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Julianne Moore didn't want to lose the audience's respect in portrayal of Sarah Palin

The Oscar winner also spoke about what went into her eccentric character in "The Big Lebowski" and other famous roles.
/ Source: TODAY

In a career filled with standout performances, one of Julianne Moore's most recognized was her portrayal of Sarah Palin in the 2012 HBO movie "Game Change" that earned her a Golden Globe and an Emmy.

The actor spoke with Willie Geist on Sunday TODAY about how she deeply researched the role of playing the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee because she didn't want it to be a simple caricature of Palin.

Julianne Moore
Julianne Moore on May 18, 2017.Stephane Cardinale - Corbis / Corbis via Getty Images

"I started listening to her voice and watching every recording I could and reading all the books and watching that TV show that she did," Moore said. "And I literally did nothing. I didn't go out. I just spent all of my time kind of studying it."

Her biggest fear was turning the former governor of Alaska into a cartoon on screen.

"You don't," she said. "And also, the minute you lose the audience's respect - if you show up and you don't sound like this person, if you don't look like this person, you don't behave like them - they can't watch the story."

Another one of Moore's indelible characters in her career was the eccentric Maude Lebowski in the 1998 cult classic "The Big Lebowski" with Jeff Bridges. She had high hopes for the movie that initially fizzled.

"The minute I read that script, I was like, 'Holy cow, this is amazing,'" she said. "It's genius. And then the reviews came out, and they killed it and it tanked. The movie tanked.

"And then it was just one of those movies that then slowly, over the years, people were like, Lebowski, Lebowski, Lebowski. And it just took off."

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Moore, 60, reached a career peak in 2015 when she won an Oscar for her performance as a college professor with Alzheimer's disease in the movie "Still Alice."

"Honestly, this is an award that's given to you by your peers, and I think we all know we care very much about what our co-workers think," she said. "So, yes, it's obviously really gratifying."

Her latest role is in the psychological thriller "Lisey's Story" on Apple TV+ that's based on a 2006 best-seller by horror maestro Stephen King. She plays a woman sifting the mysterious past of her late husband, a well-known author.

King wrote the screenplay and was often on the set as she helped bring his novel to life.

"Of course, it's really intimidating initially," she said. "I remember there was one day I had something really, really emotional to do, and I saw him catch my eye because he always wants to say something encouraging. But I was still in the middle of this emotional thing, so I was just like (laughs). But he would text you if he saw dailies and loved them."

Moore's decorated career has come after a childhood of moving around the world in a military family, which led her to trying acting while attending high school in Frankfurt, Germany. She and a friend got cut from the cheerleading and drill team while she was attending high school in Virginia before her family moved to a military base in Germany, so she decided to try something else.

"I'm like, 'Well, I guess I'll try out for the play," she said. "And then we moved to Germany, and I had an English teacher who was the theater coach. And I got a part and she said to me, 'You know, I think you could do this for a living.'

"And I came home to my parents and I'm like, 'I want to go to acting school.' It was amazing. She changed my life."

More than 75 roles later, the Oscar winner still has the same passion for acting that was fostered in Germany in the 1970s.

"I really like what I do," she said. "I really love what I do. And I didn't anticipate caring about it so much, loving it so much and loving it for so long."