? The four-time Oscar nominee who seduced a gay son in Savage Grace for Tom Kalin and suffered a closeted husband in Far From Heaven for Todd Haynes now pines for a gay confidant in A Single Man, Tom Ford’s directorial debut. A former GLAAD spokeswoman and winner of the organization’s 2004 Excellence in Media Award, the 49-year-old star of The Hours takes time to look at her long-standing professional and personal connection to the gay community, including her upcoming role as a lesbian mom opposite Annette Bening in out director Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right.
By Brandon Voss
The Advocate: When did you first realize you had a rabid gay following?
Julianne Moore: I was filming An Ideal Husband in 1998 in London and wearing a huge yellow dress that one costume designer told me looked like a golden screen door. It was during gay pride, so I’m standing there, watching the parade going by, and everyone’s yelling, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” But then everybody started turning, looking, and coming towards me. I didn’t even think they’d recognize me, but they were waving and cheering for me. I was like, “Oh, my God!”
I’d argue you first got the gay audience’s attention in 1993 when you bitch-slapped Madonna in Body of Evidence.
That’s really funny. It was a fake slap. I just have memories of being very lonely on that movie. No one talked to me, and Madonna was kind of doing her own thing, so I spent a lot of time by myself. She was at the New York premiere of A Single Man, but I didn’t see her.
I’m guessing you’re not mad about A Single Man’s “de-gayed” marketing campaign because at least you’re more prominently featured in the one-sheets.
[Laughs] Well, it was worse before when Colin Firth and I looked like we were in bed together. It was ridiculous, and Tom was furious. He said, “It looks like a romantic comedy!” He wanted to make it very clear that this was a movie about a gay man and his life, his day, his boyfriend — not about his relationship to a woman. I’m still in the poster, but at least now I’m in the back.
But your character, Charley, does have an interesting friendship with Colin Firth’s George. What insight does the film offer about the dynamic between straight women and gay men?
You see this relationship all the time in life, but nobody ever depicts it in movies unless it’s in a campy way where you don’t see that weird romantic transference, which happens so very often. The woman thinks, He says he loves me and we’re best friends, so why can’t we be romantic? I remember seeing it happen with some friends of mine years ago at a party. My girlfriend got really upset with our gay friend, there were tears, and she stormed out. It was so dramatic that when another friend of mine saw the movie, she called me and said, “Were you thinking about that time…?” I said, “Of course I was! How could I forget that night?”
Have you ever fallen for a gay man?
And wanted to have sex with him? Just Tom Ford. [Laughs] When I was a freshman in college in 1979, there was this hot gay guy that I used to make out with in the hallways of the dorm. My idea about gay was very foggy at the time. He was the first out gay person I’d ever met and he was kissing me, so I didn’t know what was happening.
Did you ever experiment with women?
Honestly, it was mostly girls kind of sitting around and telling each other dirty stories. There was a lot of that, actually, but that’s about it.
You’ve worked with a number of notable gay directors before Tom Ford. Are you drawn to their sensibility or vice versa?
Well, there’s Tom Kalin, Todd Haynes, Gus Van Sant... Although I’ve also made 40-something films, so you have to think, Well, if 10 percent of the population is gay... Sexuality has never come into the equation for me, because I’m only interested in the scripts and the stories. I’ve been lucky enough to get some great ones, and a lot of them have come from gay men and women.
Your sexually ambiguous roles in The Hours, Psycho, and the upcoming Chloe aside, you've also played some outright lesbians, most recently in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and next in The Kids Are All Right. Is a different sexual inclination from your own ever part of what draws you to a character?
Not necessarily sexual inclination but certainly something different temperament-wise. I was very attracted to playing Kat in Pippa Lee because she’s very tough and inscrutable.
Not because of Kat’s unfortunate lesbian haircut?
My mullet? I chose that mullet, man! It was a half-wig. I was going for a Jane Fonda in Klute thing. In The Kids Are All Right the hair is just like my own hair — long and plain.
When you play a lesbian, do you feel a responsibility to represent the gay community truthfully and respectfully?
Lisa Cholodenko and I talked about that a lot with The Kids Are All Right. It was important for her not to make a politically correct movie. She’s a lesbian, she has a family, and she’s always been out, but that idea of being PC about everything is no longer appealing to her. Thankfully, I really do believe that we’re past all that. You don’t want to be so careful about sexuality that it becomes precious.
What attracted you to that project?
I’ve always loved Lisa’s work, especially Laurel Canyon and High Art. After High Art, I ran into her at some “Women in Film” thing, and I said, “Hey, why didn’t I see that script? You should’ve sent that to me!” Anyway, we got to know each other and wanted to work together. I liked how The Kids Are All Right presented a gay family as a regular family. It’s about two women who’ve been together since college, have children they love, and have the same kind of stresses as any couple.
Any hot action between you and Annette Bening?
[Laughs] Well, yeah, there’s some stuff, I guess. You’ll have to wait and see.
You’ve written two books so far in your Freckleface Strawberry children’s series about a girl learning to live in her own skin. Any plans to tackle gay issues in the future like Heather Has Two Mommies?
In my third book, which is called Freckleface Strawberry and Windy Pants Patrick: Best Friends Forever, Windy Pants Patrick has two moms. My children have plenty of friends who have two mommies or two daddies, so they really believe they have the choice to marry a man or a woman. By the time they’re adults, I hope that’s a reality for everyone.
The Advocate, February 2010 issue; extended online version.