After romancing Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the Sundance/Berlinale hit “Don
Jon,” Julianne Moore is again putting the moves on a much younger co-star (Michael Angarano) in
the indie comedy “The English
Teacher,” currently playing in select theaters and available on VOD.
In the Cinedigm/Tribeca Film release, Moore plays Linda, a 40-year-old
unmarried high school English teacher who mounts a play by a former
student (Angarano), only to find herself falling for him. Greg Kinnear
co-stars as the aspiring playwright’s overbearing father, while Nathan
Lane pops up as a wacky colleague.
Indiewire sat down with Moore and Angarano to discuss working together, that age difference and Moore’s busy year (she also stars is “What Maisie Knew,” currently out in limited release).
Michael, when you learned that you were going to be sharing most of your scenes opposite someone of Julianne Moore’s stature, were you feeling the same way I’m feeling [nervous]?
Michael Angarano: I was so excited. Obviously it was a really great script and it was a really great character, but there’s always kind of a personal gratification that comes into play. And Julie’s been one of my favorite actresses since I ever started acting, along the lines of Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro or Al Pacino.
Julianne Moore: Aw, thanks for putting me in there!
MA: You’re more than in there, you’re solidified in there. And so for me it was just like working with one of the greats and one of the people who as an actor you study. She’s in some of my favorite movies and, I don’t know, there’s also just a sense of calm when you get down to it because when you meet somebody who you really, really respect and admire and they actually turn out the way you would have hoped, it’s so comforting. The amount of humility and kind of sense of humor and understanding and just being down to earth, it’s really encouraging. That’s something I took from this, from working with her and Nathan. I walked into the trailer, or Nathan walked into the hair and makeup trailer, and he goes “Hi Michael, I’m Nathan.” And he knew me before I introduced myself to him. It’s just, people don’t really do that nowadays.
On the flip side of that, how was it sharing the bulk of your scenes with a performer who looked up to you?
JM: Well, Michael’s great. He’s been doing it a long time, since he was 6 years old. And he’s very assured, he knew the character inside and out and he’s very talented. I’d seen his tape actually, our director had sent it — did you know that?
MA: I didn’t. (laughs).
JM: And he was great and he was the one that I wanted. I was like, “This guy is terrific.” His audition tape was fantastic, so there was no question, no doubt in my mind that Michael knew what he was doing. And he’s a pleasure to be with personally, we hit it off right away. He’s also very inclusive and collaborative and that’s what you want — and present. He’s very present as a person and as an actor, and that’s what you’re always looking for, whether somebody is a well-known actor, whatever degree of experience they have, the fact that they’re there, they’re present, and they’re ready to engage, that’s what you want. And in this instance with Michael, with everybody in the movie, it was a great cast and everybody was very available and engaged in the whole process.
MA: It was really fun because we got to do a script read-through, we got to do a table read and I don’t know, I haven’t done a table read for a script in a while, people have kind of forgotten about table reads now. It was really fun because sitting around with Jessica Hecht and Nathan and Julie and all these great, really talented, skilled actors you just sometimes realize, “Wow, it’s not always about just looking good on the camera.” Which is a lot of what a lot of film actors do today, you know what I mean.
Julianne, going into this I was not really sure if I could buy you as the spinster type. How did you relate to her?
JM: I think (I identified) with the reader in Linda. I was a great reader growing up, books were my real interest and sort of my companions. I was academic and an indoor person rather than an outdoor person and really started acting because it was an extension of reading. So it was just about that. I feel like in another life I could’ve been Linda — if I hadn’t had an English teacher who told me I could be an actor, I could’ve been an English teacher (laughs). She’s somebody that I understood, I understood that idea of story and narrative being that important in your life, because it continues to be.
I last saw you in “Don Jon” at Sundance, Julianne, where your love interest was another younger man, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
JM: (Laughs) In “English Teacher” Linda’s interest in him is primarily, her interest once again it comes from narrative and story, this idea that I become obsessed with this writer the way I am with these other writers and feel that it’s my job to show them to the world. So it’s that and then her feelings of protectiveness toward him and wanting to kind of illuminate his work. That turns into a relationship that she very quickly says was a mistake. Whereas “Don Jon” is a whole different kind of thing about people who are really… she’s really in the throes of something very serious. It’s not as light as “The English Teacher” (laughs).
I remember the press at Sundance making a big fuss about how a number of the films playing there depicted relationships between middle-aged women and younger men.
JM: I think they just write those headlines because…
MA: … They have nothing more interesting to say. Like we were talking about it before — somebody asked us personally what we felt about it.
JM: Yeah, I was like, “What?”
MA: Well, I think really the key is the emotional connection between two people.
JM: Yeah and actually to get back to “The English Teacher,” one of the things that’s interesting is she says, “Oh that was a mistake, we should never let that happen again.” But she of course feels betrayed (laughs) when he ends up with another girl, betrayed and jealous because she did have an authentic connection to him personally and as an artist. And then she’s like, “Wait a minute, wait a minute.” So we use a lot of these things to comedic effect, but at the root of it are real feelings of people trying to connect.You two are so active in the independent film realm. Is that where the good roles are?
JM: Sometimes there’s some bad ones there too! (laughs)
MA: Yes, oh yes!
JM: I hesitate to say that’s where the best roles are because you can’t generalize it by anything. You take everything on a script by script basis.
MA: I think that’s a really good point because at the end of the day the thing that everyone likes to ask is, “What is the thing you see in this character?” “What drew you to this?” As an actor you want to work, you don’t want to sit around and do nothing, you know what I mean. Having the luck and opportunity to be able to work consistently is kind of what we all want to really try and do forever as long as we can. But that being said the rest roles are, as she said, you can’t really say they’re only in the independent world because there’s a lot of bad ones too.
JM: Yeah, it’s not all budget related.
Julianne, this year alone you star in four to five films. Why so active at this point in your life?
JM: I mean, we don’t have any control over when things are released. “English Teacher” we made a year-and-a-half ago, “Masie” was also a year-and-a-half ago. “Don Jon” and “Carrie” and “The Seventh Son” all were all a year ago, but they’ve all literally come out in a clump. So you make them and it makes it seem like, “Oh my gosh she’s working nonstop,” but sometimes it’s just the way they come out.
But you seem to be making more projects that you were say five years ago.
JM: True. A bunch of things that were shot in New York certainly made me able to do that. A lot of it’s a consideration of my family and the time I have and where things shoot and stuff.
Has your role selecting approach changed over the years?
JM: They have to be here! (laughs). No, they don’t have to be here. My approach hasn’t changed since I’ve had children, I’ve had kids for 15 years now. Once they were in school I have to shoot in New York or shoot in the summer times or I have to be able to commute very easily. Those are really my restrictions.