Still Alice: Julianne Moore on Playing Woman with Alzheimer

Just two days after winning the Golden Globe in L.A., Julianne Moore was in N.Y. discussing her complex and challenging part in Still Alice, the Sony Pictures Classics film, which opens in limited release January 16.

She joined co-stars Kristen Stewartm, Alec Baldwin and Kate Bosworth at the Sunshine Theater to discuss the movie and its themes.

“I am very proud and feel really lucky to have been involved on this project,” said Moore, who portrays Alice Howland, a wife, a mother of three grown children and a Columbia University linguistics professor who learns she has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Taking on the role was no easy task for the award-winning actress. She admitted it was a challenge and hard work.

“I don’t have any personal experience with Alzheimer’s disease, and I’ve never witnessed the behavior that is described in the movie. So I wanted to make sure my performance was as realistic as possible,” she said. “I wanted to bring specificity to absolutely everything I did. I didn’t want to represent anything onscreen that I hadn’t witnessed. It’s not fair to make it up. Too many people are dealing with this disease. I really needed the time to do the research, and I wanted to figure out the disease and get it right.”

To depict Alzheimer’s honestly, Moore spent four months researching the disease, which affects as many as 5 million Americans. “I talked to clinicians, doctors, patients, caregivers [and] family members, and watched documentaries,” Moore said. “I went everywhere that I could. I also took cognitive tests to understand what it feels like.”

Neuroscientist Lisa Genova, who wrote the 2009 bestselling novel “Still Alice,” on which the movie is based, appreciated Moore’s commitment to the role.  “Every detail of her performance is so specific. From her movements to her speech patterns, she accurately showed what it’s like to have Alzheimer’s,” said Genova.

For Bosworth, who plays Moore’s oldest daughter in the film, her co-star ranks as “one of the best acting teachers.” “Working with Julie, you are sitting there and you don’t have to do much,” said Kate Bosworth. “You just listen and it takes care of itself.  She’s so brilliant, and you want to learn everything she does. All the work has been done before Julie walks on set.”  Bosworth also noted that Moore, while sociable, is “the utmost professional.” She added, “She’d walk in and talk about what she baked for her kids that day and chitchat right up until they called action. Then she went straight into it.  She’s remarkable. I truly just sat there and learned. It was a master class.”