Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On meeting Julianne

Julianne Moore last night after receiving her award from the Museum of the Moving Image gala at 583 Park Avenue. Photo: DPC.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015. Cold, grey January day in New York. Looked like snow. The weatherman even said: snow. No, no snow.

I’ve been Mr. Stay-At-Home many of these cold/grey day and nights this month, except maybe to go out to dinner with a friend or friends. A lot of the New York social scene has been exported elsewhere – like, where it’s warm. I hear Palm Beach is jampacked with New Yorkers (and Euros and Brits and Canadians and Latin Americans). They just can’t keep their socks on. And they can’t stay home unless they’re giving a dinner party (also no socks). Or out in snowy Aspen which I hear has been quieter this year. This is just hearsay. Jack Nicholson musta stayed home. Or down in St. Barts where the yachts come a-callin’.

Click to order "Killers of the King."
However, that aspect of the social calendar may be just about over. My own calendar certainly is. Last night was an example. Over at Christie’s Lord Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer had a booksigning of his latest: “Killers of the King; The Men Who Dared To Execute Charles I.” The title sounds almost quaint considering the world these days. However, I don’t doubt that it is interesting because that world was interesting and actually led us to this world which is ... what? Fill in the blank.

Lord Charles is famous to the world because of his sister, the late, still bereaved Diana the Princess of Wales. The Spencers have an illustrious lineage (which is one way of putting it) in European history. According to Wikipedia, they are direct descendents, “albeit illegitimate,” of the House of Stuart (Charles I), by five direct lines. Through the Stuart line they can trace their ancestry to other royal houses including the Bourbons, the Medicis, the Wittlesbachs, the Hanovers, the Sforzas, the Hapburgs, and the houses of Howard and Boleyn through Mary Boleyn, who had been the mistress of Henry The Eighth.

They are also related to the Churchills through Henrietta, the second Duchess of Marlborough who married a Spencer (which is how the hyphenated names got together). It seems only natural that Lord Charles Spencer as a historian lives in a cornucopia of it. And all a drama, as we know.

I was not able to make the booksigning as I was at 583 Park Avenue where the Museum of the Moving Image was hosting its annual fundraising gala and honoring Julianne Moore, the actress who has received her fifth nomination for an Oscar for her performance in last year’s “Still Alice” about a college professor who has been diagnosed with an early onset of Alzheimer’s.

I should preface this report by confessing that I have never seen Julianne Moore on screen – film or TV -- until last night. I know that sounds odd but I’m one of those obsessive compulsive types who when he has spare time (which is often enough) away from my work, I read. I got out of the habit of watching television when I first began this Social Diary gig a couple of decades ago, so I rarely just turn it on. I work nights covering events and affairs and then writing about it, and when I have spare time away from words and work I lunch or dine with friends. Sometimes if I’m lucky I get to see theatre or a concert or a ballet.
The red carpet at the cocktail hour last night at the Museum of the Moving Image gala at 583 Park Avenue. That's Nigel Barker and Cristen Chin in the foreground.
I certainly have heard of Julianne Moore. I know the face. I have even seen her at public gatherings or in Michael’s maybe. I’ve seen her picture many times of course and read recently about her performance in “Still Alice,” which is almost effective just reading about it. So last night was my education about this amazing woman, this beautiful, gorgeous, charming tawny-haired (all right, redheaded) actress who commands your attention just with her presence (emoting) on screen.

The program was set up so that the evening was opened with speeches by Carl Goodman, Exec Director of the Museum, and Herb Schlosser who is long time co-chairman and one of the founders, and Michael Barker, the film producer and executive. Then after dinner came the Show, the presentation, the honoring.
Herbert Schlosser, co-chairman and a founder of the Museum, making the opening remarks of the evening.
The first speaker was Ellen Barkin. Ms. Barkin, whom I have seen on the screen, told us about Moore as a friend and an actress and went so far to say that she is the greatest screen actress in America today. Or maybe the world. The greatest. She told us, how as an actress Moore approached and conveyed her roles. She told us how wonderful she was to work with and what a great long-time friend she has been. It could almost sound like a press release but Barkin is no press release. Intense. These are the facts.
Ellin Barkin the first of the testimonials about her friend Julianne Moore.
Then came Bart Freundlich, the writer and film director. He told the story about his first film script “The Myth of Finger Prints” which he had written and was directing. Someone got it to Julianne Moore to consider for a part, and he had a meeting with her at the Peninsula in Beverly Hills. She was late, he was nervous. After all, this was his first film and she was Julianne Moore. She sat down and told him she’d read the script and that she liked it. She said she would do it but first it would need a lot of cutting ... but NOT her part. He said: “will you marry me?”
Screenwriter Rebecca Miller. Bart Freundlich recalled the first time he met the actress, who would star in his first film and later become his wife.
At first I thought he was kidding when he said that up there on the stage. Was he telling us about a movie or real life. Real life. In the old studio days of Hollywood, that kind of meeting in a script was called a “meet-cute.” Then he told us that they’d had children together for seventeen years and have been married for eleven. Then he told us something like “and I love every minute of it.” That’s not quite right, but close. It sounds like a movie and she sounds like the star, but a happy star. A charmer. A meet-cute.

For me, that set the tone. Each personal tribute was followed by a film clip of her work. She’s done a lot of work for such a young actress. Almost like the old studio days where the girls and boys worked in the factory cranking them out on their way to stardom. I’m assuming you’ve seen Julianne Moore if you go to the movies or ever watch television. She works a lot and just from the film clips which had me guffawing (sorry) and even tearing up, I already liked her and wanted to see more.
Steve Buscemi who worked with Moore in "The Big Lebowski." Billy Crudup.
The clips they showed between each speaker (who introduced it) were: “A Single Man,” “The Big Lebowski,” “Boogie Nights,” “Crazy. Stupid. Love,” “The end of the Affair, “Far From Heaven,” “Game Change,” “The Hours,”” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Magnolia,” “Maps to the Stars,” “The Myth of Fingerprints,” “Safe,” “Short Cuts,” “Still Alice,” “Trust the Man.”

I found myself analyzing this woman I’d never seen on screen before. What was she like? Was she like that character, or that character, or was it the red hair and that beautiful face and the eyes and the mouth and the chin. And she was always different; the same face but always different.
Ethan Hawke. Chloë Grace Moretz.
Sarah Paulson. Candace Bergen.
And so it went. I’m sorry I can’t recount each speaker, including Steve Buscemi, Billy Crudup, Ethan Hawke, Rebecca Miller, Chloe Grace Noretz, Sarah Paulson, and Candace Bergen who told the guests that she didn’t really know Julianne Moore, although they’d met more than once. But Michael Barker, whom she knows and greatly respects, asked her if she’d come and say a few words in testimonial. So she did. She was brief, wry, and to the point.

Michael Barker capped off the testimonials recalling a moment when he was in his office with a colleague and he got a call from the director Louis Malle, who was directing “Vanya on 42nd Street” with Julianne Moore. Malle told Barker to come down to the editing room immediately because he wanted to show him something. When Barker got there Malle explained that he’d shot a long speech by Moore which was very emotional. After they finished, he asked her if she’d do it again but without speaking, just acting out the speech emotionally. He showed Barker the two. Moore’s performances talking and then silent were identical.
Michael Barker of Sony Classics.
Anyway, I was not only being entertained by the speakers and the clips but I’d made a personal discovery: this extraordinary actress who was sitting two tables over from me with her family and friends (including Ms. Barkin) and watching the stage and having the best time listening to their stories of having the best time with Julianne Moore.

After it was all said and done, Ms. Moore came up and was given her Award by Mr. Schlosser. Then she told us about herself. She’d never thought about being an actress when she was a growing up. But she loved to read. When she was in high school, she had no interests outside of her love of reading but she joined a drama group because that at least was related words that had to be read and expressed. And much to her surprise and delight, she loved it because it was an extension of her experience reading. The most common experience that has touched people across the world down through the ages. It never occurred to me before she said it last night, but I and probably you experience that when you’re reading a book: the characters are played out in your head.
The honoree receiving her award from Herbert Schlosser.
The acceptance ...
The genius of Julianne Moore is that what she plays out in her head she can translate into a live performance as well as beguile and charm and amuse and command. There was joy in the room last night when she recounted her career and reflected on her experiences as an actress and the friendships it has brought her.

You can see by the pictures I took of her speaking that she laughs a lot. There’s a lot of humility there, or maybe it’s humaneness. It’s triumphant right now in the woman and her work. We’re all very lucky to have her and when you think of her, you wish her well. So you can see more of her. Take in all those words she acting out for us. Even without speaking sometimes.
The father and the daughter.

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