Never mind the rampaging boars and that heady dinner date. The one scene in Hannibal that truly terrified Julianne Moore was when she had to drive her Ford Mustang through a cattle pasture and the bovines wouldn't budge. "Who knew that cows were so scary?" says Moore, 40. "I didn't know until they were standing at the door of my car looking in, going 'Moo.' I was literally in tears. Somebody came over and opened up my car door, and I went running."
With Hannibal's record-breaking bite out of the box office, Moore should have no problem demanding a dairy-free clause in her next contract. Inheriting Jodie Foster's badge as G-woman Clarice Starling, Moore helped turn the risky sequel to 199 l's Silence of the Lambs into a happy ending for Hollywood. She has "sex appeal," crows Hannibal producer Dino De Laurentiis. "You see the face of Julianne, and you don't miss Jodie Foster."
Nobody is more pleased than Moore, a two-time Oscar nominee for her turns in 1997's Boogie Nights and '99's The End of the Affair. "I'm happier than I've ever been," says Moore, who shares a Manhattan loft with her director beau, Bart Freund-lich, 31, and their son Caleb, 3. "I'm sort of overwhelmed by my good fortune, honestly."
She credits the two guys in her life. Divorced from stage actor John Gould Rubin in 1995, Moore fell for Freundlich when he directed her in 1997's The Myth of Fingerprints. She was 35; he was 26. "At the beginning she was conscious" of their age gap, says pal Hope Davis, who costarred, but "she's forgotten it. They are very well matched." Costar Noah Wyle—who met his wife, makeup artist Tracy Warbin, on the same set—recalls he and Freundlich "were like a couple of little schoolboys who had crushes. We were giddy." For now, Moore and Freundlich have no plans to wed. "There's something I really like about being allied with a person freely," she recently told Vanity Fair. As for Caleb, Moore dotes on her son, whom she brings along on film shoots. Between takes on Hannibal, "she spent every second with him," says De Laurentiis.
Moore had an on-the-go childhood herself. The eldest child of Peter Moore Smith, a military judge, and Anne Smith, a psychiatric social worker (younger sister Valerie is a lawyer; brother Peter, 35, is a writer whose 2000 suspense novel Raveling is being turned into a movie with Moore slated to star), Moore was born at Fort Bragg, N.C., but moved 23 times, including stints in France, Panama and Germany, before becoming an acting major at Boston University. She graduated in 1983, changed her name from Julie Smith (to avoid duplication with other actresses) and two years later landed a double role as two half sisters on As the World Turns, for which she won a daytime Emmy in 1988.
Moore made a big-screen splash in 1993's Short Cuts, delivering a monologue naked from the waist down. Moore is "such a beauty, yet when she starts playing, you see the character," says that film's director, Robert Altman. Other risky roles followed—including 1995's Safe, for which she dieted to a gaunt 102 lbs. to play an allergy sufferer, and Boogie Nights, in which she portrayed a porn star—plus parts in mainstream movies like '97's The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
Her turn in 1996's Surviving Picasso impressed costar Anthony Hopkins, who recommended her for Hannibal after Foster passed. Moore beat out such contenders as Helen Hunt, Angelina Jolie
and Ashley Judd for the role and earned a reported $3 million payday.
Not that her clout shows around the house. "I do what everybody else does," she says. "I take my kid to preschool, come home, make phone calls and walk around. I do virtually nothing." Except work: She'll be back onscreen this year in Evolution, a comedy with David Duchovny, and World Traveler, a drama directed by Freundlich, and is now at work on The Hours, with Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman
, and The Shipping News, with Kevin Spacey. Moore has also talked of plans for another sequel—to son Caleb. She and Hannibal costar Hazelle Goodman, mother of a 13-year-old son, commiserated over how fast their kids were growing up. "She said, 'I'm starting to realize now, like, where's my baby?' " recalls Goodman. "I told her, 'Girl, you gotta have another one.' "
K.C. Baker, Elizabeth McNeil, Natasha Stoynoff and Joseph V. Tirella in New York City and Elizabeth Leonard and Michael Fleeman in Los Angeles