A movie about Alzheimer’s sounded too sad but I screened it anyway. Knowing Julianne Moore was the star of “Still Alice” made me want to see it. Afterwards, I was without a doubt that Moore would win the Oscar for Best Actress. It was her fifth Academy Award nomination.
“Still Alice” is about Columbia linguistics professor, Alice (Moore), who is happily married to John (Alec Baldwin) and the couple has three grown children. Their youngest is strong-willed Lydia (Kristen Stewart) who is determined to pursue an artistic career; the married older sister with a child on the way is Anna (Kate Bosworth); and son Tom (Hunter Parrish) is well-adjusted.
The first signs of mental illness show while Alice is lecturing a class and freezes. She cannot remember a word. Her forgetfulness increases and after a trip to the doctor, she receives the devastating diagnosis — it is early onset Alzheimer’s.
The film has a strong and sensitive screenplay by Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer (who suffers from ALS) and it is based on the book by Lisa Genova.
It was a thrill to meet with the actresses this past January.
Dorri Olds: When fleshing out a role, does it help if you’ve played similar characters before?
Julianne Moore: I think everything you do as a person and everything you do as an actor ends up in your work, but it’s not that direct. It’s all just like life — accumulative.
What was your reaction when you got the script? Were you afraid a movie about Alzheimer’s would make people say “That’s depressing” and not want to see it?
Moore: I did it for the money. [Laughs] No, sorry, it was just such a great script, a wonderful, wonderful script and such a great book that Lisa [Genova] wrote. What she did that is so remarkable is that she presented the disease completely subjectively. What would it be like? What does it feel like to go through this process? We never get to see that. And, Rich and Wash took that novel and made it cinematic in a very deceptively simple way, I think. It was a thrill to be involved in something like that, and I think that’s what attracted us to it. It’s the human side of the story. You’re watching this family’s journey through this very difficult situation.
Kristen Stewart: Yeah, it’s definitely morbid, and it’s not a walk in the park, but sometimes, it sounds silly, but sometimes filmmaking can be very important. As soon as I read Julianne’s part in this, I knew that she was going to be doing something important. I knew this movie was being made so she could do something that would say something. It was intimated to me that it was our job to just hold her up. There’s a reason that I possibly felt so driven about this film is because Wash [Westmoreland] and Rich [Glatzer] hired me. I felt like if they thought I could do it, then I could. It’s not that I don’t like that people can go to the movies and laugh, but sometimes I think a movie can really say something.
Watch excerpts from the interview:
Watch the “Still Alice” trailer: