In Still Alice, Julianne Moore proves her acting chops (not at anyone's request, given her successful career), as a middle-aged woman afflicted by early-onset Alzheimer's. In the same film, Kristen Stewart earns praises for her role as Moore's daughter, who comes to terms with her mother's disease while pursuing an acting career. During a recent AOL Build speaker conference, the costars discussed Moore's Oscar nomination, their unparalleled devotion to the craft of acting, and what they learned while filming.
Lesson 1: Never Forget Where You Come From
"I actually [rushed back to New York City after the Golden Globes] for my son's basketball game," says Moore while appreciating the juxtaposition of awards season's high glamour routine and more "grounding" activities. Stewart, who oozes down-to-earthness in person, displays her humbleness when talking about acting alongside her costar: "I was thinking, how can I do that? How can I play that with Julianne Moore?"
Lesson 2: Use the Heavy Subject Matter to Craft an Incredible Performance
Still Alice is based on the eponymous novel by Lisa Genova, a writer and neuroscientist. The film adaptation was written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, in production while the former suffered from ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) and was unable to talk (he communicated through an iPad while on set). Seeing Glatzer work on the film inspired Moore, Stewart, and the rest of the cast. "You might lose the experience of someone being there, [but when that person is there, you have to] embrace them and talk to them," says Moore.
Lesson 3: Acting is a Skill That Needs to be Honed
Moore confesses to never having watched the final cut of the film. "To me, it's never as good as it felt while I was doing it," she explains. "I really, really, really like the process. I loved being there with Kristen. There was a part of the movie I was really happy about. She [Stewart] cries. This tear comes out and I go like that [she wipes a fictional tear off Stewart's face]. It's so exciting, because it's live," she says.
Stewart agrees: "It's that feeling of getting a true experience. It is something that kind of just takes over." Stewart's favorite scene? When the doctor asks Moore for her age, and she responds "fifty." "That one line is a novel," says Stewart.
Lesson 4: Everyone Around You is a Source of Inspiration
"Are you kidding me?" says Stewart when asked about what she learned from her co-star. "I'm obsessed with the technical side of making movies," she goes on. "Not just the losing yourself bit. This is the first time I worked with someone I really felt similar to creatively. She is so technically inclined and precise and, honestly, if I could master the art of balancing like Julianne... You think she's cool? You have no idea."
Moore's praises for the younger actress are just as grandiose: "She has such an emotional accessibility. It was a beautiful thing to be in the presence of somebody who could flush with feeling in that way."
Moore makes it a point to also recognize her on-screen husband, Alec Baldwin. The actress recounts that she had been trying to work with Baldwin for quite some time and would constantly email him potential parts. He rejected them all and eventually asked for a dramatic role. "I told him that it was a small part and didn't know if he'd do it," she explains. He immediately accepted.
Lesson 5: The Role You Take On is Bound to Shape Your Outlook on Life
"It really makes you inspect your life in a way you probably wouldn't unless you were personally affected," says Stewart in regards to learning about Alzheimer's through her character. "I reaped benefits from it, it's [as if] I know somebody who has it... but I don't. So I don't have the pain in full aspect."
Moore agrees: "I feel grateful for my marriage and my kids and my dogs. I think that it's made me a better person."
Lesson 6: Always Stay Modest (Especially When Dealing With a Really Important Award)
When asked about the Oscars, Stewart laughs and points to her co-star, who is in the running for the Best Actress award. "I think it's a good year," she says. "It's a good year and she's got it." Moore's own take? "I don't know why it has to be a race... except we can't help ourselves!"
PHOTOGRAPHY VIA FACEBOOK.COM/STILLALICEMOVIE (BALDWIN); JENNY ANDERSON/GETTYIMAGES (AOL BUILD); DIMITRIOS KAMBOURIS/GETTYIMAGES (SCREENING)