Julianne Moore (born Julie Anne Smith; December 3, 1960) is a British–American actress and children's book author. A prolific cinema actress since the early 1990s, Moore has established a successful career in both art house and Hollywood films. She is known for her emotional portrayals of ordinary women, and has received four Academy Award nominations for her work.
After studying theatre at Boston University, Moore began her career with a series of television roles. From 1985 to 1988, she was a regular in the soap opera As the World Turns, earning aDaytime Emmy for her performance. She made her film debut in 1990, and continued to play supporting roles throughout the early 1990s. Moore made her breakthrough with Robert Altman'sShort Cuts (1993), followed by critically acclaimed performances in Vanya on 42nd Street (1994) and Safe (1995). Starring roles in the blockbusters Nine Months (1995) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) subsequently established her as a leading actress in Hollywood.
Moore received widespread recognition in the late 1990s and early 2000s, earning Oscar nominations for Boogie Nights (1997), The End of the Affair (1999), Far from Heaven (2002), and The Hours (2002). Other notable film appearances include The Big Lebowski (1998), Magnolia (1999), Hannibal (2001), and Children of Men (2006). She has continued to work regularly in the 2010s, receiving praise for her performances in The Kids Are All Right (2010) and in the TV film Game Change (2012), where she portrayed Sarah Palin and for which she won the Emmy Award, the Golden Globe Award and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress. In addition to her film work, Moore has written a successful series of children's books. She is married to the director Bart Freundlich, with whom she has two children, and resides in New York City.
Moore was born Julie Anne Smith on December 3, 1960, at the Fort Bragg army base in North Carolina. Her father, Peter Moore Smith, was a paratrooper in the American army, and later a colonel and military judge. Her mother, Anne McNeal McLean (Love) Smith, was a psychologist and social worker who emigrated from Greenock, Scotland to the United States as a child. Moore has a younger sister, Valerie, and a younger brother, novelist Peter Moore Smith. She considers herself half Scottish, and applied for British citizenship in 2011 to honor her deceased mother (Moore has stated that "it would have meant the world to her").
Moore frequently moved around the country as a child, due to her father's profession. She was close to her family as a result, but has said she never had the feeling of coming from one particular place. The family lived in multiple locations, including Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Panama, Nebraska, Alaska, New York, and Virginia, and Moore attended nine different schools. The frequent relocating made her an insecure child, and she struggled to establish friendships. Despite these difficulties, Moore later remarked that an itinerant lifestyle was beneficial to her future career: "When you move around a lot, you learn that behavior is mutable. I would change, depending on where I was ... It teaches you to watch, to reinvent, that character can change."
When Moore was 16, the family moved to Frankfurt, Germany, where she attended Frankfurt American High School. She was clever and studious, a self-proclaimed "good girl", and she planned to become a doctor. She had never considered performing, or even attended the theatre, but she was an avid reader and it was this hobby that led her to begin acting at the school. "[It] was an extension of reading", Moore has said. She appeared in several plays, including Tartuffe and Medea, and upon the encouragement of her English teacher she chose to pursue a theatrical career. Moore's parents supported her decision, but asked that she train at university to provide the added security of a college degree. She was accepted to Boston University, and graduated with a BFA in Theatre in 1983.
"There was already a Julie Smith, a Julie Anne Smith, there was everything. My father's middle name is Moore; my mother's name is Anne. So I just slammed the Anne onto the Julie. That way, I could use both of their names and not hurt anyone's feelings. But it's horrible to change your name. I'd been Julie Smith my whole life, and I didn't want to change it."—Moore explaining why and how she adopted her stage name.
Moore moved to New York City after graduating, and worked as a waitress. Her acting career began with off-Broadway theatre and television. Her first screen role came in 1984, in an episode of the soap opera The Edge of Night. In 1985, she joined the cast of As the World Turns, playing the dual roles of half-sisters Frannie and Sabrina Hughes. The intensive work provided an important learning experience, and Moore looks back on the job fondly: "I gained confidence and learned to take responsibility", she has said. Moore appeared on the show until 1988, when she won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Ingenue in a Drama Series. In 1987, she played India West in the CBS miniseries I'll Take Manhattan. In 1988, once she had left As the World Turns, she turned to the stage to play Ophelia in a Guthrie Theatre production of Hamlet. The actress sporadically returned to television over the next three years, appearing in the TV movies Money, Power, Murder (1989), The Last to Go (1991), and Cast a Deadly Spell (1991).
In 1990, Moore began working with the stage director Andre Gregory on a workshop theatre production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. Described by Moore as "one of the most fundamentally important acting experiences I ever had", the group spent four years exploring the text and giving intimate performances to friends. The same year, Moore made her cinematic debut in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, playing a mummy's victim, which she has described as "terrible". Her next film role did not come until 1992, but introduced her to a wide audience. The thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle was a US box office number one, and Moore caught the attention of several critics with her performance. She followed it the same year with the comedy The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag. Moore continued to play supporting roles throughout 1993, firstly appearing in the notorious Madonna flop Body of Evidence, which she has called "a big mistake", and then in the romantic comedy Benny and Joon with Johnny Depp. Moore also appeared briefly in one of the year's biggest hits, the Harrison Ford thriller The Fugitive.
The filmmaker Robert Altman saw Moore in Uncle Vanya, and was sufficiently impressed to cast her in his next project: the ensemble drama Short Cuts (1993). Moore was delighted to work with him, as it was Altman who had given her an appreciation for cinema when she saw his film 3 Women (1977) at college. Playing artist Marian Wyman was an experience she found "totally terrifying", as she was a "total unknown" surrounded by famous faces, but it proved to be Moore's breakout role. Variety magazine described her as "arresting", and noted that her monologue, delivered naked from the waist down, would "no doubt be the most discussed scene" of the film. The moment has since become famous. Short Cuts was critically acclaimed, and received awards for Best Ensemble Cast at the Venice Film Festival and the Golden Globe Awards. Moore received an individual nomination for Best Supporting Female at the Independent Spirit Awards.
Short Cuts was one of a trio of successive film appearances that boosted Moore's reputation. It was followed in 1994 with Vanya on 42nd Street, a filmed version of her ongoing Vanya production, directed by Louis Malle. Moore's performance of Yelena was described as "simply outstanding" by Time Out, and she won the Boston Society of Film Critics award for Best Actress. Moore was then given her first leading role, playing an unhappy suburban housewife who develops multiple chemical sensitivity in Todd Haynes' low-budget film Safe (1995). She had to lose a substantial amount of weight for the role, which made her ill and she vowed never to change her body for a film again. In their review, Empire magazine writes that Safe "first established [Moore's] credentials as perhaps the finest actress of her generation". Film historian David Thomson later described it as "one of the most arresting, original and accomplished films of the 1990s", and the performance earned Moore an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Actress. Reflecting on these three roles, Moore has said, "They all came out at once, and I suddenly had this profile. It was amazing."
Moore's next appearance was a supporting role in the comedy-drama Roommates (1995). Her following film, Nine Months (1995), was crucial in establishing her as a leading lady in Hollywood. The romantic comedy, directed by Chris Columbus and co-starring Hugh Grant, was poorly reviewed but a box office success and remains one of her highest grossing films. Continuing in the vein of Hollywood productions, Moore next appeared alongside Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas in the thriller Assassins, her fourth and final release for 1995. Her only appearance of 1996 was as the artist Dora Maar in the Merchant Ivory film Surviving Picasso. Following this, Moore was cast by Steven Spielberg to star as paleontologist Dr. Sarah Harding in The Lost World: Jurassic Park—the sequel to his 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park. Spielberg had seen Moore play a doctor in The Fugitive four years earlier, which inspired him to cast her in the role. Filming the big-budget production was a new experience for Moore, and she has said she enjoyed herself "tremendously". The Lost World (1997) was an immensely popular release, finishing as one of the ten highest-grossing films in history to that point. It was pivotal in making Moore a sought-after actress: "Suddenly I had a commercial film career", she has said.The Myth of Fingerprints was her second appearance of 1997, where she met her future husband in director Bart Freundlich.
