Person of Interest

Julianne Moore on the Fallacy of “Anti-Aging” and the Covid-Era Resonance of Safe

The Oscar winner appears alongside her 20-year-old daughter, Liv Freundlich, in a new campaign for Hourglass’s latest foundation. It’s about “knowing where you are,” Moore says—“that every stage in your life is a valuable one.”
Julianne Moore on the Fallacy of “AntiAging” and the CovidEra Resonance of ‘Safe
From Getty Images. 

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Julianne Moore, master interpreter of uncanny domestic life, is smiling at me from a facsimile of her home. “This is a rental, but still all the same stuff,” the actor says over Zoom, gesturing to the Thomas Struth photograph behind her, depicting a primeval, vine-strewn forest. It used to hang along a hallway in her family’s West Village house, where the mix of mid-century design pieces and sentimental objects garnered the attention of shelter magazines. Moore is in tune with decoration, as much for the intellectual exercise of it as for the emotionally resonant results (a candid nude by Nan Goldin set the mood in a bathroom)—so it’s a wonder why she and her filmmaker husband, Bart Freundlich, decamped from such jewel-box real estate. 

“You know what? Our kids grew up,” Moore says, her unassuming warmth balancing out a familiar incandescence. Their older one, Caleb, graduated college during the pandemic and made his way to a nearby apartment for graduate school. Liv, four years younger, set off for Northwestern. The couple have a retreat on Long Island that satisfies their itch for nature. And so the West Village place suddenly felt like “this great big house. He'd be on the top floor, I'd be on the bottom,” says Moore, joking that she could no longer locate her husband. They now have their eyes on downtown’s Noho neighborhood. “I was ready to look out, to see buildings, to see New York.” 

Julianne Moore and her daughter, Liv Freundlich, in the new We Glow campaign for Hourglass.

Courtesy of Hourglass. 

Decoration without pretense—that also describes Moore’s latest project, her first campaign as Hourglass’s brand ambassador. The Oscar winner, known for her freckled porcelain skin and smoky-eye predilection, is no stranger to beauty conversations. But this time, fronting the new Ambient Soft Glow foundation, she appears alongside Liv, with an oblique script that describes moonglow’s effect on the animal kingdom. (The buildable formula includes light-diffusing pigments, to replicate that proverbial ‘lit-from-within’ radiance.) “When my daughter said that line, ‘This is me,’ I wanted to burst into tears because it was so eloquent. Here is this 20-year-old woman talking about where she is, and then I get to say the same line,” Moore says. “It just felt very frank and emotional.” She points to the company’s like-minded values, from formulas that are vegan and cruelty-free to a sense of inclusivity across age and ethnicity—all set in motion by founder and CEO Carisa Janes. 

It seems fitting that an actor who established herself as a sensitive, unnerving talent in independent cinema has found a similar home in niche beauty, where there’s more space for nuance over conventional narratives. Later this summer, Moore returns to set, filming back-to-back projects. With Scottish director Lynne Ramsay, she boards a cruise ship for Stone Mattress, based on a story by Margaret Atwood; she also reunites with longtime collaborator Todd Haynes for May December. Here, Moore talks about the ongoing resonance of their 1995 first film, Safe, her approach to parenting in the limelight, and the love of a transformative wig. 

Vanity Fair: What appealed to you about this Hourglass campaign, and in what way was it a different proposition?

Julianne Moore: First of all, I was very flattered. When I met Carisa and we were doing the work on the brand, it felt so authentic and so small and so very carefully crafted, in a way. I was thrilled that they involved Liv too, and that the campaign was so much about who you are as a human being and what your connections are to others. And also knowing where you are—that every stage in your life is a valuable one. These notions that you hear a lot about in the beauty industry, like, ”I’m going to fight aging,” or “anti-aging,” or “I don’t age”—that’s a fallacy. It’s a fact of life. It’s not possible to age one way or another; we simply age. That’s just part of the human condition.

