The only thing more fun than spending an afternoon with Julianne Moore is doing it at the beachMontauk, N.Y., to be precise, where she and her family, husband Bart Freundlich and kids Caleb and Liv, have a home.
She rolls into a favorite lunch place near the ocean in full vacation mode: denim shirt, straw hat and Birkenstocks. "Frizzy beach hair today!" she says cheerfully, pointing to her famous dark red mane. Please. The lean, enviably toned yoga devotee still draws plenty of admiring looks.
But it's her talent that ensures she never wants for work. The four-time Oscar nominee, 52, can currently be seen as the deranged mother in the horror film Carrie. Her second career as a children's author is also thriving. In August she released her fourth book, called My Mom Is a Foreigner, but Not to Me, about growing up with a mom from another country. (Her late mother, a psychiatric social worker, hailed from Scotland.)
Julianne is like your most sparkling dinner guest: funny, frank, warm. Near the end of our chat, her husband and 11-year-old daughter, Liv, swing by to join us, accompanied by Cherry, a Lab mix, and Milly, a Chihuahua mix. (Caleb, 15, is spending the day in New York City.) As gulls wheel overhead and waves crash nearby, Bart and Liv gleefully supply answers to my questions as Julianne laughs. Really, she should think about bringing them every time.
Let's talk about your role in Carrie. You mostly based your character on the original depiction in the book, not the movie.
Julianne: Yes, absolutely. I mean, listennobody's going to beat Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie. So it wasn't about trying to repeat that; it was just telling the story in our way. The mother is obviously psychotic and a religious fanatic, and she and Carrie are this isolated little community of two where the child is her only world. And what was so striking, to me, was the idea of social isolation and what that does to a person. This poor little girl, trapped in her mother's crazy world.
Funnyas a parent of one, I can relate.
Julianne: Yeah. Parenthood is a very, very intense experience. This morning with my daughter, I brought her food, cut it up and put it in front of her. Then she asked for a blanket and I gave her a blanket. And there's a part of me that thinks, I know I should be saying, "You need to do this yourself." [Laughs] But then there's another part of me that thinks, Oh, f it. I want to demonstrate my love this way. So there's always that weird balance between the independence that you want them to gain and how much care you need to give them.
While we're on the subject of kids, yours are healthy eaters. How do you do it?
Julianne: They're pretty good eaters. They eat a lot of fruitfruit's easyand certain vegetables. But my kids have always been allowed to have dessert. My husband thinks I'm too free and easy about that kind of stuff, but my kids will throw out a half-eaten ice cream cone if they've had enough, which I've never in my life been able to do.
Were you raised similarly? Did you eat a lot of good stuff?
Julianne: We didn't have a lot of money growing up, so my mom didn't buy a lot of extras, like sweet things. But she did have a saying: "If you make it, you eat it." So my sister and I would bake constantly! [Laughs] I think that's a pretty good rule. It kept us busy. And actually, these days, when you have to worry about additives and stuff like that, at least you know what you're eating, right?
Absolutely. Do you ever do cleanses?
Julianne: I did a silly juice cleanse [before the Golden Globes] for three days, which went all over the Internet as if I was a lunatic. I was eating vegetables, not eating sugar, being really careful. And when I was in yoga that week, I was so much more flexible. My teacher said, "Wow, you're really bendy." I'm like, "That's what it is. It's the food!" Because then you realize how important diet is. Dairy, sugar, alcoholall those things affect you. [Her wrap sandwich arrives] So here I am, having a lot of cheese on my wrap. You can see how long that lasted. [Takes bite] Party time!
Are you into any kind of alternative medicine?
Julianne: Acupuncture. For back pain, it's amazing. I also had a period after my mother died where I couldn't sleep. I mean, I was just in shock for the longest time and didn't sleep for, like, a year. I was just a wreck. And I had some really intense acupuncture treatments, and it kind of reset my nervous system. So I think it's very helpful.
Have you always been into those sorts of treatments?
Julianne: When I was making Safe, actually, I got so thin that I stopped having my period and my blood pressure got dangerously low. And the only thing that really got me back to normal was Chinese medicine.
What are your favorite forms of exercise these days?
Julianne: I try to do Ashtanga yoga two to three times a week. I've also started working out with a trainer, doing light weights and a lot of jumping around. The main problem is I can't do anything six days straight because I get hurt. That's the thing about old ageeventually your hip starts to hurt and you have to switch and do something else.
There's always interior design. We know you're a fan. Did you ever think about a career in it?
Julianne: I didn't know a career in it existed! But I don't think everything you do has to be something you make a living doing.
So what do you think is the secret to a harmonious domestic space?
Julianne: That's a good question. You have to have a collective living space where people can comfortably be together, because I think people really do want to be together. And then places for everyone to go [on their own]. I'm luckyI only have two kids, and they have their own rooms. It's not always possible. [Looks toward the entrance, smiling] Oh, here comes my husband and daughter. And they brought both dogs!
Liv: Mom, you think I could have a strawberry-banana smoothie?
Julianne: [calling to Bart as he gets food] Strawberry-banana, Bart?
With Thanksgiving around the corner, what do you find yourself grateful for?
Julianne: Oh my GodI'm grateful for everything! I'm grateful to be alive. I'm grateful for my family, for my children, their health and my health, my husband's health. I think the older you get, the less you take anything at all for granted.
What habits do you have that aren't so healthy?
Liv: Mom, can I tell the story about the doughnut? [Julianne nods] So we just came from my grandma's birthday party, and Mom had her dessert and my dessert. And then we went home and I'm in another room and I hear, "Liv, what's in this bag? Oh! Doughnuts!" I'm like, "Mom! Don't eat that! You'll make yourself sick!"
Julianne: So my daughter came to my rescue before I was able to swallow the doughnut after eating two desserts.
Bart: [handing off smoothie] How about your OCD?
Julianne: Well, that's not a habit. That's an affliction. But yes, I never stop cleaning the house. I throw things out before people are done with them, and then I get yelled at for it. Yesterday, before I could relax, I had to clean out the shed and reorganize the pantry. And also clean out the laundry room.
Bart: The other day, I took mustard and Sriracha out of the fridge, and I was going to make something with it. I put it on the counter and then walked back to the fridge. But then she circled from the other direction and put it back.
Julianne: The other night, we were playing a board game, and one question was "If there was a headline to a news story about you, what would it be?"
Bart: [jumping in] She said, "Cleanest woman in the world cleans whole town." [Julianne, Bart and Liv crack up]
What's your Sunday routine?
Julianne: We read the paper for a long time. Sometimes Cal has a basketball game, so we'll go watch. Liv might have a playdate. And instead of brunch, we have lunner, which is between lunch and dinner, so we have, like, a 4:30 lunner.
Well, many nutritionists say we should eat dinner early, so that's healthy thinking.
Julianne: People will tell me we're having dinner at 7:30, and I'm like, "Are you kidding?"
Bart: I'll come in and she'll be on a tear about them, like, "They want to meet there at 8 o'clock. What am I supposed to do between 5 and 8?"
Julianne: In an ideal world, I'd eat at 5 every night. [Laughs] We know how to live! We have lunner, and then we play a board game.