It’s not easy playing a sympathetic adulteress. Just ask Oscar nominee Julianne Moore, who took on the role of a woman who cheats on her husband and then asks him for a divorce in the romantic comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” In the film, Moore plays Emily Weaver, a wife and mother who dumps her longtime husband, Cal (played by Steve Carell), after she has an affair with another man.
As Cal tries to move on by dating other women — and getting advice from an experienced lothario named Jacob Palmer (played by Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling) — Emily finds that he life without Cal isn’t as fulfilling as she thought it would be, and she starts to wonder if she made the right decision by breaking up with him. Here is what Moore said about the movie, marriage and motherhood when I recently caught up with her at the New York City press junket for “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” She also shared her thoughts on playing Sarah Palin in the TV-movie “Game Change.”
There are some twists and turns in the “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” script. Without giving away any spoilers, what jumped out at you as being really clever?
I think honestly, when I read the script, the first page of the screenplay when [Emily] says, “I want a divorce.” I’d never seen anything like that, and I laughed out loud. And the script just continued to be that unexpected and that funny and that inventive and really, really well-constructed. And I think often when you read any script, you can kind of see what’s coming, and with this one, you definitely couldn’t. It really started with a bang.
What was it like to work with “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa?
They’re great. What they really excel at is having an emotional tone. You can tell from the script that it wasn’t a formulaic, ordinary kind of thing. It was really touching and very heartfelt. And John and Glenn were really anxious to explore that.
Things aren’t really funny unless they really mean something, too. In all the scenes, they wanted to keep the stakes really high. This divorce really is painful for [Cal and Emily]. I think [Glenn Ficarra and John Requa] were always careful to keep the emotions and tone as real as possible.
When you signed on for this movie, did you talk to the filmmakers about balancing the drama and the comedy?
When we rehearsed, it was very clear that the comedy was there, but we did talk a lot about what the stakes were and how meaningful this is. That’s really what we did … We just pushed it like, “Here we are rephrasing this. We just wanted to keep it emotional and funny.”
What’s the craziest or stupidest thing you’ve ever did for love?
When I was younger, I was the queen of the “drive by.” I would do that. I’d just think, “I’m going to go home this way,” which is a ridiculous thing to do. But yeah, I used to do that a lot.
Did those drive bys work for you?
Drive bys don’t ever work. If you’re ever worried enough that you’re driving by someone’s house to see if they’re home, it’s never going to work out. [She laughs.] Going by in you car and flashing your lights is pretty bad.
You’ve done three movie in a row in which you’ve cheated on your spouse: “Chloe,” “The Kids Are All Right” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” Is that a coincidence or not?
There must be something about me. [She laughs.] I think it’s just a “coinky-dink,” as they say. I like movies that are about relationships and human behavior and explorations of that. This just happens to be an interesting thing to explore in films.
Usually in romantic comedies, it’s the man in the relationship who cheats and the woman has let herself get frumpy. In crazy “Crazy, Stupid, Love.,” it’s the woman in the relationship who cheats and the man is the one who lets himself get frumpy. Do you have a comment on that role reversal?
We talked about that a lot. The directors talked about it. We talked about it with the costume designer. [Emily] was somebody who had kept up and was invested in her life and invested in the time she was living in. She’s modern, she’s current, and she hadn’t become complacent. And so she’s the one who feels that her husband has, and they’ve somehow become so they’re not communicating. Whatever is going on, they’re not in the same place, which obviously is what leads to these kinds of conflicts.
In movies that portray infidelity, there is usually someone who is portrayed as an obvious villain, but in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.,” there is no clear-cut villain. What do you think?
I think it was important in this movie for everybody to be a well-drawn human being. None of us was going to be devices. Kevin Bacon [as David Lindhagen, Emily’s co-worker with whom she has an affair] is not a device. He’s a person. You know, the idea that you have an office colleague who’s been paying a lot of attention to you, and he’s a really nice guy, and you have a date with him, but that doesn’t mean that one’s good and one’s bad.
I was thinking, “How am I going to be even possibly likable after Steve Carell is near tears and falls out of a car, like in the first scene of the movie? Everybody’s going to hate her.” But that was the challenge. I think tonally, it owes so much to the script and to Glenn and John.
What is it like working with Steve Carell behind the scenes?
It’s fun. He’s great. I love him. We really hit it off. It was so easy to be with him. We have a lot to say to each other. We have an awful lot in common. And it just felt nice.
He’s insanely talented. And he is as nice as he is talented. I think he has a connection and a soulfulness that obviously that the audience feels and that I could feel as well … He’s a great guy.
Out of all the cast members you worked with in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.,” who surprised you the most?
I think the surprise was that everybody was so nice. It sounds so corny, but everybody was so nice. It was so pleasant doing the end of the movie when everybody was around because everybody enjoyed each other’s company and we laughed a lot. I thought that Ryan [Gosling] was going to be very serious, and he’s not serious at all, so that was a surprise.
But then he said that he and Emma [Stone] thought that I was going to be really serious, and I’m not serious at all. So it was like that. I think al of us were kind of like, “Hey, you’re not uptight about this.” It was a really easy group.
Do you think Emily, Cal or both are going through a mid-life crisis?
I think they both are. All a mid-life crisis is that point in your life when you realize that you’ve got more of your life behind you than you have in front of you, when you start to think to yourself, “Well, what do I want to do with the rest of my life? What changes do I want to make? And am I happy?”
And [Emily] thinks, “Hey, this isn’t the life that I wanted for myself. She wants something else — maybe not someone else, but something else. And I think for [Cal], I think it shakes him up and makes him re-examine things too.
