From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
To prepare for her role as government agent Clarice Starling in the thriller Hannibal, Julianne Moore spent two days at the FBI training facility in Quantico, Va., learning how to fire a gun. But when it came time to don a daring décolleté Marc Bouwer dress for her gruesome dinner "date" with Anthony Hopkins, Moore needed no coaching on how to blow audiences away. Says her personal stylist Kithe Brewster: "She's one of the most beautiful women of our time."

Turning 40 in December has done nothing to diminish Moore's luster. "She's got a great head of hair that will always frame her face so beautifully," says Hannibal coproducer Martha De Laurentiis, while Moore's makeup artist Scott Barnes admits to being "in love with her amazing green-brown-blue eyes. Their shape is almond and big, which makes her look so young."

For her part Moore seems less interested in retaining her youth than in relishing the wisdom that comes with age. "In the business I'm in, you're never pretty enough," she told Vanity Fair in March. "So you just have to kind of let it go." Which is exactly what the 5'5" actress did last year in a series of ads for Coach bags that had her freckles on full display. "She was totally fine with it," says Coach's executive creative director Reed Krakoff. "Her freckles add to her unforgettableness."

Moore's Manhattan home life with partner Bart Freundlich, 31, a writer-director (The Myth of Fingerprints), and their son Cal, 3, helps keep her grounded. Despite the actress's hectic work schedule—she has three more movies coming out this year—her family remains foremost in her mind. "Sometimes we'll have her in a dress, her makeup and hair done, and she'll laugh, 'Can you imagine me going to a PTA meeting?' " Barnes says. "She's a mother before anything else."

That means keeping primping to a minimum. Moore stays out of the sun and moisturizes her skin with Oil of Olay lotion and a Shu Uemura facial mask. But when she's on the set, she relies on a special cosmetics consultant. "Cal's always sitting on her lap, playing in the makeup," Barnes says. "When I come over, he says, 'Time for a touch-up, Mommy!' "