Oscar nominee Julianne Moore is strolling her new neighborhood, a corner of New York City aptly named the meatpacking district. By her feet, thin rivulets of blood intermingle with hunks of sinew. All around, severed sow heads and sides of beef ride the backs of muscled packers. The mildest breeze stirs up a nauseating stench of rot.
Moore, cheerfully taking in the sights and smells, smiles and pulls her chic brown shawl tight around her. ”This neighborhood is great, isn’t it?”
Who says Julianne Moore isn’t perfect to play Clarice Starling?
If you haven’t been held hostage by a cannibal serial killer the past few months, you probably know the profound significance of that last sentence. But just in case: Clarice Starling is the FBI agent Jodie Foster played to perfection in 1991’s five-Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs, the film that introduced the decidedly nonvegetarian Hannibal Lecter to mainstream moviegoing audiences. When Foster declined to play Starling in Hannibal, the film’s much-anticipated sequel, the tempest created by rumors of her replacement made picking the next Anakin Skywalker seem like a routine call to central casting.
Because of that high-profile search, because of the nearly impossible job of replacing Foster in the hearts of Lambs fans (notably, well, fanatical) — and despite beating out the likes of Cate Blanchett and Gillian Anderson — Moore, 39, faces the biggest risk of her 10-year film career.
”I know a lot of actresses turned down the part for fear of filling Jodie’s shoes,” says Ted Tally, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Lambs, who passed on the sequel. ”I wouldn’t want to be compared to that performance — and c’mon, did anyone really want to see a different Scarlett O’Hara?”
And yet, here in New York’s grisliest quarter, Moore is the image of beatific composure, currently more concerned with replacing fruit spoiled by Caleb, her 2-year-old son with live-in partner Bart Freundlich, the director of her 17th film, The Myth of Fingerprints. ”Caleb’s into the throwing-things-on-the-ground game,” she says, sweeping her famous red hair over her shoulder. ”Now Mommy has to buy more apples.”
Caleb wasn’t the only one upsetting applecarts.
”Anthony Hopkins always talks about it. I mean, everybody wants to do it. Every time I see him, it’s like when is it going to happen? When is it going to happen?”
That was Jodie Foster to EW back in 1997. At the time, she, Lambs director Jonathan Demme, and costar Hopkins were poised for the sequel, as was the moviegoing public. Then, last June, Thomas Harris published Hannibal, and the participants — including Tally (who declines to comment on why he passed, noting he ”owed Tom Harris a lot” and didn’t want to say anything that would hurt his feelings) — began dropping like flies. Some critics and fans swiftly slammed the book, citing the degree to which Harris had dumbed Starling down — to the point of having her become Lecter’s cannibal love slave. Foster gave an official reason for dropping out — she preferred to direct Claire Danes and Russell Crowe in Flora Plum. But Demme’s withdrawal — his diplomatic excuse was that he’s ”suffering from sequelitis” — surely hurt: ”I wouldn’t want to not have Jonathan Demme direct the sequel,” Foster said in ‘97. There are also rumors that her asking price (pegged as high as $20 million) could never be seriously considered, but the compromising of Clarice and the focus on Lecter couldn’t have helped.