A five-time Oscar nominee (with a Best Actress win for 2014’s Still Alice), Julianne Moore is proper Hollywood royalty. With a career spanning four decades, she’s starred in everything, from daytime soaps to rough indies to prestige pictures to big blockbusters. And she has a particularly large presence in theaters late in 2017, with Suburbicon, Wonderstruck and, biggest of all, Kingsman: The Golden Circle all releasing. In the sequel to 2015’s The Secret Service, she plays Poppy, a smiling, welcoming, demented drug lord who takes aim at the titular organization.
Screen Rant got the chance to sit down with Moore and discuss what it’s like signing on for a project like this, what makes her character tick – and her experience working with the one and only Elton John.
The villain in a sequel is quite a big thing – and something you’d already done sneakily with Hunger Games. What about Kingsman made you want to come on and do the villain in this franchise, in the second one?
I thought the tone was so refreshing. I’d seen the first film and it was such a surprise. Matthew [Vaughn]’s taken the spy genre and turned it on its head and really modernized and infused it with a lot enrgy and so much humor. I adored it, so I was really, really happy that he asked me to do the sequel.
How did you relate to the original villain, Valentine, because you’re very different to Sam Jackson? You’re very clear spoken, whereas he had a lisp, and you’re very reclusive whereas he was very out there. How did you go about following that up as it was a very strong performance in the first one?
First of all, I love Sam Jackson. He’s one of my favorite actors, one of the best American actors out there. You know, I think the thing about a villain is you want them to be arresting and original, and Sam definitely was that in the original Kingsman. And, with this one, Matthew and Jane Goldman wrote something that was so different – something that I hadn’t seen, and something that really reminded me of Gene Hackman in Superman. That was one of the things I kept thinking of. He was this eccentric character but he seemed totally normal down there arguing with Valerie Perrine in this underground cave. And I mentioned that to him and he said “Yeah!” Matthew’s a big fan of Richard Donner, so that’s a reference point he liked.
The whole Poppy thing is obviously a commentary on the War on Drugs, and that feels quite relevant now – it makes something from the 80s feel very modern and pertinent. How did you feel taking on a character that represents that and really go about accentuating that point?
Well, I think that Matthew feels it’s important that villain not just be like a mustache-twirling bad guy but they have something that they want. Everybody has an agenda, everybody has something they want to achieve or something they believe in. So she believes she’s built a legitimate business; she’s built a big, big business that’s taking in so much revenue and that it’s time for her to come out of the shadows and be recognized among the pantheon of world business leaders. And so her point is, for something that’s making this much money, why are turning a blind eye to it. So in a sense, that part of her argument to me is true – people are making a lot of money, this is a business, but for me it means we need to deal with the actual problem, not capitalize on it.
The other thing with your character is the aesthetic. It’s very 1950s style, but also as you say [in the film] inspired by Grease and 70s nostalgia of the 50s.
There are so many cinematic references in this film, so it really isn’t about… it’s not just references to American pop culture, it’s American pop culture as viewed through a cinematic lens. So that to me was really interesting because it’s a double kind of thing. That’s not the 1950s, that’s the 1950s through the 1970s, and that’s the 1970s on Television, on film. So I liked the fact you keep going down a rabbit hole with these references.
It’s quite refreshing as well because 80s nostalgia is what’s “in”. Was that appealing at all going into something that’s aesthetically a bit different?
I just like things that reference things accurately. I even like the fact the person she captures is Elton John. The Elton John she wants is the Elton John from the 1970s. You know, from that era with the crazy costumes and the big shoes and the specificity of it was important to me.
Speaking of Elton John, how was he to work with as an actor and as someone who has such an iconography?
I know. He’s such a great person. So, so lovely, and this is somebody who’s been not only musically important but culturally enormously important, so what an honor to be with somebody like that. And he took it all so lightly. He was easy about sending himself up and wearing those crazy things, and was so generous on set. Really generous.
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