With "Still Alice," Julianne Moore delivers a devastating performance as a college professor diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer's shortly after her 50th birthday — and becomes the first real front-runner for in the Best Actress Oscar race, now that Sony Pictures Classics has acquired the film out of the Toronto International Film Festival with plans to release it in time for consideration.
"Still Alice" uses Alice's perspective to track the progression of the disease and its effects on her family (played by Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish). For Moore, "Still Alice" represents her long-sought triumph of convincing Baldwin to team up with her again following their time on "30 Rock," and it seems persistence paid off. "I would always get offered these movies and they would say, 'Who do you want to do it with?' and I was like, 'Can we ask Alec?' And he would go, 'No, I don't want to do this, I don't want to do this. Don't you have a drama? Do you have a drama for me?'" Moore recalls. "And I was like, 'Well … I do.' I thought the part might not be big enough for him, but I sent it to him and he's like, 'I'll do it!' I was like, 'What?' He was just in, he was in."
But back to those Oscar chances. While Moore's performance is a standout, it would probably be best if Academy voters didn't watch the film with her in the room. "My husband and I saw it together, and I hadn't seen any of it. The first thing you always think after you see a movie, you just see what's not there — what's wrong, what you wish you had done, whatever," Moore says. "I heard all these sounds, I thought what the hell? What's that noise? And he was just sobbing. So then I started talking, and he went, 'Don't ruin it!' So I had to be quiet for about 20 minutes before I could be like, 'Well, I wish that I had done this differently … .'"
She might also not be the best cocktail party companion at the moment, as delving in "Still Alice" and the stripping away of a person's self and finding what's essential to identity has left her with some heavy thoughts lately. "What do we have, really? It's all a construct," Moore offers. "Someone said, I can't remember who, 'We don't have to do anything, all we have to do is die.' It's the only requirement. Other than that, we've made it all up. We made up language and we made up literature, we've made up work, and all this stuff, it's all a construct. We do it because it delights us, it fascinates us. We found an economic system within it. But what is it, any of it? At the end of the day there's just us as beings, so … I don't know. It's sort of a big idea, I don't mean to get all down about everything like, 'All we have to do is die.'"
As for the immediate future, Moore doesn't see things getting much more uplifting. Up next for her? "I'm doing another really kind of fun movie," Moore says with a chuckle. "We're in pre-production right now, and in this one I die of cancer. I'm not kidding."
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick