Two-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore takes us on her journey from soaps to nuts.

As the world turns half sisters Frannie and Sabrina may have been the luckiest soap opera characters ever. One was American, the other British. One was charming and victimized, the other cold and selfish. They both, however, had the good fortune of being brought to life in the mid-1980s by future Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore. ”If you’re going to do a soap, you always want to play twins,” says Moore. ”But then you learn that there’s nothing more boring than acting with yourself, because you know what’s going to happen.”

Since then, Moore’s career has hardly been predictable. She’s shuttled between the ghastliest of schlockers, the edgiest of indies, and the priciest of blockbusters. And this season, with two highly touted performances — as a 1950s house-wife in November’s Far From Heaven and a suicidal mom in December’s The Hours — Moore delivers a one-two punch that could make her the first performer nominated for dual acting Oscars since Emma Thompson and Holly Hunter were in 1994.

”You always hear actresses talking about wanting to play heroic characters,” says Far From Heaven director Todd Haynes, who also worked with Moore on Safe. ”Julianne’s instincts seem to go so against [that]. She’s drawn to characters who are more often than not inexpressive, meek, glazed over from life…. She begs you to look behind the surface.”

The actress admits that’s certainly part of the allure when choosing a role. ”To be ordinary is to be more complicated, more interesting, more flawed,” she says. ”Not that there’s anything wrong with playing the Queen of Sheba, but I’d rather play the real person.” Here Moore, 41, reminisces about the unforgettable everyday women she’s embodied on screen.

— TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990) In her first American feature, Moore gets killed by a mummy, a plot point that came as a surprise. ”I have a tendency not to read long passages of action in scripts. I like to read dialogue. So I missed the part where the mummy comes in and I’m dead. The director said to me, ‘You didn’t read the end, did you?”’

— THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE (1992) Director Curtis Hanson (8 Mile) gave Moore her first juicy role, as the sassy friend who uncovers demented nanny Rebecca De Mornay’s jealous scheme. ”Curtis and I both won [1997] L.A. critics’ awards, he for L.A. Confidential and I for Boogie Nights. People kept getting up to talk about him and they would slam The Hand That Rocks the Cradle: ‘Can you believe this is the same man who made that movie?’ Curtis finally stood up and said, ‘I was able to make L.A. Confidential because I made The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. I like that movie! And Julianne was in it too!’ I was like, ‘Good for you!”’

— BODY OF EVIDENCE (1993) Moore played Willem Dafoe’s jilted wife in the much-maligned Madonna thriller. ”It’s horrible! I mean, it’s even worse than you could imagine. What a stinker, that’s all I can say. I’ve seen [Madonna] a few times since then. We’ve never spoken about it. I can’t imagine she had a good time either. That movie was not a good time.”