Foundation is a category that I sense you might have opinions about—in part because makeup artists sometimes wind up covering up freckles like a flaw. What is your relationship to foundation, and what do you look for in a formula?

One of the things that’s really appealing about this foundation is the fact that there are 32 different shades—because I found, when I first started wearing makeup, that I couldn’t find anything that was the color of my skin. A lot of the time, people doing my makeup would want to darken my skin and make me tan. I don’t tan, so it would look sort of terrible because my face would be the same color as my hair. This Ambient Glow, it looks like skin. You can use it sparingly to cover up red spots or whatever [else]; if you want more coverage, you can build the application as well. Because of the range of things that I do, I want something that has that flexibility—but most important, I really want it to look like the color of my skin.

A sampling of the 32 shades for Hourglass’s new Ambient Soft Glow foundation.

Courtesy of Hourglass. 

Seeing you with Liv makes me curious about what guardrails you might have set up around privacy with your children. How did you and your husband navigate that? 

We both felt that we wanted everyone to know that we were a family first and foremost—that they were part of every decision we made, and that our work life was centered around our family life. A lot of times when they were little, if I had a job that was out of town, I would say, “Well, we have to do it in the summertime when everybody’s out of school and I can get a house and maybe a pool or something and then the kids are there.” So they had that experience of being on sets. 

But also I felt it was important to acknowledge my children when I talked about my work as well. I once heard a little girl—this is a really sweet story—whose mother was an actress, and the woman was talking about doing press. And the little girl said, “Mommy, do they know about me?” My son was an infant at the time, and it really struck me. For me, it was important that if I’m going to have a life that’s public, that I will also talk about my children—not to expose them or anything, but to make [it known] this is what my life is.

There were certain things that would come up. They were in their dad’s movies a couple of times, little parts. Now with my daughter, it’s interesting: When [Hourglass] approached us, I did say the important thing is that she needs to be approached separately. If you’re going to hire me and you want to hire her, it’s a separate deal, which just really adds to her sense of maturity and of herself in the world.

Hollywood is historically rigid in its beauty standards: around weight, around eternal youth. Were there things that you were hoping to either show Liv by example or by omission?

I do think the business is changing, which is great. Probably an aging demographic helps. In terms of beauty standards, I think we are considerably more diverse and hopefully more age-interested too. But there’s no way of avoiding that it’s also a physical industry as well. It’s funny, actually. I think, oddly, actors are sometimes very, very aware of what they look like in a good way, because you’re looking at yourself all the time. There’s almost no way to avoid it. 

I’m fortunate to be able to have my kids around, to have them participate, and to have them be exposed to these worlds, that it didn’t feel separate to her. I hear it sometimes with her friends—they talked about somebody’s boyfriend getting a corporate job this summer, and he was really surprised by what was going on in that office. And I thought, I don’t think Liv and my son, Cal, are surprised by what happens on a set or a shoot because they’ve seen it. 

Moore, playing a woman struggling with chemical sensitivities, in Safe (1995).

© Sony Pictures/Everett Collection.

Was there a moment in your career that clarified how you would approach your work? I came across a mention that you lost weight for Safe, and you decided you didn’t want to do that again. 

Well, that Safe thing—I made myself so sick that it just wasn’t worth it. I was, like, this is crazy, because I was already slender and I made myself really, really ill for this part.

The idea being to show the devolution of her health.

Yeah, that she was physically ill, and it was showing in her body. I wanted her to get frailer and frailer. But I didn’t know what kind of an actor I wanted to be. I had been on a soap opera when I first got to New York City, and I’d done some Off Broadway plays. And then I got involved in this workshop with Uncle Vanya, with André Gregory and Wally Shawn. We worked on it for five years, and we kept coming back to it and coming back to it. It was never about a result. It was always a constant rehearsal. It could change at any time—so that meant that you really had to listen because if you really reacted to how somebody said a line to you, it could send the whole act off in another way. It completely changed my idea about the kind of work that I wanted to do. I wanted to do stuff that was that specific and that present. That was in the late ’80s when we started; when we shot it in the early ’90s, it was the beginning of the whole independent film world. It changed absolutely everything for me.