Can you describe the dynamic of working with two directors on the same movie?
It’s not difficult. This is actually my third time working with a team [of directors on the same movie]. It seems daunting at first, like, “How are they going to know? How’s it going to work?” But it’s very easy. They communicate very well with each other and with us. And, in a way, since being a director is such a stressful job, I think it’s probably helpful that they have somebody that they can share the stress burden with.
As a mother in real life, what are you teaching your kids about love?
My daughter is just 9, but my son is 13. So everybody is already hanging out or dating or whatever. As a parent, you just really try to pay attention to what’s going on, and offer support and guidance, but also try to stay out of it, because they’ll tell you in a minute, “It’s none of your business,” as they’re texting somebody and you’re peering over …You want to make sure that everything is going to be OK. You talk to them about all the basic things that parents talk about …
I think with kids it’s pretty clear. With people it’s pretty clear. You like who you like. You see it right away, where people develop crushes or they have friendships and hang out together. And kids develop that stuff naturally. They really do. With parents, there’s more clinical guidance that’s necessary.
Steve [Carell] was saying the other day that kids can be remarkably un-jaded about things. A friend of mine told me the sweetest thing the other day. She and her husband split up for a while, and she just had this revelation that they wanted to get back together. She asked her son who was, I think, 9, “Would you be happy if Dad and I got back together?”
And he said, “Of course, mom. I’m a family man.” Which is kind of like what this little boy in this movie is. It’s true. Children sometimes do have clarity about that kind of stuff.
There’s a scene in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” where Emily brings her son Robbie to work. Have your kids had that experience with you?
As babies, they were always at work with me. They were in my trailer until they went to kindergarten. They were always there. I’ll talk about sets that they don’t remember from when they were really little. They came to this [“Crazy, Stupid, Love.”] set. They came to visit.
My son came with me to “30 Rock,” because he’s a big “30 Rock” fan. They come to every single set. Some of them they remember, some they don’t.
For the longest time, they thought I worked in a trailer, because that was their association with work. “Mommy works in a trailer.” I sit there all afternoon. They like it for a while and then they’re like, “OK, that’s boring. Time to go.”
Do your kids watch any of your movies?
I haven’t shown my kids any of my movies. [My son] has seen parts of “Hannibal” on television. At 13, you’ve kind of outgrown “Jurassic Park.” I did say to my daughter, because we were at Universal Studios and we did the Jurassic Park ride, “You know what? I was in one of these movies. Maybe we should all take a look at it someday.” She was like, “OK.”
Kids don’t care. They really don’t care about what you do. I think it would be a little bit like saying to your child, “Do you want to read the articles that I wrote?” I think children have an interest in their parents as being their parents.
I think even when you ask adults about their parents and what they do and say, “Quick, describe your father’s office,” I think you’ll find people who’ll go like, “Uh, when was I there last?” It’s a different kind of thing. So I think my kids could associate [me] with my work, but I don’t know if they have any interest in that stuff particularly.
So if you say your kids don’t really watch your work, which actors do they admire for their work?
They love Ryan Reynolds, for example. They both love him. They’ll say, “Why don’t you make a movie with Ryan Reynolds?” Kids have an interest in certain kinds of movies. My son is going to come with me to the [“Crazy, Stupid, Love.”] premiere [in New York], and he’s very excited to see it.
And they love Steve Carell. That’s another person that they love. They were very excited to come to the set and meet Steve Carell. I took my son likes “The Office,” definitely. And my daughter [liked Steve Carell in] “Dan in Real Life” and “Evan Almighty.” If there are movies that they’ve seen and people that they like, that makes them really excited.
How was it filming that parent/teacher meeting scene with Steve Carell and Marisa Tomei?
It was fun. It was a really fun Night. Marisa and I were on a soap [opera] together when she was 19 and I was 22. So I’ve known her a really long time.
How much improvisation did you get to do?
There was a lot of improv. There was improv all through [the movie]. John and Glenn were all for it. And Dan Fogelman, the writer [of “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”] was on the set, and he was very generous and would say, “Whatever you guys want to do.” You can’t remember after a while who said what. There was a lot of improv in that scene [with Steve Carell and Marisa Tome]. There was a lot of improv at the end of the movie, too.
Is it hard to keep a straight face around Steve Carell?
Yes. Always. He’s very funny. With everybody, it was just one of those things where you just hold it until the end and laugh when you finish the take.
What are you most looking forward to in playing a witch in “Seventh Son”?
I think being wicked. I don’t know if I’ve ever played anybody who’s just the bad guy, period — no gradation, just the bad guy. So I think that’s going to be fun
What else is next for you?
I just finished a movie called “Game Change,” and it’s based on the book of the same name about the 2008 presidential election.
You were on “30 Rock” with Tina Fey, who has famously impersonated Sarah Palin in comedy skits. Did you and Tina talk about playing Sarah Palin for your role in “Game Change”?
No. It all happened afterward. I did “30 Rock” the year before last. And I literally just finished “Game Change.”
How did you prepare for the role of Sarah Palin, who is famous but still mysterious in a lot of ways?
It’s super-challenging. I looked at a tremendous amount of footage. I read everything there was to read on her. I listened to her book on tape constantly. I listened to her voice.
All I have on my iPod is Sarah Palin. My son is like, “What? Mom, that’s so dumb!” But that’s what I did. You just do sort of total immersion. You’re never going to be able to be completely someone else: someone who’s living, someone who’s identifiable, someone who is so idiosyncratic.
They’re there; they’re their own person. You can do your approximation of that person within the movie that you’re in. And that’s all you can attempt to do.
For more info: “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” website
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