The late 1990s and early 2000s saw Moore achieve significant industry recognition. Her first Academy Award nomination came for the critically acclaimed Boogie Nights (1997), which centers on a group of individuals working in the 1970s pornography industry. Director Paul Thomas Anderson was not a well known figure before its production, with only one feature credit to his name, but Moore agreed to the film after being impressed with his "exhilarating" script. The ensemble piece featured Moore as Amber Waves, a leading porn actress and mother-figure who longs to be reunited with her real son. "She's such a sad person", the actress said in 2002, "she moved me tremendously". Martyn Glanville of the BBC commented that the role required both a confidence and vulnerability, and was impressed with Moore's effort. Time Out called the performance "superb", while Janet Maslin of The New York Times found it "wonderful". Critic Mick LaSalle singled out Moore for praise in his San Francisco Chronicle review, adding that she gave the film "its twisted heart". Alongside her Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, Moore was nominated at the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards. The performance won her awards from the National Society of Film Critics, the Florida Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics, and the Satellite Awards.
Moore followed her success in Boogie Nights with a role in the Coen brothers' dark comedy The Big Lebowski (1998). The film was not a hit at the time of release but subsequently became a cult classic. Moore plays Maude Lebowski, a feminist artist and daughter of the eponymous character who becomes involved with "The Dude" (Jeff Bridges, the film's star). At the end of 1998, Moore had a flop with Gus Van Sant's Psycho, a remake of the classic Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. Moore played Lila Crane in the film, which received poor reviews and is described by The Guardian as one of her "pointless" outings. The review in Boxoffice magazine regretted that "a group of enormously talented people wasted several months of their lives" on the film.
After reuniting with Robert Altman for the dark comedy Cookie's Fortune (1999), Moore starred in An Ideal Husband—Oliver Parker's adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play. Set in London at the end of the 19th century, Moore's performance of Mrs. Laura Cheverly earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. She was also nominated in the Drama category that year for her work in The End of the Affair (1999). Based on the novel by Graham Greene, Moore played opposite Ralph Fiennes as an adulterous wife in 1940s Britain. Critic Michael Sragow was full of praise for her work, writing that her performance was "the critical element that makes [the film] necessary viewing." Moore received her second Academy Award nomination for the role—her first for Best Actress—as well as nominations at the British Academy (BAFTA) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards. In between these two releases, Moore was also seen in A Map of the World, supporting Sigourney Weaver.
Moore's fifth and final film of 1999 was the acclaimed drama Magnolia, a "giant mosaic" chronicling the lives of multiple characters over one day in Los Angeles. Paul Thomas Anderson, in his follow-up to Boogie Nights, wrote a role specifically for Moore. His primary objective was to "see her explode", and he cast her as a morphine-addicted wife. "Linda [Moore's character] is borderline hysteric through 90% of this movie", he said; "I was taking advantage of knowing Julianne and knowing how good she is." His direction to her was to "just go nuts". Moore has said it was a particularly difficult role, but she was rewarded with a SAG nomination. She was subsequently named Best Supporting Actress of 1999 by the National Board of Review, in recognition of her three performances in Magnolia, An Ideal Husband, and A Map of the World.
