BEVERLY HILLS—Well, that was a bit disconcerting. One moment, Julianne Moore was talking about an adorable-sounding children’s book she’d just written. “It’s called My Mom Is a Foreigner, But Not to Me. It’s about growing up with a mother from another country,” she said, sitting in a hotel room one recent morning. “People are telling me they started crying when they were reading it in the bookstore.” The next moment, she was on to the ultra-religious lunatic mother she plays in the latest movie version of Carrie, and laughing. “Yeah, she’s pretty darn crazy,” she said, thinking about her character, Margaret White. How crazy? “She’s probably a psychopath.”
In real life, Moore’s glossy auburn hair and milkmaid skin remind you that her delicate looks often sneakily belie how well she does kick-ass (Children of Men), damaged (Boogie Nights), and Coen brothers crazy (The Big Lebowski) on-screen. Plus, she’s played Sarah Palin. That she’s now playing another wack job in Carrie (opening next Friday [October 18]—the second film version, after Brian De Palma’s rather memorable 1976 adaptation) apparently has something to do with her non-milkmaid-approved thing for the original 1974 pop-horror psycho-thriller novel about a telekinetic teenager and her sexuality-fearing, pretty cracked mother—and its creator, Stephen King.
“If you read Stephen King’s book On Writing, he talks about how that [Carrie] was his first published novel—and he’d thrown it in the trash,” she said earnestly. “His wife pulled it out of the trash.” Moore had more information about King working as a janitor and asking his wife about the tampon dispenser in a girls’ locker room. (Aficionados will recall that feminine protection plays an unusually active role in Carrie.) King, she said, thought a lot about two girls he’d known growing up who were outcasts—one thanks to poverty, the other courtesy of religious-zealot parenting.
“For me, that’s the heart of Carrie. And that’s the genius of Stephen King, is that he manages to take a social issue—the issue of being bullied and isolated—and turn it into a kind of grand horrific story about adolescence.”
That might be an understatement. A school pariah, Carrie is often locked in a closet full of bleeding Christ icons at home by Margaret, the sort of mother who says, “Repent! It’s not too late!” And there are other things about Margaret any actor might appreciate, no? “I loved all of the self-mutilation stuff,” Moore said with perfect sincerity, prompting everyone present to laugh. “I liked the idea that her mother was flagellating herself for letting all this bad stuff happen [to Carrie]—like the head-banging and scratching.” Right—head-banging, scratching, and sliding her sewing scissors through the skin of her arms and thighs.
Because telekinetic children will misbehave and levitate their mothers, Moore also did some stunt work. “We had a lot of harnesses,” she said. “You know, there’s, like, a direct-lift harness, there’s a flip harness, there’s a side harness, there’s an upside-down harness.”
Possibly inspired by the mention of harnesses, someone asked if her upcoming movie, Non-Stop, was a “sex thriller”. “My goodness! Fiddle-dee-dee! It’s a thriller on an airplane,” Moore said, laughing. “Somebody has planted something, possibly a bomb—so one of those passengers has done it and you don’t know who. And,” she whispered, “I’m sitting next to Liam Neeson.”