Julianne Moore on Carrie, and the mother of all horror roles

Playing Stephen King's most malignant matriarch is a joy for Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore loves being a mother. She writes children's books about self-image and empowerment, and regularly refuses work if it doesn't fit in with the school holidays. Yet she couldn't resist playing the mother from hell, the unhinged, God-fearing Margaret White, in the remake of Stephen King's classic horror Carrie.

Brian De Palma's 1976 film earned Oscar nods for both Piper Laurie's Mrs White and Sissy Spacek's Carrie. Moore has dispensed with all vanities to recreate Laurie's chilling performance in Kimberly Peirce's new version. She was insistent on turning her lustrous red locks grey and frizzy, and also added wrinkles to her flawless porcelain complexion. “It's what my hair actually looks like if I just let it dry and don't blow it out,” she confesses with a smile. “When people come to the movie, I don't want them to see me. I want them to see the character and understand who she is. Hopefully they don't just think, 'Wow. Julianne Moore looks like hell'.”

Moore, 52, is fearless anyway. “I don't think about things thematically or with any kind of grand plan. I don't think about people being mothers or not mothers. For me, it's all about the story,” she says when we meet in Beverly Hills. Margaret White is just the latest role in what has been an astonishingly successful film career, which has included four Oscar nominations for her performances in Boogie Nights, The End of the Affair, The Hours and Far from Heaven.

To prepare for Carrie, Moore re-read the original about a teenage outcast who, after being teased for menstruating in the school showers, wreaks terrible revenge. She also delved into Stephen King's 2000 memoir, On Writing. “He talks about the inspiration for Carrie. He was working as a janitor in a high school and had seen a tampon dispenser in the gym and didn't know what it was. He remembered these two girls he went to school with: one was marginalised by extreme poverty, the other by her parents' religious views. They were both shunned and ostracised and when he thought back, he realised that he didn't do anything to help them.

“So in Carrie, he does this wonderful thing where he doesn't let anybody off the hook: he burns the whole town down. Who is culpable? Whose fault is this? It's everybody's. He tells this story in such an entertaining fashion through the veil of the paranormal.”

Moore empathises with the outcast child, having moved from school to school during her own childhood, thanks to her father's US Army career. Her mother was Scottish and a social worker. “I'm highly aware of what it is to be on the outside. Whenever you come to a new environment, you're automatically on the outside; everyone has already established a relationship. What intrigued me growing up were the people who see that you're on the outside and let you in – and the people who don't. If I was in a school where kids had been moving around a lot, they were much friendlier because they knew what it was like to be on the outside. I think it's a good thing to know, the same way I think it's good to work a service job; to know what that's like,” says the actress.

She has two children, Caleb, 15, and Liv, 11, from her marriage to the director Bart Freundlich. “I've always encouraged my children to embrace everyone, and they get sick of it. I ask them, 'Is there a new kid? Are they by themselves? Did you talk to them? Do you want to invite them over? Do you want me to call their mom?' And my kids are like, 'Urgh, mom!' I feel like both my children are very generous and they do notice, but they've been in the same school all their lives, so it's a different kind of thing.” Moore is based in New York, ensuring that her own children enjoy a stability that she never had.

Still, she admits to checking up on her children's online, by “lurking” on their social media pages. “My son knows that we lurk on his Facebook, so there has to be some transparency with these things. We talk a lot about what you can say online and what it means and how people can misinterpret things, and I think it happens in our world, too. I feel like: Never put anything in an email that you wouldn't put on a bulletin board. Right? Don't do that.”

On set, she mothered her young co-star, Chloë Moretz, as she would her own children. “Chloë was only 15 when we made Carrie. I get very protective when people talk about how she's so grown-up. Yes, she is: but she is a teenager, she is not a grown-up. You shouldn't make a child a grown-up until they are ready. People are minors for a reason, so don't treat a child like a grown-up. It's our responsibility as adults to care for them.”

A trained theatre actress, Moore got her break in the daytime soap As The World Turns, going on to win small film roles before catching Steven Spielberg's eye; he cast her in The Lost World: Jurassic Park in 1997. Since then, she has built up a large résumé of complicated women, including real-life troubled socialite Barbara Daly Baekeland in Savage Grace; a bisexual mother in The Kids Are All Right; and an ageing rocker in What Maisie Knew. Earlier this year, she won a Best Actress Golden Globe for her depiction of much ridiculed vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin in the TV movie Game Change. Next year she will appear as President Alma Coin in the latest instalment of the hit teen franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, largely thanks to the urging of her children.

Moore was close to her mother, Ann Love Smith, and was devastated when she died unexpectedly of an embolism four years ago at the age of 68. She blinks back tears as she recalls her mother's citizenship ceremony. “She had to renounce her British citizenship and it was a terrible thing for her to do. She came home, holding her American flag, and crying because she had to renounce it,” says the actress, whose latest children's book is titled My Mom Is a Foreigner, But Not to Me.

Spurred by the loss, Moore resolved to become a British citizen, and attended a formal ceremony in Los Angeles in July 2011 on the same day that Prince William and his wife were in town for their honeymoon tour. “The embassy was empty because everyone was getting ready for the royal party. Once I was sworn in, they said, 'Now you can come to the party because you're a British citizen'.” Moore declined. “I'd already promised my sister that we'd take our kids to Universal Studios.”

'Carrie' opens on 29 November

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory