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New York’s Museum of Modern Art honored Julianne Moore on Monday night at its 10th annual Film Benefit, presented by Chanel. Her friends and family gathered to speak about her work onscreen and off, commending her as an actress, mother, wife and advocate.
Moore spoke about how she is encouraged by the human spirit and how people sharing their stories and experiences are powerful. “We are currently living in very difficult times where our very humanity feels threatened and dismissed by a leader who continues to demean, berate, ignore and debase us all,” she said. “I have truly been heartened by those who have spoken out and our refusal to accept this behavior as normal. And I believe that we are witnessing a time where we are learning that the more we validate and see one another’s experience and add our voices to one another, the stronger we are as a human force and the more likely we are to affect lasting change and rid ourselves of racism, gender bias, sexual assault and gun violence.”
Elizabeth Banks, who co-starred with Moore in The Hunger Games and on 30 Rock, spoke on that last subject, lauding her work as the founding chair of Everytown for Gun Safety’s creative council.
“Julianne knows that we celebrities are pack animals and that if she could just lead us, we might speak up,” Banks said. “Julianne Moore is saving lives. She is saving our freedom, and I wanted to speak tonight about Julianne’s work as a gun safety advocate because it is important. It is fierce, it is brave and it should be celebrated alongside her work, which is also, as we know, all of those things.”
Director Todd Haynes also hailed Moore’s work on gun safety. Haynes met Moore via her audition tape for Safe, and has since directed her in Far From Heaven and Wonderstruck. He wrote a poem about her talent, first as Carol White in Safe.
“This actor I did not know would suddenly turn these words on a page, this theory of a disappearing woman, into the most delicate whisper of flesh and blood,” Haynes said. “It’s an X-ray, this thing called cinema, and she knows this before we do. How does she know that it’s all about what isn’t there?”
Kristen Stewart spoke emotionally about her relationship with Moore and seemed almost on the verge of tears standing at the podium. Stewart was 12 when she met Moore on Catch That Kid, a film Moore’s husband Bart Freundlich directed, and also worked with her on Still Alice. Stewart called Moore her “work mom,” and praised her generosity and kindness.
“In our line of work, it’s not just a job, it’s deeply personal, and the reason why she is this trustworthy beacon of an actor is she is one of the most thoughtful, compassionate, curious, willfully tireless excavators of what people feel and what drives them and what hurts them and what elates them,” Stewart said.
On the red carpet before the event, Stewart spoke about how she wants to be the kind of actress Moore is. “She actually cares about how people feel,” said Stewart. “I want to keep up. I want to affect people the way that she affects people.”
Freundlich spoke last before a clip reel of his actress wife’s films played. He opened by asking the audience to shout out their favorite Moore performance, and a cacophony of voices filled the room with different titles from Magnolia to The Big Lebowski to The Kids Are Alright.
“No one thinks, ‘I wonder if Julianne Moore can play this part?’ You know she can. The question is: Does the role speak to her?” Freundlich said. “As her husband, I have gotten a front-row seat to her process. I remember when the script to Savage Grace came along and how it lit a fire in her. Or when she read the book for Still Alice, in the coming days I could see the character already starting to take shape in her. When I see that look like she’s met someone that she can’t stop thinking about, I just think, ‘Uh oh, I hope they can shoot this in New York.’”
After the reel of Moore’s work, she addressed the crowd. The actress took her time at the podium to speak to the room about the importance of humanity and human stories, and how she can be a vessel for those experiences.
“I don’t remember the films, but I remember the people. And I love my work because of that. Because it puts people and their live-ness and their lives in front of me always and forces me to be awake enough to try to represent a real life onscreen, so that I can try to validate what it means to be a human being,” Moore said.
She continued: “I believe that that’s why we watch movies, to have our very humanity validated and seen and corroborated by another human being to say, ‘Hey, oh, my God, that’s just like me, that happened to me. How do they know that?’ We’re social animals and we feel most alive in the presence of others, in the reflection of others, and in a community that acknowledges our presences.”
Moore told The Hollywood Reporter. “The funny thing is, I never feel like I’m taking risks when I’m acting because I feel like what I’m doing is just hopefully emulating human behavior. People do incredible things, so that’s always what interests me. If there’s something that I see in a character that’s innately human and really interesting, then I’m just drawn to it.”
The night concluded with a dinner and a rousing performance from Lauryn Hill. Stewart and Banks were dancing in the center of the room near Moore, who joined the guests in a standing ovation and roaring applause for Hill.
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