Julianne Moore: One of the hardest things to do as an actor is to be able to just be and not act
Julianne Moore plays a divorcee who spends as much time alone in her own company as she does tearing up the dance floor in new film Gloria Bell. The Oscar winner talks to Laura Harding about the joy of solitude, the importance of nudity and the freedom of dancing
Julianne Moore does not look like her sleep was disturbed last night, so serene and composed does she seem. But it turns out she was rudely ripped from her slumber in her London hotel room in the early hours of the morning.
"Somebody was above me this morning and I don't know what they were doing," she says with a laugh.
"I think they were moving furniture or something."
The culprits cannot have known they were disturbing the dreams of one of the most talented actors of her generation.
An Oscar winner for her turn as a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in Still Alice and star of acclaimed films such as The Hours, A Single Man and The Kids Are Alright and box office hits such as The Hunger Games films and Crazy, Stupid, Love, she has long been praised for her thoughtful versatility.
Her latest film, Gloria Bell, is a perfect showcase for those considerable talents, telling the story of a free-spirited divorcee in her 50s who spends her evenings dancing and flirting in local nightclubs.
"I found it so joyful," she says of the first time she read the script.
"I really did. It was something that I left feeling so full and appreciative of life and possibility, and all of that intimacy.
"It was the intimate examination of a person's life, it was just incredible."
The film is a beat-for-beat retelling of Chilean director Sebastian Lelio's 2013 film Gloria, this time in English and relocated from Santiago to Los Angeles. The film-maker took the unusual step of remaking his own film because of Moore.
"To imagine Julianne channelling Gloria in all her imperfections, with such grace, was too tempting," he says.
"It was really a luxury to see her bringing Gloria back to life, and to see how her presence and her aura somehow changed the DNA of the story."
What makes the new version, again penned by Lelio, more unusual than its Chilean counterpart, is that it offers the rare opportunity for an American actor not in her 20s or 30s to explore a woman who is dynamic, sexual and liberated, something still lacking in US cinema.
"It is unusual," Moore concedes. "And so is the fact it's also about the drama of ordinary life.
"I always say there is more drama in somebody's regular day or regular life than there is in any of the things we construct in film - and even in theatre.
"When you see a girlfriend and she's like, 'So, what's happened?'
"And she tells you, 'Well, today I went to work and then I met this guy for a drink and then I picked up my kid from school.'
"But within that, all of this stuff has happened emotionally."
The film spends swathes of time with Gloria by herself, in her apartment and in her car, alone but not lonely.
Moore says: "It's that idea of, what are you like when you're alone?
"All of us have that singular experience of being who we are and of being sometimes observed and sometimes not observed.
"The audience is seeing her in a way where only she sees herself, so it forces this weird sense of empathy - you almost feel you're looking at yourself alone.
"I like it, to be alone. I think everybody does, you want to have time where you're just by yourself.
"I was just thinking about that, you're just being, you're not observing. That is why we can look at Gloria Bell and go, 'This is just somebody who is living her life'."
That naturally includes a certain amount of nudity, something 58-year-old Moore takes in her stride.
"I think Sebastian and I both share the idea that, if you don't reflect something that's real, the audience feels it," she says.
"The minute an audience member is sitting there saying, 'I don't believe that', you've lost them, and you've lost their connection to that character, and to that story, and to themselves.
"That is what we are always trying to reflect, that somebody was watching a real story of an ordinary person."
And Gloria is never more relatable than when she is singing (imperfectly) in her car, or dancing with wild abandon in Los Angeles nightclubs.
She's so natural and seemingly carefree that it's hard to know in those moments where Gloria stops and Moore starts.
Moore says: "It's interesting because as an actor, all you have is yourself, that is where you start.
"So I think what I was going for, with both the singing and the dancing, is this idea of not being self-conscious and it not being crafted.
"But you have to craft that place where you are able to let it go, let go of that judgment.
"So when you sing, I had to be willing to sing at the top of my lungs and know that it was not going to be performative, that it's really about that feeling.
"So if you hit the wrong note, go with it, go with it, don't pull it back.
"The same with the dancing too. As we were working on it, I was working on stuff that was innate to me, but then put through the lens of who she would be, how big she would make it and what she liked."
Sometimes it was difficult for Moore to just lose herself in those moments, though.
"But it's what we do," she hastens to add. "That is the thing about being an actor and that is one of the things you're supposedly learning when you're in acting school.
"One of the hardest things to do is to be able to just be and not act."
Gloria Bell is in cinemas now