The year 2000 saw only one appearance from Moore, a cameo role in the comedy The Ladies Man. In early 2001, she appeared as FBI Agent Clarice Starling in Hannibal, a sequel to the Oscar winning film The Silence of the Lambs. Several actresses vied for the role after Jodie Foster, the original Starling, declined it. Director Ridley Scott eventually cast Moore over Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett, Gillian Anderson, and Helen Hunt. The change in actress received considerable attention from the press. Moore was excited to be given the part but claimed she was not trying to upstage Foster: "Jodie was magnificent ... It's an honor to be asked to repeat something after she's done it. But I'm not going to be able to do what she did. There's just no way." Despite negative reviews, Hannibal was another blockbuster release for Moore, earning $58 million in its opening weekend and finishing as the tenth highest-grossing film of the year. In three more 2001 releases, Moore starred with David Duchovny in the science fiction–comedy Evolution, appeared in her husband's dramatic film World Traveler, and acted with Kevin Spacey, Judi Dench, and Cate Blanchett in The Shipping News. All three films were poorly received.
"It truly was a gift ... It was so beautifully written and realized that it begged to be done ... I almost get emotional talking about it ... it was such an incredible honor to do."
—Moore speaking aboutFar from Heaven, her "defining film".
A film critic wrote in 2002 that Moore was at "the pinnacle of her career". At the 75th Academy Awards she was nominated in both the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories, becoming the ninth performer in history to be nominated for two awards in the same year. The Best Actress nomination came for the melodrama Far from Heaven, which Guardian journalist Oliver Burkeman calls her defining film. Moore played Cathy Whitaker, a 1950s housewife whose world is shaken when her husband (Dennis Quaid) reveals he is gay. The role was written specifically for her by Todd Haynes, the first time the pair had worked together since Safe, and Moore described it as "a very, very personal project." David Rooney of Variety praised Moore's "beautifully gauged performance" of a desperate woman "buckling under social pressures and putting on a brave face". Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "what Moore does with her role is so beyond the parameters of what we call great acting that it nearly defies categorization." The role won Moore the Best Actress award from 19 different organizations, including the Venice Film Festival and the National Board of Review.
Moore's second Oscar nomination that year came for The Hours, which she co-starred in with Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep. She again played a troubled 1950s housewife, prompting Kenneth Turan to write that she was "essentially reprising her Far from Heaven role". Moore said it was an "unfortunate coincidence" that the similar roles came at the same time, and that the characters were "really different kinds of people". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the performance "wrenching", while Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian praised a "superbly controlled, humane performance". The Hours was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Moore also received BAFTA and SAG Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress, and was jointly awarded the Silver Bear for Best Actress with Kidman and Streep at the Berlin Film Festival.
Moore did not make any screen appearances in 2003, but returned in 2004 with three releases. There was no success in her first two ventures of the year: Marie and Bruce, a dark comedy co-starring Matthew Broderick, failed to find an audience; Laws of Attraction followed, pitting her opposite Pierce Brosnan in a courtroom-based romantic comedy, but was panned by critics. Commercial success returned to Moore with The Forgotten, a psychological thriller in which she plays a mother who is told her dead son never existed. Although the film was unpopular with critics, it opened as the US box office number one.
In 2005, Moore worked with her husband for the third time in the comedy Trust the Man, and starred in the true story of a 1950s housewife, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. Her first release of 2006 wasFreedomland, a mystery co-starring Samuel L. Jackson. The response was overwhelmingly negative but her follow-up, Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men (2006), was highly acclaimed. Moore had a supporting role in the dystopian drama, playing the leader of an activist group. It is one of the best reviewed films of her career, and was named by Peter Travers as the second best film of the decade.
In November 2006, Moore made her Broadway debut in the world premiere of David Hare's play The Vertical Hour. The production was directed by Sam Mendes and co-starred Bill Nighy. Moore played the role of Nadia, a former war correspondent who finds her views on the 2003 invasion of Iraq challenged. Ben Brantley of The New York Times was unenthusiastic about the production, and described Moore as miscast: in his opinion, she failed to bring the "tough, assertive" quality that Nadia required. David Rooney of Variety criticized Moore's "lack of stage technique", adding that she appeared "stiffly self-conscious". Michael Billington of The Guardian said Nadia was the play's main flaw, but that this was "in no way the fault of Julianne Moore, who gives a fine performance." Moore later confessed that she found performing on Broadway difficult and had not connected with the medium, but was glad to have experimented with it. The play closed in March 2007 after 117 performances.
