'What Maisie Knew' an education for Julianne Moore
"I'm pretty compartmentalized as an actor," she explained. "I don't think that my characters are me, so I don't believe they are necessarily living by the same set of rules that I'm living by."
What did make Moore anxious was the prospect of singing in a film for the first time. Not only would she be singing two songs and playing a brief lullaby on a guitar, she was to be seen in performance footage that would require her to stalk a stage like a seasoned pro.
"I'm not terribly cool," said Moore, "so being a rock star had never been in the realm of possibility for me."
Siegel and McGehee put Moore in touch with composer and producer Peter Nashel, who introduced Moore to singer Elaine Caswell. Caswell and Moore looked at clips of female rockers, including Patti Smith and Courtney Love, for inspiration, with Caswell helping Moore to find her own voice.
"You can't just tell somebody, 'Sing this note this way,'" Caswell said. "You have to have enough attitude to bring your head around the suppleness of it, the looseness of it. You have to find the grit."
Moore was to sing two songs by the Kills, whose dynamic lead singer, Alison Mosshart, also fronts the band the Dead Weather. Moore met Mosshart at a Kills show in New York before shooting and the two exchanged a few emails.
After finishing most of the "Maisie" shoot, Moore left to begin production on "The English Teacher" (by chance also opening this week in Los Angeles). Returning to wrap "Maisie," Moore and the production set up early one morning in New York City's Webster Hall to create concert footage with a backing band and small audience.
"It was a wild thing to hear her voice on those recordings," said Mosshart in an email, likening Moore's rock 'n' roll transformation to "a magic trick."
"I saw myself for a second and that was a crazy feeling. How did she do that?" Mosshart added. "I don't think I realized I had 'a thing.' It was like watching myself in a dream. She got my moves down, and I didn't even know I had moves. I was blown away by what she did."
Even with Moore having pre-recorded her vocals, Siegel and McGehee originally planned to shoot the performance footage in only short bursts of 45 seconds to a minute to lessen the pressure on Moore. Despite her own nervousness, Moore strutted like a veteran for the whole song through a number of takes, and "What Maisie Knew" wrapped shooting.