Julianne Moore Emphasizes the Power of Unity at 'Bel Canto' Premiere

Christopher Lambert Julianne Moore Paul Weitz Bel Canto Premiere - Getty - H 2018
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"I wanted it to be like the Tower of Babel, where the divisions between people and their languages got erased over time," the film's director, Paul Weitz, chimed in at the Thursday night event in New York.

Unification, even in the most volatile times, or between the least likely of people — say, hostages and their captors — isn't as implausible as it sounds. At least that was the consensus on the red carpet at Thursday night's premiere of Bel Canto in New York.

Adapted from Ann Patchett's acclaimed novel of the same name, Bel Canto follows a famous soprano (Julianne Moore) who travels to a South American dictatorship to perform for a Japanese industrialist (Ken Watanabe). However, mid-concert, she and everyone else at the party are taken hostage by a gang of armed rebels who are seeking the release of political prisoners. What follows is the entire group — including the hostages — forming valuable relationships overtime despite the circumstances. 

"For me, what's fascinating about this film is the meld of all the different cultures," Moore said. "You have these people from all over the world — France, the United States, Guatemala, Mexico, Japan — and everyone was speaking their own language."

Since most of the characters speak in their own languages, much of the film is subtitled. Bel Canto's director Paul Weitz did that on purpose. 

"I wanted it to be like the Tower of Babel, where the divisions between people and their languages got erased over time," he said. 

According to Moore, that's exactly what happened. "They really form this incredible community," said the actress. "These are people who maybe felt isolated in their own lives, but together, they were able to form a world of their own."

Weitz hopes that audiences will be able to recognize the importance of this. "The essential message of the film is that the things that make us think of other humans as 'the other' are illusions and that the most important things are things that we share," the filmmaker told The Hollywood Reporter

Bel Canto has been in the works for more than two decades — producer Caroline Baron optioned the novel in 2002 — but the story was first adapted into an opera. Music plays an important role in the film, and Moore put a lot of work into understanding what it takes to be an opera singer. 

"It was so, so fun," Moore told THR. "The opera that I've seen has been minimal, so it was a real immersion."

The actress worked closely with Renee Fleming, who provides her character's vocals.

"I studied with her vocal coach, I sat next to her while she was recording, I went to her concerts, I went to the Met a lot, I sat in on vocal coachings with other people who were singing, I interviewed everybody I could, I listened to her non-stop," Moore said. "It was truly wonderful because the access that we're given as actors is kind of incredible. You don't usually have those opportunities." 

Weitz told THR that to properly dub Fleming's vocals, Moore had to actually sing on set. "She would ask me to crank up Renee's voice so nobody could hear her, but there was just one moment where the sound system shut off, and I heard her sing," Weitz said, laughing. "She was good!"

Bel Canto opens Friday in select theaters and will be available Sept. 21 on demand and on iTunes.