It was an early morning at Webster Hall, and Julianne Moore was ready to rock. Two summers ago, the Oscar-nominated actress shot the indie What Maisie Knew (opening tomorrow in New York), a modern-day version of the 1897 Henry James novel where Moore plays Susanna, a famous rocker chick whose young daughter becomes collateral damage during her divorce. And on this day, at an ungodly hour better suited to crickets than concerts, a leather-clad Moore strutted across the stage of Webster Hall, planted a foot on the monitor, and belted "Hook and Line" by the Kills with woozy rock-goddess panache. "It was like a friggin' rock concert, I swear to God," remembers Elaine Caswell, who served as Moore's vocal coach for the movie. "I had just watched The Hours the week before, and I was like, Wait, this is the same person I just saw in The Hours, and now she's up there on the stage killing it?"
At the behest of directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel (who helmed the Tilda Swinton drama The Deep End), Caswell spent several summer weeks with Moore trying to turn her from an Oscar-nominated movie star into a plausibly dissolute rock icon. "I was like, 'Help her out?' Like she needs my help?'" laughs Caswell. "She's such an accomplished actress that for me to give her any kind of directions seemed absurd." Initially, Caswell spent her sessions with Moore drinking wine and studing the masters on YouTube in the actress's West Village apartment. "We watched all the great crazy rock chicks: Janis Joplin, Chrissie Hynde, Courtney Love," she says. "To me, it was all about the attitude. It's about getting loose and getting your body relaxed. It wasn't like, 'Here, sing this note' … it was more like, 'Go for it and really feel it, and we'll see where it lands. Can you do another one with more dirt in your voice?'"
You can check out the fruit of their labor in the exclusive clip below, where Moore's Webster Hall performance is captured in what's essentially her music-video debut. "By then, she was embodying the character so well," raves Caswell. "I was in the audience just cheering her on! She was totally it, you know?"