Julianne Moore’s wonderfully queer career

When Freeheld opens in theaters tomorrow, Julianne Moore will play a queer woman for the fifth time on film. The accomplished and Academy Award-winning actress is one of the best of her generation, and even just looking at her lesbian/bi roles can show you why. Every single character is their own nuanced, three-dimensional woman with unique desires, motivations and relationships. Whether Julianne is playing a 1950s housewife trapped in a meaningless existence or a modern day mother struggling to find her identity outside of her relationship and children, Julianne is the kind of straight actress and ally that we celebrate representing us on screen.

“Sexuality has never come into the equation for me, because I’m only interested in the scripts and the stories,” Julianne once told The Advocate. “I’ve been lucky enough to get some great ones, and a lot of them have come from gay men and women.” From the beginning of her career, she’s been in films from out directors and producers like Todd Haynes, Christine Vachon, Tom Ford and Lisa Cholodenko. Julianne has also been vocal in the LGBT rights movement, lending her support to the HRC, GLAAD and other causes in the name of equality.

So if there is truly such thing as an honorary lesbian, Julianne Moore is surely one. Here are five times she played a queer woman on the big screen:

Laura Brown, The Hours (2002)the-hours

In the adaptation of Michael Cunningham‘s novel, Julianne is a soft-spoken pregnant housewife with a young child named Richie. One afternoon, she kisses her friend, Kitty (Toni Collette), and soon after decides to commit suicide. The story is intertwined with others of women who have ties to Virgina Woolf‘s Mrs. Dalloway, including Virginia Woolf herself, a role that won Nicole Kidman the Oscar for Best Actress. Julianne was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and received several other accolades for her role in the well-loved and very lesbian-themed film.

In Julianne’s words: This is a woman who is confused by issues in a marriage she doesn’t want to be in; she doesn’t have any idea about her sexuality; she’s desperately unhappy; she doesn’t even know whether she wants to be in this life – she’s a reader, not a participator. And she’s just lost. She has no options. Nothing.

Kat, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009)private-lives

The role is brief, but Julianne always manages to make an impact. In this indie that follows one woman, Pippa Lee, throughout the different periods of her life, Julianne plays Kat, Pippa’s Aunt Trish’s lover; a photographer who encourages her to pose in seductive sadomasochistic poses for “a book” she’s working on. Even in the few minutes she’s sharing the screen with a scantily-clad Blake Lively, Julianne embodies her character fully, leaving viewers wanting.

In Julianne’s words: “I was very attracted to playing Kat in Pippa Lee because she’s very tough and inscrutable.”

Catherine Stewart, Chloe (2009)chloe

In this dark, hypersexual thriller, Catherine is a successful gynecologist who hires a sex worker named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to test her husband’s fidelity. Catherine and Chloe’s relationship takes a turn for the sexual, and things become complicated when Chloe’s intensity for Catherine becomes an obsession.

In Julianne’s words“[The script] made me nervous. It’s tricky stuff to do. Had this come to me with somebody other than [director] Atom [Egoyan] attached it would have really given me pause. Honestly, unless you’re in Catherine’s decisions every step of the way, then yeah, it can be prurient or salacious. Obviously there’s something inherently dangerous about doing a [sex] scene like that, but it was all very deliberately staged, we watched playback, we were able to adjust things.”


Jules, The Kids Are All Right (2010)kids

Lisa Cholodenko’s film about a lesbian couple (Julianne and co-star Annette Bening) who unwillingly become reunited with their children’s sperm donor was divisive amongst the community based on Julianne’s role as the lost, cheating wife. As one of the first major films to be made starring a lesbian couple with a family, this spawned important conversations about lesbian visibility in Hollywood and saw Julianne nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

In Julianne’s words: “I’ve said this a lot, but films don’t influence culture as much as they reflect it. I think the reason we can have a film like this is because these are the kind of families we’re seeing right now; this is not shocking.”

Detective Laurel Hester, Freeheld (2015)freeheld

Based on a true story that inspired a documentary of the same name, Julianne stars as a New Jersey police detective who comes out about her relationship with domestic partner, Stacie (Ellen Page), after being diagnosed with a rapidly progressing cancer. Freeheld chronicles her fight to give Stacie her pension benefits after she passes away, as well as the romance and love story that led up to that point. Julianne is, of course, perfect in it.

In Julianne’s words: “The thing about Laurel that was evident in the documentary and also evident in speaking to her family members, is that she was a true believer in justice. Her entire life, she was interested in the justice system and supporting the underdog. She had kind of done this quietly her entire life. This was the first time in her life that she actually turned that quality to help the person closest to her. It was really important to her that people be treated fairly, and that everyone be given a fair shot, that the weak be defended, and protected. 

The one thing that she wanted was justice for the woman that she loved, and that was one of the things that she said in the documentary. After this entire life of fighting for justice for other people, she wanted it for the woman she loved.”

Freeheld opens in select tomorrow.