So much of your onscreen transformations are interior, but has there been a favorite physical transformation, whether the Far From Heaven wig or Boogie Nights makeup?

I love a wig! And the Far From Heaven stuff was amazing. That look was so perfect and also so resonant for us, for anybody who grew up watching old movies. We know the language of that, and Todd was able to take that and modernize it in a way, but really lean into that form. It was exciting as an actor to have so much physicality to work with, with the look and the wig and the costumes and everything. It was so meaningful.

The pitch-perfect styling for Far From Heaven (2002).

© Focus Films/Everett Collection.

But when you get back to talking about beauty, with a makeup brand like Hourglass, you think, these are important things! Even though people might say, “Oh, makeup, whatever”—no. How we present and what we’re signifying to the world by how we look is intense. It’s an intense form of communication. It matters on this minute, psychological level too. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a boyfriend say he likes my lipstick, but my girlfriends do. It’s communicating to other women. 

Speaking of nonverbal communication, has the industry’s move toward intimacy coordinators made you think about how you might have approached earlier work or current work? 

It’s a great thing—it’s amazing. I worked with an intimacy coordinator for the first time on this movie I did last fall, and I was so grateful to have that help, and to have that shape around a scene. Because everything we do, there’s an inside and outside to it. You’re inside as an actor, but there’s got to be a shape to it, [by way of] blocking and angles. And if you have people who are afraid to talk about what you’re doing in an intimate scene, you don’t have that thought. In this case, we had somebody who was saying, “You could do this with your hand…” You’ve constructed something, and you do a better job of actually building the scene organically. 

Did the last couple of years put any projects of yours in a different light? Safe makes me think about long COVID and chronic fatigue and these nebulous ailments that people deal with. At the same time, the pandemic was such a pressure cooker, in a way that calls to mind certain women you’ve played, who have some frayed element. 

Safe, it really was crazy, right? When we made that movie, people didn’t really understand about immune-system disorders and allergens and all of that. And then for Todd, of course, the movie was also an AIDS metaphor. It’s about who’s responsible—this idea that somehow she was responsible for her illness, she brought it on. And in every scene she has, there’s a physical reason for her to be sick and a psychological reason. Which one wins out? All of that stuff is so prescient and so interesting, particularly at the time like now, where people really have been suffering and we’re beginning to understand how debilitating these immune disorders are.

I never had that expectation about that movie. That being said, I think the movies that I’m drawn to really are about real women in domestic situations—because that’s where we live our lives. I don’t go to the moon! I mean, somebody does, but it’s not me. A lot of the movies that I’ve done are just about the conditions of female lives.

In the Jesse Eisenberg movie, When You Finish Saving the World, your character works in a women’s shelter. In your own life, how do you approach activism at this time when there’s so much at stake?

There’s so much at stake. First of all, I always say this because people talk about using your platform as an actor: I think of it more as you have a responsibility as a citizen to do what you can for the things that are important to the world. I react first and foremost as a human being. My involvement in the gun-safety movement happened after Sandy Hook, when I realized it could have been my kids in that school. That’s when I started to work with Everytown. And in terms of reproductive health, well, I believe in a woman’s right to choose, and I believe you have to defend that.

Now, more than ever, with so much going on, people are realizing that their involvement does matter because it’s boiling down to what’s happening in your community and in your state. That feeling of helplessness that we sometimes have on a federal level—that’s been really difficult because then you feel like such a small being in this vast thing that you have no control over. But then you start thinking, “Oh, but I have control over my school board. I have control over my local government, my city government, my state government.” That’s a much smaller place to be, but it can be an equally powerful and incredibly effective place to do your work.

And it’s primary voting day in New York.

Exactly. It’s voting day today.

Hourglass Ambient Soft Glow Foundation