It was an unusually hectic Thursday night at the movies as Julianne Moore received the Coolidge Award in Brookline.
The Oscar-winning actress – and Boston University grad – spoke to a full house in the Coolidge Corner Theater’s main, 440-capacity moviehouse, reflecting on her body of work and formative years in the area during an hourlong discussion with local journalist Loren King.
Boston’s “a place that inspired me to be a film actress,” said Moore, noting she first saw “Eraserhead” at the Coolidge and spent countless hours at area theaters, discovering films like “Straw Dogs” and “Emmanuelle.”
Crediting Moore for “often playing women for whom the word ‘complex’ is an understatement,” Coolidge executive director Katherine Tallman called her “one of the boldest and most exciting actresses working in independent film,” as well as a worthy 13th recipient of the theater’s annual award.
Past winners have included Michael Douglas, Meryl Streep, and “The Silence of the Lambs” director Jonathan Demme.
“To be back in Boston, in a theater, in a town this formative to who I am as a human being and as an actor, is extraordinary,” Moore said while accepting the award. “I truly mean this from the bottom of my heart: thank you very, very much.”
In her conversation with King, Moore addressed the infamous Boston accent she adopted to play Nancy Donovan on “30 Rock,” crediting it to time spent working in the Up and Up Bar, a Kenmore Square bar that in the ’80s sat atop the Howard Johnson’s in Kenmore Square.
She also got in a subtle jab at legally troubled actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman while discussing her college application process. Before enrolling at BU, she’d looked to attend New York University and flown there with her mother, only to realize she’d been interested in a graduate program.
“I’d filled out the wrong form,” said Moore. “That’s what kids did; we were filling them out ourselves those days.”
Then, as the theater erupted in laughter: “I didn’t mean it that way!”
Moore teased two upcoming projects: the Stephen King adaptation “Lisey’s Story” and experimental Gloria Steinem biopic, “The Glorias: A Life on the Road.”
Describing the former as a romance and a horror-fantasy, Moore expressed her preference for psychological horror-thrillers. “Any movie where the paranoia pays off, I like that,” said the actress, adding that she sees the genre as a dark mirror for real-world issues. “All those anxieties start to manifest as monsters in our entertainment.”
The latter project, directed by Julie Taymor, will pair Moore with Alicia Vikander and Lulu Wilson, all playing feminist icon Steinem at different points in her life; Bette Midler and Janelle Monáe costar.
“It’s not a straight-up biopic,” said Moore, calling Taymor “a true leader” and “incredibly open, tolerant, funny, and teaching.”
Earlier that afternoon, following a 2 p.m. screening of “Gloria Bell,” Moore spoke about her early work and the importance of portraying different types of women on screen.
A highlight at that Q&A came when an attendee thanked Moore for exploring issues of queer identity in her characters in films like “The Kids Are All Right” and “Freeheld.”
“‘Once you’ve represented somebody, you’re saying, ‘Hey, look, these people exist,’ ” replied Moore. “You’re also letting the audience project themselves onto it, and that really strong identification is what creates empathy.”