Julianne Moore has made a career out of playing both enormous strength and agonizing fragility. She has a great range, and the role of Margaret White, mother to the damaged and destructive Carrie White, seems like it might test both extremes in that personality.
At the press day for “Carrie” last weekend, I was more than happy to sit down with Moore to discuss how she approached the role. There are so many challenges that are inherent to the material, and so few ways to get it exactly right. For example, Margaret is a religious fanatic, a hardcore fundamentalist whose own worldview is a big part of the reason Carrie is so ill-equipped to deal with the world at large. She is obviously damaged, and so while her beliefs may look extreme or even insane, you can’t just make her a “bad guy.” It’s not that easy, and especially when the role has been played once before by the great Piper Laurie in a way that is positively iconic.
I think as soon as we started talking, though, Moore seemed to really engage with what we were discussing, and while it is as short as most junket interviews, it felt like it went very well. I think the world of Moore as a performer. When I talk about the greatest performances of the ’90s, her work in “Safe” is right there near the top of that list, and one of the reasons I have trouble rewatching “Boogie Nights” more often is because of how heartbreaking and raw she is as Amber Waves, a porn star haunted by the loss of custody of her children.
She’s been doing this long enough that she’s had to sit through what is most likely thousands of these press junkets, and so when I see her really seem to be excited to talk about her craft, it’s encouraging. Actors can lose that fire in their belly over time, but Moore seems just as dedicated to finding emotional truth in everything she does now as she was when she started to break through twenty years ago.
“Carrie” will be in theaters a week from today.