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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Julianne Moore has played a range of film characters from a cocaine snorting porn star in "Boogie Nights" to a lesbian cheating mom in "The Kids Are All Right," and she's been Oscar nominated four times for movies including "The Hours."
On Saturday, the 51-year-old takes on another complicated role, portraying real-life conservative firebrand politician Sarah Palin in HBO's "Game Change."
The TV movie, which is based on Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's book of the same name, offers a dramatization of the Republican 2008 campaign and failed presidential bid of John McCain (Ed Harris), as told through the eyes of senior strategist Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson).
With a strong vocal impression and uncanny physical resemblance to Palin, Moore delivers the one-time vice president nominee Palin in a role that already has some industry watchers buzzing with Emmy predictions. Reuters sat down with Moore to talk about her role in the film and her work outside acting.
Q: Was it hard playing someone who is still living?
A: "I've never played a living figure, and the responsibility of that is enormous. She's extremely well-known and still very present. She's a correspondent on Fox. I certainly felt a real responsibility not to do anything that was not corroborated by the writer."
Q: Sarah Palin is a polarizing figure who engenders many different opinions. Are you ready for viewers' responses?
A: "There's been already been a strong response to the movie. But the film is well-researched and well-documented. What became evident and what we dramatize is the fact that she was not vetted to the extent that they usually vet a candidate. They were in a hurry. They needed a running mate, and I think the vetting process was maybe somewhat more cursory than it should have been. And as they find out more and more about her, they realize that she doesn't know much about foreign policy, and that became evident to the American people, particularly with Charlie Gibson, Sean Hannity as well and Katie Couric."
Q: How did you prepare to play the role of someone so well-known and often satirized, most famously by Tina Fey?
A: "It's probably the most intense preparation I've done for a part. Her television appearances including the debate are on YouTube, and she has a book on tape, so I listened to all those. My children laughed at me because I put anything ever documented or said by her on my iPod. I had my daughter's skating song, "Ice, Ice Baby," and the rest was all Sarah Palin. I listened to it constantly whenever I was in the car, when I was running. And I worked with a vocal coach and moved on to the physical mannerisms once I had that down because you can get tripped up looking at something physically before you have it down orally."
Q: You've supported a number of special interest campaigns, "Moms Clean Air Force" and "Save the Children," to name two. Are you a political person and can you tell us about these causes.
A: "The Clean Air Act was signed into a bill in 1970. This is an important campaign about supporting that act. Clean air is not a political issue or partisan issue. It's something we all share and how we all breathe the same air. It's something we can all be united about.
"As an ambassador for Save The Children for US programs, I founded a Valentine's Day card initiative with all the proceeds going directly to "Save the Children." In the United States we have this idea that everyone is supposed to get a fair shot and equal education, but that's not always the case. "Save the Children" goes into places where they really don't have the resources and tries to make it a little bit better."
Q: What do you think you'd be doing if you weren't an actor?
A: "Sometimes I think I'd like to be a librarian because I love books so much, and sometimes I say I think I'd like to be a doctor. I love so many things. I love design. I love decorating. Fortunately, the great thing about life is you can choose what you do for a living, but you can also do many other things just because you enjoy them."
Q: You have written children's books, and your "Freckleface Strawberry" debuted as an Off-Broadway Musical in 2010. Will you be writing more in the future?
A: "I have three "Freckleface Strawberry" books. There's the first one and there's "Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully," and the third one came out this fall, called "Best Friends Forever." I have another book coming out next year that's not part of the "Freckleface" series, "My Mom is a Foreigner." It's a children's picture book based on my experience growing up with a mother from another country.
"My Mom is from Scotland, and I wanted to write a book for her. It's about that idea that your mother is from another place but still being just that same as any other mother."
Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: "I'm the best cleaner I know. I'm excellent. My sister and I are a tremendous team, if you ever need anyone to clean your house. It's just an innate skill I have."
Reporting By Jill Jacobs; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte