Moore’s latest film is “After the Wedding” a remake of a 2006 melodrama by Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier. The story centers on a woman named Isabel (Michelle Williams), who’s called away from the orphanage she manages in India to accept a sizable donation from business executive Theresa (Moore). When Theresa invites Isabel to her daughter’s wedding, it’s discovered that her husband (Billy Crudup) was once Isabel’s lover.
Written and directed by Bart Freundlich, the remake mostly preserves Bier’s plot, with one crucial twist: Moore and Williams take on roles originally played by men. Without the gender-swap, says Moore, the remake never would have happened.
“By making both of the main characters female, you change the whole structure of the story,” explains the actress, 58, speaking by phone. “It becomes much more deliberate.”
When Freundlich, who’s married to Moore, was first approached about adapting Bier’s film (which was nominated for a foreign film Oscar), he “couldn’t figure out a good reason” to remake it, he admits.
Though attracted to the story’s tangled family dynamics, Freundlich had no angle — until he hit upon the idea of the gender-swap, which gave him a fresh way to tell the story, as well as a reason to court Moore for a lead role.
“People talk about how challenging it can be to work with the person you live with,” says the director, 49. “But when the person you live with is the most talented actor on the face of the earth, it kind of overshadows any of the challenges.”
Moore wouldn’t sign on until she’d been sufficiently convinced by Freundlich’s script. But she fell for the director’s reinvented character of Theresa, a business executive in the midst of selling her company, who’s keeping a dark truth from her artist husband (Billy Crudup).
“She’s been wildly successful in her life through making a series of deliberate choices about who she was and what she was going to do,” explains Moore. “Now, for the first time in her life, she’s involved in a situation where she can’t control the outcome — and she’s furious.”
Moore keeps Theresa’s rage tamped down, until she can’t. Athird-act revelation precipitates the inevitable breakdown. Moore describes acting in this heightened emotional state as “self-hypnosis,” a kind of mind-trick she plays on herself.
“While you’re in the process of it,” says the actress, “you need to convince your brain and body that something’s actually happening to you, so you can let it happen on camera.”
Moore says she doesn’t get lost in her characters the way some Method actors profess to. What she describes as the “dual reality” of engaging with a role while accounting for other actors and camera angles makes it easier for her to stay grounded in reality.
“It’s this incredibly elaborate game of pretend in which you can actually make your blood pressure go up by convincing yourself it’s all real,” she says. “But at the same time, you know it’s not.”
Earlier this year, Moore earned glowing reviews in “Gloria Bell,” another Hollywood redo of a foreign film. Asked if remakes hold a particular appeal for her, Moore questions the question.
“In the theater, there are great pieces of literature that we repeat over and over, that are open to reinterpretation,” notes Moore. “No one ever says, when you’re doing a Shakespeare play, that you’re doing a remake of Shakespeare.”
Moore studied theater at Boston University in the early ’80s. Inadvertently, says the actress, her more formative education happened off-campus, at local theaters like the since-shuttered Nickelodeon, just off of Commonwealth Avenue, and the Coolidge in Brookline.
Before accepting the Coolidge Award in April, Moore poked her head into the upstairs movie house and instantly remembered seeing David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” (1977) there.
“What you gain from watching a lot of film is that you learn the language of it,” she says. When she shot “Far From Heaven,” Moore recalled watching Douglas Sirk melodramas — especially “All That Heaven Allows” (1955) and “Imitation of Life” (1959), to which the film paid lengthy homage.
“In these movies, there’s a shared understanding of how these people speak and behave, and it’s not quite naturalism,” she explains. “It’s what was considered naturalistic at the time, but it’s not naturalistic to us now. That was never brought up to me specifically, but it’s something I already understood because I’d watched those movies.”
Sirk’s elegant melodramas were one influence on “After the Wedding,” which Freundlich says he sought to translate from Bier’s “raw, avant-garde” original into something more his own.
The film is Freundlich and Moore’s fourth collaboration — they met when she was cast in his 1997 feature debut, “The Myth of Fingerprints” — but it’s their first in nearly 15 years and more of a family affair than past collaborations. Their 17-year-old daughter, Liv, was a production assistant.
“It’s always complicated,” says Moore. “It’s wonderful to go to work together and go home together. But you have very little separation.”
When “After the Wedding” shot scenes on a property in New York’s scenic Oyster Bay, Freundlich spotted a tiny one-bedroom guest house and decided to sleep there, so as to more fully immerse himself.
Moore and their daughter took one look and made other arrangements, especially after the draining experience of filming her climactic breakdown. A little self-care, she recalls, was in order.
“We would drive half an hour to a nearby hotel, watch ‘The Bachelor’ and eat junk food,” says Moore. “I enjoyed that separation.”