Julianne Moore is an actress who has shaped the core of her career in the independent film world, so it’s no surprise that she would be returning to the Tribeca Film Festival with a quality film. This year she stars in the charming romantic comedy The English Teacher.
Doing a complete 180 from her character in Crazy, Stupid, Love, Moore plays an endearingly naive 40-year-old English teacher Linda. An unmarried A-type, Linda’s nose is always in a book, and for most of her life has found companionship, and the greatest life lessons in her favorite literature. Never going out of her safety zone to connect with anyone romantically, Linda neurotically has a mental checklist measuring up potential love interests to archaic stereotypes.
Linda’s world gets turned upside down when an old student Jason (Michael Angarano) strolls back into town with a play he failed to get produced in New York. Inspired by his talent, Linda decides to take a risk and brings the play to her high school. Soon one risk bleeds into another and Linda’s world has quickly turned upside down in a bumbling, hilarious way.
Giving life to Linda proves to be easy for Moore, who seems to be unfailing in her ability to humanize characters. What could have been a rigid and shrewd woman is a heartfelt character who begs for your understanding even in the worst of her blunders.
The Inquisitr’sNiki Cruz caught up with Julianne Moore and Michael Angarano to talk about The English Teacher.
THE INQUISITR: How was it working with such a versatile cast?
JULIANNE MOORE: It was a pretty extraordinary cast. They were really great people, Norbert Leo Butz, Jessica Hecht, Nathan Lane, and Greg Kinnear. We had a great cast.
MICHAEL ANGARANO: It was amazing. I grew up watching them. My favorite movies are Nine Months and The Birdcage. They’re the kind of movies that you can watch with your family. The scenes that we got to do with the whole ensemble really felt like a play, which was fun to think about. I don’t have play experience, so it was really fun.
THE INQUISITR: The thing about this film is that everyone does something they should apologize for but not everybody apologizes.
ANGARANO: It was kind of interesting because when we did a table read for it, I first read Jason out loud and he came across much angrier than I think he should have came across. I realized that there’s this real childishness about him that’s very annoying. Even his relationship with Linda, he thinks he’s this mature guy, and he’s kind of projected himself as that but he’s really just a boy. In the end I don’t think he intentionally wants to hurt anybody, but he’s kind of manipulative in a childish way.
MOORE: I think one of the nicest things about the movie is that people don’t apologize. It’s kind of one of those cause and effect things where at the end of the day, a lot of people are very ashamed by their behavior but there’s a kind of forgiveness that they all offer one another. Maybe they weren’t their best selves in that moment, but they had the best intentions. There’s humanity to their recovery that’s very nice. In a sense that, when your mother used to tell you, “Just let time go by and it’ll be better.” It all settles down again.
THE INQUISITR: Julianne, I found your character to be inherently sweet. Is that something that drew you to the character?
MOORE: I love Linda. I was like Linda. I was the kind of kid that read all the time, and went to the library, and won the summer reading contest. I ended up in the drama club after school because it was another extension of reading. It would have been very easy for me to be Linda if I didn’t have a high school English teacher that told me I could be an actor [LAUGHS]. I found her incredibly relatable and I loved her innocence. She was endearing.
THE INQUISITR: During the film the two characters learn from life’s harsh lessons. Were there any life lessons that the two of you had to learn over the past few years?
ANGARANO: I think I’m learning something new every day!
MOORE: Yeah! [LAUGHS]
ANGARANO: It goes back to working with these actors. There are some people that act a certain way and you look at them and are like, “You really don’t deserve to act like that.” Some of the most talented and the most successful people that I’ve had the experience of working with are the most humble. They will have the most humility, and I definitely saw that with Julie, Nathan and Greg. It was a really nice thing to be a part of. Nathan Lane walked into the makeup trailer and the first thing he said was, “Hello Michael.” He knew my name before I introduced myself to him.
THE INQUISITR: The love scene between your characters was funny. Can you talk about how you two worked on that?
MOORE: I’ve had a lot of experience with them, and so Michael was like, “Well, I guess we’ll do this, and this..” and I just kissed him because I wanted him to feel comfortable. I didn’t want him to feel afraid. You have to be comedic as well, so it’s off. You know you’re going to crash, and play with some Hollywood tropes, and throw some things around. I took my hair down and took my glasses off, all of those really silly things. It was funny to go from “Oh you poor kid, your dad is so bad to you,” to a love scene. It was fun.