Moore played an FBI agent for the second time in Next (2007), a science fiction–action film co-starring Nicolas Cage and Jessica Biel. Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, the response from critics was highly negative. Manhola Dargis wrote, "Ms. Moore seems terribly unhappy to be here, and it’s no wonder." She followed it with Savage Grace (2007), the true story of Barbara Daly Baekeland—a high-society mother whose Oedipal relationship with her son ended in murder. Moore was fascinated by the role, but the film was considered controversial for its explicit depiction of incest. She told an interviewer, "Obviously you do have some trepidation about that kind of stuff, but it’s not being celebrated. This is presented as a tragedy." Savage Grace had a limited release, and received predominantly negative reviews. Peter Bradshaw, however, called it a "coldly brilliant and tremendously acted movie."
I'm Not There (2007) saw Moore work with Todd Haynes for the third time. The film explores the life of Bob Dylan, with Moore playing a character based on Joan Baez. In 2008, she starred with Mark Ruffalo in Blindness, a dystopian thriller from director Fernando Meirelles. The film was a commercial failure. Moore was not seen on screens again until late 2009, with three new releases. She had a supporting role in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, and then starred in the erotic thriller Chloe with Amanda Seyfried and Liam Neeson. Shortly afterwards, she appeared in the well-received drama A Single Man. Set in 1960s Los Angeles, the film starred Colin Firth as a homosexual professor who wishes to end his life. Moore played his best friend, "a fellow English expat and semi-alcoholic divorcee". Writer–director Tom Ford created the character with her in mind. Leslie Felperin of Variety commented that it was Moore's best role in "some time", and was impressed by the "extraordinary emotional nuance" of the performance. A Single Man was named one of the 10 best films of the year by the American Film Institute, and Moore received a fifth Golden Globe nomination for her work.
Moore returned to television for the first time in 18 years when she took a guest role in the fourth season of 30 Rock. She appeared in five episodes of the Emmy-winning comedy, playing Nancy Donovan, a love interest for Alec Baldwin's character Jack Donaghy. She later appeared in the series finale in January 2013. Moore also returned to As the World Turns, making a cameo appearance as Frannie Hughes when the show was cancelled in 2010. Her first big-screen appearance of the new decade was Shelter (2010), a film described as "heinous" by Tim Robey of The Telegraph. The psychological thriller received negative reviews and did not have a US release until 2013 (retitled 6 Souls).
Moore next starred with Annette Bening in the independent film The Kids Are All Right (2010), a comedy–drama about a lesbian couple whose teenage children locate their sperm donor. The role of Jules Allgood was written for her by writer–director Lisa Cholodenko, who felt that Moore was the right age, adept at both drama and comedy, and confident with the film's sexual content. Moore was drawn to the film's "universal" depiction of married life, and committed to the project in 2005. The Kids Are All Right was widely acclaimed, eventually garnering an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Critic Betsy Sharkey praised Moore's performance of Jules, who she called an "existential bundle of unrealized need and midlife uncertainty", writing, "There are countless moments when the actress strips bare before the camera—sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally ... and Moore plays every note perfectly." The Kids Are All Right earned Moore a sixth Golden Globe Award nomination and a second BAFTA nomination for Best Actress.
