Though she’s not nominated for an Oscar this year, the crowds still came out in force to see Julianne Moore honored on Thursday night at the Arlington Theatre, as the Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented the veteran actress with the Montecito Award. As an evening dedicated to actors who’ve given “classic and standout” performances over the course of their career — with previous honorees including Kate Winslet, Javier Barden, and Annette Bening — the choice of Moore seemed a perfect fit, evidenced in the video tribute and interview with journalist Pete Hammond that spanned her two decades of big screen roles. Producer and director Ivan Reitman, a Montecito resident, was on hand to present the award to Moore, who he told to the crowd’s applause, “You’re really a wonderful person.”
The night began with a series of clips, after which Moore — dressed in a billowing red dress that accented her naturally red hair — admitted, “There are some movies that I don’t remember doing!” Hammond suggested that she’s taken risky roles over the course of her career, and wondered if she’s been afraid of them at any point. “The things that really terrify me are things like skiing,” said Moore, adding to that list diving into the ocean, roller coasters, and fast cars. “I’ve never found acting to be scary.”
She discussed her upbringing as an Army brat, moving throughout the South and finishing high school in Frankfurt, Germany, where a drama teacher made her realize that she could act for a living. Through those experiences, she learned that “behavior is mutable,” and discovered that she could adapt to new schools and towns by tweaking herself to fit the role that was needed. “Maybe there’s constancy to character,” she explained, “but there’s not constancy to behavior.” It was undoubtedly excellent training to be an actor, which began with her first professional play part in Buffalo — where she had an affair with her actor roommate — and continued to television, including an Emmy-winning role on the soap opera As the World Turns, where she played two characters that were simultaneously half-sisters and cousins. “That’s really disgusting,” she admitted with a laugh, recalling that her favorite worst line was, “Now that I know Kevin is out of jail, I think I’ll take a nap.”
Though Moore, the audience learned, is not just an actor. She’s also an author of three children’s books, including Freckleface Strawberry — inspired by her own red-headed experiences — and Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully. “I’m afraid of dodgeball too!” she said.
Moore credited the rise of independent films in the early 1990s with launching her big screen career, and remembered that when director Robert Altman called her for a role in the movie Short Cuts, she thought it was a friend playing a joke. Since then, it’s been one film after another for the workhorse actress, who offered insights into the differences between genres. “Comedy gives you a headache,” she explained, “but in tragedy, you crack a lot of jokes.”
Upon accepting her award from Reitman, the very personable, smart, and charming actress looked into the Arlington crowds and explained, “People don’t come to the movies to see you. They come to see themselves.” She pledged a commitment to keeping up her end of that bargain, and graciously accepted a very deserved award.
For those who’d like to see Moore in action during the film fest, she stars in Chloe, which screens on Saturday, February 13, at 4:15 p.m. in the Metro 4.