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Cristina Cuomo | Photo: Driu & Tiago/Figarophoto/Contour by Getty Images | August 8, 2014
Julianne Moore is spreading the word about the Children’s Health Fund’s doctors-on-wheels efforts around the country, starting right here in her hometown of Montauk.
Five years ago, celebrated actress and Montauk mother-of-two Julianne Moore put her talents to use by championing Children’s Health Fund, a nonprofit with 50 mobile medical clinics that provide preventative care and treatment for chronic conditions to children in need across the country. As CHF Executive Director Karen Redlener explains, “The doctors and nurses on our mobile units can take care of the full range of children’s health care issues that you would find in a private pediatric practice. We also have services like referral management to help if a child needs a specialist, and mental health providers, which are especially important for children dealing with the stresses of poverty.” Having seen Moore in action as an advocate for disadvantaged kids, Redlener says, “Julianne is knowledgeable about the issues that affect disadvantaged children, and as a mother herself, has a real empathy about the importance of heath care.” At a benefit this month in Water Mill, Moore discussed CHF’s new initiative to ensure that low-income kids are healthy and ready to learn in an effort to help close the achievement gap.
On a more artistic note, the best-selling author of the Freckleface Strawberry children’s book series and award-winning star of classics like The Big Lebowski, Boogie Nights, Psycho (1998), The Kids Are All Right and The Hours is being lauded for her latest satirical drama, Maps to the Stars, directed by David Cronenberg and co-starring John Cusack and Robert Pattinson. Her dramatic role earned her a Best Actress award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, with more accolades sure to come. The colorful and timeless beauty talked about this thrilling honor with us, as well as her passion for helping children.
Congratulations on your Best Actress win in Cannes this year for your role in Maps to the Stars. Tell me about that character, Havana Segrand.
She’s childlike and she’s monstrous in the sense that she’s both the boss and the baby. She’s a narcissistic movie star who runs everything her own way but is also boundaryless, like a child. She was pretty fascinating, and Bruce Wagner’s writing was really precise and very funny, so I felt lucky to have his writing, David Cronenberg’s unbelievable direction and this interesting character.
Would you say you migrate to roles about emotionally tortured women?
I’m very interested in confrontation and emotional drama, family drama. I realize as I look back at my career that I’m more interested in feelings than I am in ‘doing.’ Sometimes there are movies that are very much about what it takes for someone to accomplish a goal—this person’s going to climb this mountain, how did they get there, look they got there, the end. I’m more compelled by stories that tell why they got there; why they can’t do it; why they decided to; or what’s going on in their families that’s caused this issue. Behavior is something that really interests me, so most of my stories are about people’s behaviors.
What are some of the daily challenges you yourself are facing with your 12-year-old daughter, Liv, and 16-year-old son, Caleb?
My son will be a junior next year, so we’re heading into college-prep time. He went to a summer program in Berkeley—it was his first experience being on a college campus. We wanted him to see what it was like and to get an idea of where he’d like to be. My daughter is just entering adolescence, so I’ve gone through it with the boy, and now I’m going to go through it with the girl. I have to say my kids are great, so it’s been easy, but everyone always tells you that you have different challenges with each age, and I think in adolescence, you have to be hyper-, hyperaware of what’s going on. You have to be in their business without them knowing you’re in their business. You need to know who their friends are, what’s going on with parties and that kind of stuff. The process of parenting is about teaching someone gradual independence, and that’s hard to do.
You’ve owned your Montauk home for several years. Do your kids bike into town here?
They do—that’s the great thing about Montauk. They’re city kids, but we have this place out here that’s close enough to town that they can bike in or walk in, and they have full freedom here. My son has freedom in the city now because he’s 16, but for my daughter, this is the first summer she’s been able to wander around by herself and check in with us as she walks around with her girlfriends. There’s a new candy store in Montauk called The Candied Anchor—it’s really adorable, and it’s her favorite place to go with her girlfriends.
What’s your favorite beach out here?
And you have two dogs?
Yes, one big one, a Lab mix; and one small one, a Chihuahua mix. They are both black, though, because I like things to match.
Tell me about the Children’s Health Fund and the advocacy work you’ve done for them—did being a mother compel you to get more involved with a children’s organization?
Yes, but I think it’s also having been a kid and knowing what a difference it makes to be able to go to the doctor and get your eyes checked and to get your teeth checked and to know that that’s available to you all of the time. These are things that we take for granted with our children, but it’s not always so easy for everybody. There’s a great deal of economic inequality in the United States, particularly right now, so hopefully this is a way to help even the score.
