The Hours, Still Alice, Magnolia. Julianne Moore is a national treasure and an award-winning actress, but when you think of her filmography, most of the titles are not exactly feel-good laugh fests. That’s why her latest movie, Gloria Bell, is a welcome, uplifting change, a powerhouse of positivity. Moore plays the title character, a divorcée living in L.A., who spends her time looking on the bright side of life—while swaying to disco on the dance floor.
I sat down with Moore and Sebastián Lelio, the film’s director, to talk about their new movie, karaoke, and Julianne Moore-inspired drag queens.
When the PR people asked me what I thought of Gloria Bell I said: “A movie that begins with Julianne Moore sipping a martini and dancing to disco? I’m sold.” So I have to ask: Whose idea was to have her dance to disco?
Lelio: That was there since the very beginning. Actually the composer of the score, Matthew Herbert, said that Gloria “has a disco ball in her heart.” That’s where the music comes from.
Moore: Isn’t that a wonderful idea?
The ending was so uplifting, I basically skipped out of the theater—but Julianne, a lot of the time your movies aren’t uplifting…
Moore: No. sometimes they aren’t that fun [laughs]. This one is joyful.
I love the scene where you’re in the car and you’re singing along to Olivia Newton-John. Would ONJ be your go-to karaoke pick?
Moore: I’ve never done karaoke. You’re both looking at me like, “What?! Who are you?!” I love that scene where she tries to sing along with Olivia Newton-John because her [Olivia’s] range is so incredible, and she goes so high in the song, and the joke is that Gloria can’t! But she’s going to try!
So you’ve never stumbled into a karaoke bar here in the city?
Moore: [Embarrassed] No…
Lelio: But at least now you know what to sing when you do!
Sebastián, this is a remake of one of your own movies. Whose idea was it to remake Gloria?
Moore: I approached Sebastián. I had seen his original film and loved it so much, and loved him, and his directorial gaze. So we met in Paris, and had a discussion about remaking it. And I said I would love to be in it if he would direct it, and he said he would love to direct it, but only if I was in it.
Had that ever crossed your mind, that you would want to remake it?
Lelio: Not really, no—but then everything changed when Julianne said yes to it. I don’t think I would have done it if it wasn’t for you.
Your last two films, A Fantastic Woman and Disobedience, both feature stories about queer people, and I was wondering what the reception has been from the LGBTQ community?
Lelio: I think the films have been embraced in a very loving way. I have seen a ton of fan art on the internet, people drawing scenes or characters from A Fantastic Woman, people tattooing themselves with sentences from both movies. It is really touching. The thing that has been the most surprising and wonderful to witness is there was a dormant gender identity bill sleeping in Congress for years in Chilé [Lelio’s home country], so transgender people were not legally recognized. So when A Fantastic Woman came out, it helped re-activate the discussion around the bill. After we won the Oscar, we took the film to the former President of Chilé, who forced the Congress to legislate. And now, for the first time in its history, Chilé has a proper gender identity bill.
[To Julianne] Speaking of tattoos, have you ever seen any Julianne Moore tattoos?
Moore: No. [Turns to Lelio] Maybe you’re gonna have to get one.
Gay men love women who have been knocked down, but get back up, and persevere. Do you think they will see that in Gloria?
Moore: Oh god, I hope so! First off, I think the gay community has great taste in films, they always have. I think that’s been a place traditionally where characters considered as “other,” these outsider women, are representative of the gay experience. So it’s always really flattering when people really like your portrayal of these women. I think people respond to Gloria’s resiliency, and the fact that she leads with her vulnerability. She takes all the hits and keeps going.
Well, I think a lot of gay men can relate to having a disco ball heart.
Moore: Yes, actually! That’s great!
While watching the movie I did think that Gloria would have a gay best friend of some sort. Don’t you think?
Moore: It’s true! She probably would. I feel there would be some gay man in her office that she would be close to.
If you did meet her gay best friend, like if there had been a gay brunch scene, do you think he would have tried to talk some sense into Gloria? Like, “Get your act together! Why are you dating this guy?”
Moore: Absolutely! I think that’s what all of her friends say to her. “Don’t do it, don’t do it,” but we can’t help it sometimes. No matter how much our friends warn us.
And am I the only one who could totally see a Gloria Bell drag queen? Martini glass in one hand, blunt in the other, dancing around to disco…
Moore: Let’s see what happens!
Gloria Bell hits theaters March 8.