As 'Gloria,' Julianne Moore Explores The Extraordinary Drama Of Ordinary Life

Mar 7, 2019
Originally published on March 7, 2019 7:42 pm

Julianne Moore isn't itching to play flashy, dramatic roles. "I find that the older I get, and the more experience I gather — as an actor and as a human being — the more I'm interested in things that are real ..." she says. "It's almost like behavior is way more interesting than acting."

Moore says her latest film, Gloria Bell, feels almost like a documentary. Gloria is a mother, a daughter, and a grandmother. She's divorced, lives in LA and works in insurance. She's an enthusiastic singer, an occasional smoker and an exuberant dancer — it's an average life, but not a boring one.

We're not used to seeing ordinary lives on screen, Moore says, and that's too bad, because our day-to-day can be full of drama. "The tension is all very ... human, it's ordinary," Moore says. "It's like: Is she going to call this guy? Is she going to have another drink? ... It's not the drama that we often see [in films] which is like: Is that meteor going to hit your town? So often films are about these big, dramatic events, but really the drama of our everyday lives — that's what shapes us, and that's what we're most compelled by."

Gloria appears in every single scene in the movie, which is a remake of Sebastián Lelio's 2013 Chilean film Gloria. "I literally was never off the set," Moore says. It was a new experience for her, feeling her character "penetrating every frame of the film."

Off screen, Moore felt her character seeping into her own life as well. "I think she's a real role model in terms of how to engage in your life and with other human beings," Moore says.


Interview Highlights

When you watch Gloria, it's as if you're experiencing your own life because — with all of us — the only person who really knows the whole of us is ourselves. - Julianne Moore

On the way the audience gets to know Gloria

Gloria has these relationships with all these different people ... with her coworkers, and her best friend, and her mom, and her children, and her boyfriend. And yet, the only people who see her in her entirety is the audience. So when you watch Gloria, it's as if you're experiencing your own life because — with all of us — the only person who really knows the whole of us is ourselves. So it's a very unusual experience to see a character this way — so, so intimately, so holistically.

On whether she thinks Gloria is lonely when she goes out dancing alone

No, I don't. ... What I really love about Gloria is how engaged she is in her own life and in her own relationships. ... When she goes to these clubs to dance, she means it — she's going there because she likes to dance. ... I don't think she actually is looking for a relationship — she ends up finding one, and in finding it realizes that ... she wants someone to share her life with. But that's not something that she's anticipating.

Moore is a "huge admirer" of John Turturro — "It was such a joy to be with him," she says. Turturro plays Arnold, who meets Gloria one night at a bar.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle / A24

On working with John Turturro

John brings always so much soulfulness to everything that he does. I think the way he was able to project Arnold's love for Gloria and his desire to be with her — and also his inability to actually be with her fully — I thought it was really lovely and actually kind of tragic. ... He's very alive. He's very connected. He's joyful and soulful and everything you'd want in a partner.

On the intimate — if awkward — sex scenes in the film

If a scene like this is in a movie, you're trying to communicate something to the audience about how tenuous and wonderful an intimate connection can be — particularly when people are getting to know each other: What it really means to be with another human being, how far out on a limb someone is going. ... [The goal is] to communicate something about the characters and their relationship, so that's one of things that John and I were very careful to do. And it's also super funny.

On romantic comedies

There are too few of them. ... We don't value [relationship stories] enough for the business, and yet, we value it in life, right? We value relationships. ...

I don't think that there needs to be some kind of predictable arc to a romantic comedy. I don't think it has to begin with not knowing someone and end with getting married or dating or whatever. I think that a long, romantic complicated relationship is — once again — it's the stuff of our lives. ... Most of us end up in couples at one point or another in our life, so these are things that we're endlessly fascinated by.

On feeling connected to the character of Gloria

I've always found that I'm very good at kind of separating my work from my life. But there are characters that I care about more than others. There are some characters I'm really happy to say goodbye to. ... [But] Gloria I have so much affection for, and I think that she's a role model. ...

There's a difference between toughness and resiliency. ... People think that to be brave that you have to be tough. ... Tough means that you can kind of shield yourself from things that are happening. Resiliency is about allowing things to penetrate your being, to experience them, to be hurt by them, to react to them — but then moving on anyway and moving on with real positivity. ... That's what I want to keep with me. I always think: Well, what would Gloria do?