When I toured the facility in the Bronx, I was really impressed with it, particularly with the mobile health care unit. It was something I hadn’t seen before. People pay a lot of lip service to how you get medical care to underserved populations in our country, but this is an actual solution that is superpractical, very simple and unbelievably effective. These huge buses are equipped with everything medical you could possibly need and they pull them up wherever they’re needed. It actually brings medical care right to people’s doorsteps, especially in places where they don’t have access to any type of facility.
Kids clearly are a big motivator for you. What inspired your Freckleface Strawberry series of children’s books, all of which my kids love, by the way?
Thank you! I always make these jokes that really I’m just writing an autobiography, but it’s true! I was on a plane once, and I started writing the story about a little girl trying to get rid of her freckles; I hated having freckles. Also my son at the time was 7 and the first time he looked in the mirror he said, ‘Mom, I don’t like my teeth, they are so big,’ and ‘Oh, Mom, my ears stick out.’ I was shocked. I was like, he’s perfect; he’s beautiful; but then I remembered when I was 7, how much I hated my freckles, and that’s how this story started. And that’s why at the end of the book, her freckles don’t go away because in so many kids’ books, it’s sort of the ugly duckling story. But I grew up, and I still have freckles and red hair, but I don’t care so much because I have things that are more important.
My last book, My Mom Is a Foreigner, But Not to Me, was for my mother who died 5 years ago. She was from Scotland, and it was important for me to write something for her and also talk about what it means to have a parent who is from another country and another culture. It used to be in this country that everything was about assimilation, but that was not my experience growing up. My mother was very much who she was and that was a part of me, too. In this country, we all are from somewhere. So when I talk to kids about that, I say, ‘Who do you know from another country? Who do you know from another culture?’
Because that has built this inner strength, confidence and talent. You’ve worked with some of the greats—which actor has surprised you the most?
You have the illusion of knowing someone by seeing them on screen, but you’re not prepared for who they actually are. There are some actors you really get to know and there are some you don’t. I was talking to Joe Gordon-Levitt about this when I was working on his movie, Don Jon. He was directing for the first time, and he did this one scene where he wasn’t actually in it, and I go, ‘How did you like it?’ And he says, ‘I didn’t.’ He felt left out because there’s this thing that happens with actors where you can connect in a really interesting, profound way and it happens in the scene. It’s like a secret actors can have with each other and that’s pretty exciting—you may not always get to know somebody really well, but you may have this weird and intimate connection with them while you’re working.
What does no one know about Julianne Moore?
How well I can clean! Yesterday I vacuumed all of the spiders out of the furniture on my porch, which was not pleasant, but it had to be done.
You’ve won so many awards, been nominated for even more, and you’re a best-selling author—what’s been the most fulfilling of all the accolades?
Winning Cannes was pretty great! That was a complete and utter shock. I was back in Montauk when I got the news. I had been there working and then left on a Wednesday. It was Memorial Day weekend and we were out here already, and I was cleaning out my shed because you know how you have to sweep out all of the mouse droppings because of the hantaviruses? So, literally, I had my mask on; I was cleaning the shed, washing towels, doing all the things that I usually do at the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, and I get a phone call saying that I had won Cannes. My kids and husband were there, and I was absolutely shocked. I jumped up and down, and really surprised my daughter. It was a great acting accolade, but I won it in the presence of my family and in my favorite place, so it was an especially great moment.
GET TO KNOW THE CHILDREN'S HEALTH FUND
The Children’s Health Fund was co-founded in 1987 by singer/songwriter Paul Simon and pediatrician/child advocate Irwin Redlener, MD, and is today one of the nation’s leading charities offering health care to America’s most vulnerable children.
They have a national network of pediatric mobile clinics that are each a “doctor’s office on wheels” bringing primary health care, dental care and mental health care to kids across the country.
In New York City—the flagship program—they bring mobile health care to kids in homeless shelters and also have a constellation of medical clinics in the South Bronx, operated in partnership with Montefiore Medical Center, that develop and provide state-of-the-art health care in one of the poorest Congressional districts in the country.
Their innovations have changed the way health care is provided to children in poverty—emphasizing the need for a medical home to meet the complex health needs of children who face the most health-care disparities.
Their latest initiative is to provide leadership and programmatic solutions for the health crisis in the classroom. Learn about it and read about the Healthy and Ready to Learn initiative (which Julianne Moore helped launch) at childrenshealthfund.org.