ANGARANO: It was. Even though it’s an intimate moment, I always read it as her taking advantage of him in a weird way.
ANGARANO: And watching it, I thought he was taking advantage of her! Which I found to be really interesting, because I didn’t think of it in that way. He’s kind of a manipulative guy in a childish way.
THE INQUISITR: How much pepto bismol did you go through?
MOORE: What was that? I don’t even remember what it was?
ANGARANO: It was yogurt! Apparently the prop guy told [director] Craig [Zisk] that I wanted to drink the real thing, which was so not the case!
THE INQUISITR: In the film they want to change the ending of your character’s play. Have you experienced that on set as an actor?
ANGARANO: I did this movie called The Forbidden Kingdom and it was directed by Rob Minkoff, and the action unit was directed by Woo Ping. I was doing second unit a lot. It was all action. The whole point of the movie is that my character has to travel to ancient China and kill the bad guy. Woo Ping had someone else kill him and had a whole fight scene dedicated to the other guy killing him. The director Rob came to me and said, “We have to re shoot that. You have to kill the monkey king.”
MOORE: They’re not supposed to. Most filmmakers won’t do that to you. I’ve had things happen but most of the time it’s usually not someone who’s a very sure filmmaker, when they have to fix it later.
THE INQUISITR: Julianne, did you know someone that came back to you years later to say, ‘You influenced me?’
MOORE: Not yet! [LAUGHS] My high school drama teacher was the one that said to me, “You can be an actor.” I was in plays after school but I’ve never met an actor, I’ve never seen a real play, and I didn’t know I could make a living doing it. I didn’t know anything about the theater. She said, “Here’s a copy of Dramatics magazine, and here are schools you can go to.” Have I hadn’t met her; I don’t think I would have done that. She changed my life, and she knows that. I met her years later when I was living in LA for a while, and she was living in Arizona. She altered the course of my life.
THE INQUISITR: Was there a certain production you did with her that was a turning point?
MOORE: She was super ambitious in terms of what she put on. The first production I did with her was Tartuffe, so nobody does that. They usually do Barefoot in The Park or something. I did The Music Man, which is more traditional. I also played Medea for her. She was a real director.
THE INQUISITR: What would lure you back to Broadway?
MOORE: Nothing! [LAUGHS] Nathan was like, “I have this play..” and he sent it to me, it was something that he was going to direct. I said, “If you’re not going to be in it then I’m not going to do it!” Directors leave and stuff. Plays are really hard when you have children. When I did The Vertical Hour years ago, I didn’t think about how they wipe out your entire weekend, and there’s one day in the middle of the week where you’re not home. It’s not worth it for my family. It’s easier to do film because you come home at the end of the night and you’re on their school schedule.
THE INQUISITR: How do you juggle your career with your family life? It’s always a big issue for women with the question of, ‘Can you have it all?’
MOORE: Yeah. It’s that thing that everybody says, “Yeah, you can have it all, but you just can’t have it at the same time.” There’s going to be compromises somewhere. I don’t go to Australia to work, it’s too far away. If I shoot, I shoot here in town, or in the summer time when they can come with me. You figure it out.
THE INQUISITR: What were your personal challenges doing this film? What’s your most personal challenge as an actor?
ANGARANO: It’s just working in general and keeping very positive. There’s a ton of negative energy going towards acting. You stay positive and keep healthy, and not dwell on things. Having a family and creating something outside of your career is the really most important thing.
MOORE: This is an issue for everyone, not just actors. Freud says you need love and work. You want to have a relationship, a family, and a personal life, and that’s a rich life that way, and then you want to have a creative life. Trying to have that for all of us is the balance that you want to create, but it’s great to have those options. We’re so lucky to have that.
THE INQUISITR: Will Linda have that?
MOORE: I think she does! That’s Linda’s story. She’s someone who’s only been in the book, and only been in the narrative and she’s stepped out of it. She’s kept her choices very restricted. She sort of blows it open by the end by making all of these mistakes and being present in the real world.
THE ENGLISH TEACHER IS CURRENTLY PLAYING AT THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL AND ON VOD.