Arts Express: Julianne Moore Talks Seventh Son

For Julianne Moore, being a big part of the medieval action thriller Seventh Son as scary witch Mother Malkin, was not just the magical ride of journeying way back to another time in the Middle Ages.

But the big thrill of returning back to a more recent time as well, when she last hooked up with Seventh Son co-star Jeff Bridges for The Big Lebowski seventeen years ago – and now making a movie with him all over again. Though this time around Julianne displays her darker side, as a vengeful sorceress targeting Jeff’s rather weary warrior, Master Gregory – though with a nifty menu of magical, witchcraft-deflecting feats of his own.

Julianne met to talk about getting into ferocious character for Seventh Son. Which seems to have had more than a little to do with feathers, big shoes, a terrifying tail, and lots of make-believe bones.

Moore at a festival for Jerrold Nadler in 2007.

Why are you so mad at Jeff in the movie?

JULIANNE MOORE: Well, he did lock me in a hole for a hundred years! Yeah.

Julianne, it’s been nearly two decades since you and Jeff were together in The Big Lebowski as The Dude and Maude…

JM: Gosh. Seventeen years…

So what is it like to be together again in a movie after so many years, and how would you contrast those two screen relationships now and then?

JM: Yeah, it’s been seventeen years. And I have a little Lebowski to prove it! I was pregnant then!

And that wasn’t, you know, method acting?

JM: Ha! I actually got pregnant on The Big Lebowski. And no, it’s not Jeff’s! But my son is seventeen years old.

So that’s how I know it’s been seventeen years! Isn’t that crazy? Yeah, yeah. But it was just so great to be with Jeff again.

And it was like, I don’t know. It’s like, not only do we kind of drag our relationship along, as people and as actors. But I think the audience does too.

So there is that sense of, oh I know those guys! Yeah, they were in a movie together before. So you know, that kinda comes along with you.

And that was something I hadn’t really anticipated. And it’s cool, it’s a really cool thing. Yeah, positive baggage. Right?

For sure. Julianne, you’re a Golden Globe and SAG winner and now the Oscars are coming up. So how do you prepare for the red carpet for such huge events?

JM: Hmm…Well, first I take a bath! And then I…tie my tail up! Um, you know…yeah! I don’t know, I try to take everything one day at a time.

You know, it’s been such a wonderful surprise, and so exciting for us. Still Alice is a movie that we didn’t finish even a year ago.

We started it in March of 2014. So by the time the Oscars were over, it won’t even have been a year since we shot it.

So that’s what is so astonishing about this, is that we made it, and we got it out. And we got it distributed.

And then it’s gotten this kind of attention. And that is absolutely incredible. That never happens.

Half the time you make little movies, and no one ever sees them. So I feel very, very grateful.

And I am just trying to take it one day at a time. And…stay as clean as possible!

And keep that tail under control!

JM: That’s right! Yeah!

Seventh Son is in some ways about destiny and fate. So what do you feel about destiny and fate in your own life?

JM: Hmm. Destiny and fate…I don’t know! That’s a tough one. I mean, I don’t know that I believe…That I believe in destiny and fate, or anything.

I do believe in…desire! You know. And luck! Like I always say to my children, I can remember, it sounds so sweet. I remember when I was ten years old.

And I said, I’m gonna have two children. I’m gonna have a boy and a girl! You know, and I’d lined up my dolls! And stuff like that.

And I had this idea that I was gonna have a little boy, and I was gonna have a little girl. And I always say to them, because you know, look. I got what I wished for.

So I mean, I had a desire for something, that I knew I wanted. And I do feel it was lucky, that it happened. But in a way, I could reframe it now.

And you know, say it was destiny. So I think sometimes, a lot of what we want, is sometimes, we can say that in retrospect. Yeah.

Who would you say has been your inspiration, or mentor, or the other way around?

JM: We were talking about this earlier. And I said there was one thing that was so great for me when I became an actor.

And that was being in a situation where I would be working suddenly with people who were my age. And then people who were my parents’ age, and who were my grandparents’ age.

I remember working with George Gaynes when he was seventy. And I was playing his wife. And um…Yeah! In Uncle Vanya.

And you felt like just everything collapse. You know, suddenly you were up there, with this person. And so I always think that, when I’m working with someone who is underage.

You know, who is a child. I do feel very very responsible. And very maternal, and stuff. But one of the things that is interesting for me, is when I work with actors who are younger.

You know, the best thing that happened to me, is when people treated me like a peer. When they taught me and also, you know, treated me like a peer.

Um, so that’s something that I endeavor to do, when I work with people. Because I just remember that feeling of all those years, just sort of melting away.

So it’s very exciting. That being said, I also remember meeting, when I was in a soap opera years ago, the woman who was playing my mom.

I had to throw myself into her arms, sobbing! You know, sobbing and sobbing. I had my face buried in her chest, and I’m crying.

And on camera, she very gently picked up my face. And put it, faced it toward the camera.

And at the end of the scene, she was like, ‘the lens can’t see you if you can’t see the lens, darling!’ And that was so generous!

You know, she was so incredibly generous. That she went out of her way to like put my face in the lens!

And I’ve never forgotten that, you know! So that’s the kind of stuff that you experience.

And that you hope to do, you know. That you want to do when you’re the one in that position.

Now getting back to that tail of yours, you wear some pretty flashy costumes in this movie. Talk about that.

JM: Oh golly. Our costumes were tremendous. I mean, mine were so…Not only did I have a tail! But I had like bones that came out the back! A spine thing.

And feathers. And I had extra hair. Then contact lenses, and special makeup. Big shoes! I mean, it was the most daunting part for me.

You know, those costumes. And trying to kinda carry it off. And those costumes sort of made the character for me.

It was such a thrill, to get to do that. Um, and you know to have that kind of support, and those beautiful sets.

And that whole fantastical world that they created. You know, that gave us so much.

And it just sort of allows you to just step into all of that. And to step into it very easily, actually.

How do you as an actress suspend your own disbelief to play a character, and in such a fantasy tale like this one?

JM: Well, the most, my favorite thing about acting, is the duality. You know, that happens to us when we are working.

And the time that you are suspending your disbelief, and allowing yourself to experience this character. And the action all around.

You also have a second awareness happening, all the time. You know, where the camera is, and where all the technicians are in the room.

What the temperature of the room is, and whether or not it’s gonna rain. So all of that requires a kind of hyper-awareness that I really love!

It’s my favorite thing. I mean, I love being on a film set. And what you see, is just the scene that’s happening right here.

But what we see, is the mechanisms of our universe. And going back, and back, and back.

And you see everybody. You see the boom operator, and you see the camera operator.

And you know, you see your makeup artist going, ugh. I gotta get in there. And so you see all this stuff happening.

And so you’re all working together, all the time. So it’s that duality of awareness.

And you know, that’s really one of the most exciting things about performing. For me.

Prairie Miller
Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network's Arts Express.