A family affair: Julianne Moore with her sister, Valerie Wells, and her father, Pete Smith. Photograph by Jeff Martin.
Last night’s premiere of the new HBO film Game Change was a family reunion for its star, Julianne Moore, who plays Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Moore was only in town for a few hours, but she got to visit with her father, Pete Smith, who lives in St. Michaels, Maryland, and her sister, Valerie Wells, who is a DC-based condo realtor. Smith and Wells, and Smith’s girlfriend, Debbie Kent, stood patiently and happily on the sidelines at the Newseum as Moore walked the rope line, her red hair barely visible above a scrum of media. When she was free of that it was time for family hugs and kisses.
Moore was born Julie Anne Smith, and to the family she is simply “Julie” (Moore is her father’s middle name). Smith is a retired Army colonel who, with his late wife, raised the family in a variety of locales, including Germany and Washington. He said it was in Germany, as a junior in high school, that Moore got bitten by the acting bug. “Julie was in all the school plays,” he said. “She came home one day and said to her mom, ‘I want to be an actress.’ Her mother said, ‘Don’t waste your brain.” Smith said, “We hoped she would be a lawyer or doctor, because she’s very bright, but she’s done all right for herself.”
Moore has starred in more than three dozen films since she wowed critics and audiences with her performance as porn star Amber Waves in the 1997 hit Boogie Nights. Smith said the movie is one of his favorites, along with The End of the Affair. Moore received Oscar nominations for both. When we pointed out that his daughter was quite often undressed in Boogie Nights, Smith shrugged. He said he got used to it. “And besides, her mother’s attitude was, ‘Better that than violence.’”
Game Change is based on the bestselling book of the same name, which chronicled the 2008 presidential campaign. But the film focuses only on the arc of Palin’s role as Senator John McCain’s running mate. Smith said his daughter was excited to play the part and he was heartened to hear so many people, including critics, laud her performance. What did Moore think? “Oh, she doesn’t like to watch herself,” he said.
Moore flew down from New York with director Jay Roach and screenwriter Danny Strong, as well as Sarah Paulson, who plays McCain staffer Nicolle Wallace. Also in the mix were the book’s authors, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.
The guests at the premiere were mostly from the ranks of media and politics, and in that crowd the pair getting the most attention were MSNBC Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, who wore a blue dress as tight and revealing as Moore’s emerald one. Scarborough was prepped out in a baggy blazer and khakis. Everywhere Scarborough went, a reporter or two followed, asking the former Republican congressman for his expert opinion on the GOP primaries as Bzezinski looked on patiently.
The hour-long pre-premiere reception took place in the Newseum’s lobby and featured a hefty buffet of chicken, beef, and fish, plus passed appetizers and bars stock with beer and wine. The lights had to be flashed several times to get the throng to stop socializing and file into the theater.