"I read her biography, books that were written about her and the election, listened to her voice endlessly on my iPod and worked with a vocal coach. I basically immersed myself in the study of her, and attempted to authenticate her as completely as possible ... It was tremendously challenging to represent someone so very well-known and idiosyncratic, and so recently in the public eye."—Moore discussing her portrayal of Sarah Palin inGame Change
For her next project, Moore actively looked for another comedy. "I find that’s what’s been exciting me these days", she told an interviewer. In July 2011, she had a supporting role in Crazy, Stupid, Love—a romantic comedy starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone. The film was favorably reviewed and earned $142.8 million worldwide.Moore was not seen on screens again until March 2012, with a performance that received considerable praise and recognition. She starred in the HBO television film Game Change, a dramatization of Sarah Palin's 2008 campaign to become Vice President. Portraying a well-known figure was something Moore found challenging; in preparation, she conducted extensive research and worked with a dialect coach for two months. Although the response to the film was mixed, Moore received rave reviews. The San Francisco Chroniclewrote, "Yes, the hair, makeup and costumes contribute mightily to transforming Moore, but the nuance she brings to the performance is simply astounding." For the first time in her career, Moore received a Golden Globe, a Primetime Emmy, and a SAG Award.
Moore made two film appearances in 2012. The drama Being Flynn, in which she supported Robert De Niro, had a limited release. What Maisie Knew, a 21st-century-adaptation ofthe novel by Henry James, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2012. Moore stars in the film alongside Alexander Skarsgård and Steve Coogan. Early in 2013,Don Jon, the directorial debut of Joseph Gordon Levitt, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival with Moore in a supporting role. It is expected to have a wide release in the summer of 2013. Moore has five upcoming projects; The English Teacher, which she stars in with Greg Kinnear, will premiere in April 2013. In October 2013, she will be seen as Margaret White in Carrie, an adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel. The fantasy–adventure film The Seventh Son is also set for an October release, which Moore stars in with Jeff Bridges. She has signed on to two additional films: the action–thriller Non-Stop with Liam Neeson, and the comedy–drama Imagine, where she will co-star with Al Pacino and Jeremy Renner. In July 2013, Moore joined the production of David Cronenbergs Maps to the Stars, which is described as dark comic look at Hollywood excess.
Moore has been described as one of the most talented and accomplished actresses of her generation. As a woman in her 50s, she is unusual in being an older actress who continues to work regularly and in good roles. She enjoys the variety of appearing in both low-budget independent films and large-scale Hollywood productions. In 2004, an IGN journalist wrote of this "rare ability to bounce between commercially viable projects like Nine Months to art house masterpieces like Safe unscathed", adding, "She is respected in art houses and multiplexes alike." She is noted for playing in a range of material, and director Ridley Scott has praised her versatility.
"I never care that [my characters] are "strong". I never care that they're even affirmative. I look for that thing that's human and recognizable and emotional. You know, we're not perfect, we're not heroic, we're not in control. We're our own worst enemies sometimes, we cause our own tragedies ... that's the stuff that I think is really compelling."—Moore explaining why she is drawn to playing troubled women.
Moore is particularly known for playing troubled women, and specializes in "ordinary women who suppress powerful emotions". Oliver Burkeman of The Guardian writes that her characters are typically "struggling to maintain a purchase on normality in the face of some secret anguish or creeping awareness of failure". Suzie Mackenzie, also of The Guardian, has identified a theme of "characters in a state of alienation ... women who have forgotten or lost themselves. People whose identity is a question." Her performances often include small hints at emotional turmoil, until there comes a point when the character breaks. Journalist Kira Cochrane has identified this as a "trademark moment" in many of her best films, while it has led Burkeman to call her the "queen of the big-screen breakdown". Ben Brantley of The New York Times has praised Moore's ability to subtly reveal the inner-turmoil of her characters, writing that she is "peerless" in her "portraits of troubled womanhood." When it comes to more authoritative roles, Brantley believes she is "a bit of a bore". "Emotional nakedness is Ms. Moore’s specialty," he says, "and it’s here that you sense the magic she is capable of."
