Q&A With Julianne Moore

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Four-time Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore made her Broadway debut last week in David Hare's The Vertical Hour. She talked to TIME's Amy Lennard Goehner about theater, growing up during the Cold War and the role she's most proud of

TIME: You started out on the stage in college at Boston University, but why now, to make your Broadway debut?

Moore: When I first came to New York I had every intention of being a theater actor, it just didn't turn out that way; I got more jobs in television and films. Frankly I hadn't seen anything that kind of moved me. When Sam [Mendes] first sent the script to me I was doing a film, I kept thinking about the play. I mentioned it to Kate [Winslet, Mendes's wife] at our kids' nursery school and the next day Sam showed up and said 'If you can commit to Broadway right now, we'll move it,' and I said OK. The material was so compelling, so moving, so relevant. It's unbelievable timely.

In 1999 when you spoke with TIME you said when you read a script you don't so much as read it as listen to it. Was that the case with this script — it spoke to you?

Absolutely. The script has to exist outside of you. I'm not looking for a part, I'm looking for a story, I'm looking for a world. [In this script] there's a clearly a world that's inhabited by these characters. It's modern it's relevant, it's political, it's personal, it's about what we're living in now.

Nadia in the play has an epiphany. Has that ever happened to you personally — have you had a moment that changed everything?

I don't know if its anything I want to talk to TIME about! (laughs) One of the great things about acting is that you can have those epiphanies in your work. The whole idea is to gain a broader understanding of behavior and emotion and thought. Great writing is about being able to understand something that had been opaque to you before. You hope in your work to lend that epiphany to somebody else, to have them watch that and go, 'Oh yeah, now I understand that.'

Did something make you feel connected to Nadia? Was there something about her in particular?

Nadia reminds me of my father and in that sense she reminds me of me. My father spent his career fighting the Cold War, he joined the army when he was 19, went to Vietnam. His whole life was shaped by that arc in American politics. He's exceptionally liberal but in the military, but is a humanitarian and patriot who believes in humane intervention, in helping, that's what you do. Nadia is a person not afraid to say 'I care about the world to do something, and I care enough to be ostracized.' She's very much alone. I've always found that so moving about my father, that he cares so much about the world.

I was in Germany in high school in the '70s at the height of the Cold War. I worked in a place called Food Land, like an army 7-11 where these kids would be coming in on their first tour and they'd buy their cigarettes and they'd be shipped off to these border towns where they'd have to stand staring at the border. I was aware from a young age that was going on in the world, there's a lot of places where there is this extreme conflict, it's not just an idea, there's actually some kids standing there looking at the border.

And you moved around so much as a kid because of your dad's job [as a military judge]. Did that help you connect with Nadia, who feels that pull to foreign lands?

I certainly have a sense of the world being much bigger than my own experience of it. There's a global sense I have because of the way I was raised.

David Hare was quoted as saying that you were a perfect fit for this part because you have European qualities. Do you know what he meant?

I read that too. It's always interesting to hear what people see in you but you don't necessarily have an understanding of it.

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