Dave Blanchard and Sarah Handel produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Beth Novey adapted it for the Web.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The movie "Gloria Bell" has the title character in every scene. She is an enthusiastic singer in the car.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GLORIA BELL")

JULIANNE MOORE: (As Gloria, singing) Make you stop depending? Will a little more love...

SHAPIRO: She loves to dance.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GLORIA BELL")

MOORE: (As Gloria) When the world blows up, I hope I go down dancing.

SHAPIRO: She's a doting grandmother...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GLORIA BELL")

MOORE: (As Gloria) It's called thrush in their mouth.

SHAPIRO: ...And a responsible daughter.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GLORIA BELL")

MOORE: (As Gloria) I've been paying my own bills for a long time now.

SHAPIRO: Gloria Bell is also divorced, working in insurance and living in Los Angeles. This is a remake of a Chilean movie by the writer and director Sebastian Lelio. The actress Julianne Moore loved that 2013 film so much she convinced Lelio to do this American version with her in the title role. Julianne Moore told me she was attracted to Gloria's unremarkableness.

MOORE: Usually in terms of entertainment, ordinary lives are not at the center of the movie. You know, somebody was just talking to me about how much drama there is and how much tension there is in the film. And I said, yeah, it's interesting. I said, because the tension is all very - it's ordinary.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

MOORE: It's like, is she going to, you know, call this guy? Is she going to have another drink?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GLORIA BELL")

MOORE: (As Gloria) Could I have another one, please?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Absolutely.

MOORE: It's not the drama that we often see in, like, is that meteor going to hit...

SHAPIRO: Right.

MOORE: ...The town?

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: Yeah, you know, it strikes me as an unremarkable story that's infrequently told. Like, there's nothing extreme or shocking about the events that are depicted in the film, but I rarely see them onscreen.

MOORE: You're right. And yet what is interesting to me is that Gloria has these relationships with all these different people in her lives, with her co-workers and her best friend and her mom and her children and her boyfriend. And yet the only people who see her in her entirety is the audience. So when you watch Gloria, it's as if you're experiencing your own life because with all of us, the only person who really knows the whole of us is ourselves. So it's a very unusual experience to see a character this way - so, so...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

MOORE: ...Intimately, so holistically.

SHAPIRO: Did that bring any unique challenges that you hadn't faced before?

MOORE: You know, I think the thing that was most interesting about it is that there isn't - there's not a single shot - I don't believe there's a single shot of a movie that Gloria is not in, and that was deliberate on Sebastian's part. So there would be even - there even would be times when he would make sure that he had a sliver of my face as he was shooting onto another actor. So I literally was never off the set. That was interesting, that feeling of your character penetrating every frame of the film. That was really, really unusual for me.

SHAPIRO: The movie is full of these moments, but could you single out a particular scene that you thought, I'm so glad that is finally being depicted on film?

MOORE: Oh, man, my God, there was - there is this one scene where I'm singing along to the radio, and Sebastian and I were sitting there on the set, and he - and he's like, what should you be doing? I said, why don't I put my laundry away (laughter)...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GLORIA BELL")

PAUL MCCARTNEY: (Singing) 'Cause I know what I feel.

MOORE: ...Because I feel like, oh, my God, I've been putting my laundry away for as long as I've been alive.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GLORIA BELL")

MCCARTNEY: (Singing) No more lonely nights.

SHAPIRO: I love that scene.

MOORE: I don't think I've ever seen anybody do (laughter) that...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

MOORE: ...In a movie.

SHAPIRO: Well, and also...

MOORE: It's, you know...

SHAPIRO: Like, even when your life is in upheaval, you still have to put away the laundry.

MOORE: Yeah, exactly. Nobody else is going to do it, right?

SHAPIRO: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: OK, your character, Gloria Bell, loves to dance, and...

MOORE: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: We often see Gloria going out to clubs alone rather than...

MOORE: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: ...With a bunch of friends. And she goes out on...

MOORE: Right.

SHAPIRO: ...The dance floor by herself. Do you think of her as lonely?

MOORE: No, I don't. I mean, I think that - what I really love about Gloria is how engaged she is in her own life and in her own relationships. You know, you watch her reach out to everyone in her life with such positivity and such mutuality.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GLORIA BELL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Here comes the bride.

MOORE: (As Gloria) You look gorgeous.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) Oh, wow.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Really?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Really? Is it not too much?

MOORE: (As Gloria) No, no, no, no, no.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) Oh...

MOORE: (As Gloria) It's special enough for the big day, but you still look like yourself.

And I do think that when she goes to these clubs to dance, she means it. She's going there because she likes to dance. I don't think she actually is looking for a relationship - she ends up finding one - and in finding it realizes that she wants it, that she wants someone to share her life with. But that's not something that she's, you know, looking for. The miracle of Gloria is that she's actually someone who's very, very present and is really living her life.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GLORIA BELL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) How are you?

MOORE: (As Gloria) Good. How are you?

SHAPIRO: I was impressed that she could take a martini glass on a dance floor because in my mind, that's asking for trouble. It's just going to slosh over the side.

MOORE: (Laughter) She's had some experience.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

MOORE: Let's put it that way (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GLORIA BELL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) You look good.

MOORE: (As Gloria) Thanks. So do you.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) Cheers.

SHAPIRO: The sex scenes in this movie are more personal and intimate than in most movies I've ever seen, and they are taking place between two very vulnerable people, I mean, one of whom recently had bariatric surgery and un-Velcros...

MOORE: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF VELCRO UNFASTENING)

SHAPIRO: ...The kind of corset-like device...

MOORE: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: ...Each time the two characters sleep together.

(SOUNDBITE OF VELCRO UNFASTENING)

SHAPIRO: I know that you've done sex scenes in other movies, but was the experience of doing it in this movie as different as it appears to the audience?

MOORE: I think if a scene like this is in a movie, you're trying to communicate something to the audience about how tenuous and wonderful an intimate connection can be, particularly when people are getting to know each other. You know, in a way, what's kind of great about it is it's almost as close to documentary as you can get...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

MOORE: ...You know?

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

MOORE: And I find that the older I get and the more experience I gather as an actor and as human being, the more I'm interested in things that are real. That's what I find most entertaining.

SHAPIRO: That's so interesting 'cause I think so many actresses aspire to play, you know, like, Blanche DuBois in "Streetcar Named Desire" or the lead in "Hello, Dolly!," these kind of grandiose, over-the-top roles. It sounds like you're saying the exact opposite of that.

MOORE: Yeah. That's never been my thing, you know? I feel like I'm so moved by what people don't say, what they don't do, by what you kind of can casually observe somebody doing. There's a look that - where Michael Cera says to me, hey, Mom, what do you know about this guy; I mean, do you even know who he is? Sebastian really wanted a look of, like, you know, hey, I'm your mother, and believe me. Some of the things that I've seen you do (laughter) - you know?

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

MOORE: And I thought it was - it was really interesting to me, like, how much was going to be communicated in the, you know, please don't tell me what to do but her not saying anything.

SHAPIRO: Your character is more essential to this movie than Superman is to "Superman."

MOORE: (Laughter) I don't know about that.

SHAPIRO: Was it hard to let go of this character more than other films you've done?

MOORE: You know, because for the bulk of my filmmaking career I've had children, you know, and oftentimes they were young children, it was like, you know, you just - you drop it the minute you go in the door. So I've - I always found that I'm very good at separating my work from my life. But there are characters that I care about more than others. There are some characters I'm really happy to say goodbye to 'cause some like, I don't - you know, I didn't like her much.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

MOORE: Or she was getting on my nerves or something. You know, Gloria I have so much affection for. And I think that there's a difference between toughness and resiliency. I was just talking to a group of students about this, about - I said, you know, people think that you have to be - that to be brave, that you have to be tough. And I'm like, you don't have to be tough, you know? Tough means that you can kind of shield yourself from things that are happening. Resiliency is about allowing things to penetrate your being, to experience them, to be hurt by them or to have a reaction to them but then moving on anyway, you know, and moving on with real positivity, you know, in a sense. And that's what Gloria does. And that's what I want to keep with me. I'm always...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

MOORE: I always think, like, well, what would Gloria do, you know? (Laughter) Would she...

SHAPIRO: Still now even long after you finished filming.

MOORE: Yeah, you know, and I think she's a real role model in terms of how to engage in your life and with other human beings.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GLORIA")

LAURA BRANIGAN: (Singing) But you really don't remember.

SHAPIRO: Julianne Moore, thank you so much for talking with us.

MOORE: Thank you - nice to talk to you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: She plays the title character in "Gloria Bell," which opens tomorrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GLORIA")

BRANIGAN: (Singing) Calling, Gloria? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.