An interest in portraying "actual human drama" has led Moore to these roles. She is particularly moved by the concept of an individual repressing their troubles and striving to maintain dignity. Roles where the character achieves an amazing feat are of little interest to her, because "we're just not very often in that position in our lives." Early in her career, Moore established a reputation for pushing boundaries, and she continues to be praised for her "fearless" performances and for taking on difficult roles. When asked if there are any roles she has avoided, she replied, "Nothing within the realm of human behaviour". She is known for her willingness to perform nude, although Moore has said she will only do nude scenes if she feels it fits the role. Regarding her approach to acting, Moore said in a 2002 interview that she leaves 95% of the performance to be discovered on set: "I want to have a sense of who a character is, and then I want to get there and have it happen to me on camera." The aim, she said, is to "try to get yourself in a position to let the emotion [happen] to you, that you don't bring the emotion to it ... and when it happens, there's nothing better or more exciting or more rewarding."
|Freckleface Strawberry book cover. Moore's first children's book, published in 2007.|
Alongside her acting work, Moore has established a career as a children's book author. Freckleface Strawberry was published in October 2007, with illustration by LeUyen Pham. Described by Time Out as a "simple, sweet and semi-autobiographical narrative", it tells the story of a girl who wishes to be rid of her freckles but eventually accepts them. Moore decided to write the book when her young son began disliking aspects of his appearance. She was reminded of her own childhood, when she was teased for having freckles and called "Freckleface Strawberry" by other children. Expanding on this experience and the moral of the book, Moore says, "for the next 20 years or so, you can be obsessed by your big feet or your big teeth or your crazy hair—before you come out on the other end and say, 'I may not like parts of how I look, but there's not a whole lot I can do about it.'" The book was a New York Times Best Seller.
Moore has written two follow-up books in the series: Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully was published in 2009, and Freckleface Strawberry: Best Friends Forever in 2011. The original book has been adapted into a musical, written by Rose Caiola and Gary Kupper. Freckleface Strawberry the Musical premiered at the New World Stages, New York, in October 2010. Moore had some input in the show's development, particularly through requesting that it retain the book's young target audience. In reviewing the musical, The New York Times wrote, "fast-moving and funny, it will entertain children much older than its [seven-year-old] heroine." Freckleface Strawberry has also been developed into a mobile app, released in March 2013.
Moore's fourth children's book will be released in September 2013, separate from the Freckleface Strawberry series. Titled My Mom is a Foreigner, But Not to Me, it is based on Moore's experiences of growing up with a mother from another country.
Moore met her first husband, actor and stage director John Gould Rubin, in 1984. They married on May 3, 1986, when she was 25. Moore separated from Rubin in 1993, which she has called the biggest decision of her life. "I got married too early and I really didn't want to be there", she has since explained. Their divorce was finalized in August 1995, and the pair are no longer in contact.
In 1996, Moore began a relationship with Bart Freundlich, her director on The Myth of Fingerprints. He was 26 and she was 35. The couple have a son, Caleb (born December 1997) and a daughter, Liv (born April 2002). They wed on August 23, 2003, and live in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan. Moore says, "We have a very solid family life, and it is the most satisfying thing I have ever done." She tries to keep her family close when working, and picks material that is practical for her as a parent. "Just like every other working parent", she says, "I'm trying to figure out: 'How do I work, how am I available for soccer games, how can I make sure that I'm home when everybody's doing their homework?'"
Moore is politically liberal, and supported Barack Obama at the 2008 and 2012 Presidential Elections. She is a pro-choice activist, and sits on the board of advocates for Planned Parenthood. She is also a campaigner for gay rights, and since 2008 she has been an Artist Ambassador for Save the Children. Regarding religion, Moore has implied that she is an atheist. When asked on Inside the Actors Studio what God might say to her upon arrival at heaven, she gave God's response as, "Well I guess you were wrong, I do exist."
Moore has said she finds little value in the concept of celebrity, and is concerned with living a "normal" life. Upon meeting her, journalist Suzie Mackenzie described Moore as "the most unostentatious of stars", and she attracts little gossip or tabloid attention. She is humble about her profession ("it's just a person with a job") and casual in her appearance. Moore is known for maintaining a natural image and refraining from botox and plastic surgery. "I feel like it doesn't make people look any younger. It makes them look like they've had surgery", she said on The Early Show in 2009; "It's an aesthetic that's not human."