Glenn Close: Close Call
Glenn Close has had a remarkable career in film, television and theater. Let this sink in. She made her movie debut at the relatively late age of 35 and was nominated for an Oscar for her first three performances! In 1996, Martha Frankel visited Close at her home in New York. They talked about the highs and lows of her career to date, her upcoming starring role in Disney’s live action 101 Dalmations, and her engagement to a carpenter from “Sunset Boulevard”.
(News of Close’s engagement surprised Frankel because after two failed marriage, the actress had said she would not remarry. While Close did eventually have a third husband, it was not her then-current fiance.)
Right away when I meet Glenn Close, I realize that not just her career, but everything about her is a surprise. For one thing, she’s tiny–small-framed and just a shade over a hundred pounds. How can this be? Onscreen, she always seems so imposing. I think of her plotting with John Malkovich in Dangerous Liaisons or seducing Michael Douglas in Fatal Attraction–the word “waif” does not come to mind. Close is also gorgeous. I’m used to hearing her described as someone who’s tremendously talented, but not sexy enough to cast as “the girl.” Trust me on this: anyplace else in the world, anyplace sane, Close would be considered a stunner.
I settle in with Close in the library of her home in upstate New York, which she shares with her eight-year-old daughter, Annie, and Steve Beers, who she met when he was the head carpenter for her Broadway hit Sunset Boulevard. On the shelf across the room sit three Tonys (for Death and the Maiden, The Real Thing and Sunset Boulevard), and an Emmy (for Serving in Silence: The Marguerite Cammermeyer Story). Close hasn’t won any of the five Oscars she’s been nominated for (The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons), or any of the Grammys she’s been nominated for (the album from The Real Thing and a couple of children’s recordings for Rabbit Ears Productions), but there’s room on the shelves for those, too.
”I can’t think of anyone in history who’s been nominated in all these arenas,” I say.
Close thinks about it for a good minute or two. “Maybe Rita Moreno?” she asks with a chuckle.
What a career Close has had. She didn’t start acting in films until she was 35. Garp wasn’t just the first film we noticed her in… it was her first film! In the 14 years since then, she’s been in a string of remarkable movies and in between she’s done remarkable television–besides Serving in Silence, she starred in the beloved Hallmark Hall of Fame special Sarah, Plain and Tall, plus its sequel, Skylark. Then, in the face of everyone’s doubt and Faye Dunaway’s dismay, she stunned both coasts with a Tony Award-winning star turn in Sunset Boulevard.
Now she’s playing the most demented bitch ever to appear on-screen, Cruella de Vil, in the live-action version of the Disney animated classic 101 Dalmatians. “‘I found a great quote from you when I was reading up for this interview,” I tell her, leafing through pages of background material. “When you were talking about what a shrew Alex Forrest was in Fatal Attraction, and how cruel the Marquise de Merteuil was in Dangerous Liaisons, you said. ‘I can’t think of a role that has this kind of size, unless you’re talking about Cruella de Vil.’ Is this a role that you’ve always been dying to play?”
“Let me see that.” says Close, grabbing the papers out of my hand. “My God, I had no idea Cruella de Vil was even in my consciousness! Surely 101 Dalmatians was one of the scariest books I ever read, but no, I didn’t think I was working up towards playing Cruella.”
“It seems like you’re always playing the Saint or the Sinner. In your first films, The World According to Garp and The Big Chill, you were an earth mother. Then, after Fatal Attraction, you became the man-eater…”
Close is laughing. “It’s true,” she admits.
“People will never forget that scene in The Big Chill where you’re sitting on the floor in the bathroom, naked and sobbing…”
“Thank God for that scene. It set her up as someone with real emotion, real pain,”
“Personally, I’ll never forget the scene where your character kisses her husband [Kevin Kline], and then asks him to go have sex with her best friend so the friend can get pregnant. I thought that said a hell of a lot about who that character was. I forgot how cool the early ’80s were till I watched that again.”
Close leans back and takes a deep breath. “I haven’t seen The Big Chill for so long, but the further I get from that time in history, the cooler it seems to me, too.”
“You were nominated for an Academy Award for your first three films… ”
“I lost Garp to Jessica Lange in Tootsie, so that didn’t make me feel bad. Then I lost for The Big Chill to Linda Hunt. I remember that I didn’t have a speech prepared, because I was just going to get up there and thank everyone–I mean every single person involved in the project. Those are the speeches that people just hate. But Linda Hunt won, and she got up there and said. ‘This is like water from the moon.’ And I thought, holy shit, what a great thing to say. I would never have said something so great. For The Natural, I honestly think they should have nominated the lighting guy [instead], because I was backlit the whole time like I was an angel–all that was missing was a halo!”
“The Stone Boy, which you did with Robert Duvall, sort of got lost in the shuffle.”
“Yes, it did. Duvall and I play parents of two sons, and our youngest boy accidentally shoots our oldest son when they’re out rabbit hunting. And…”
I’m laughing, thinking of Close cooking the bunny in Fatal Attraction.
“I know. I know,” she says, laughing too.“Rabbits are a strong theme in my films. Thank God Cruella doesn’t want to wear a rabbit coat.”
“Jagged Edge is one of my favorite films. I’m totally wild for Jeff Bridges,” I admit.
“Me too,” Close says.
“I watched it again last night, and I found something very strange. The movie is about a man who slashes his wife to death with a jagged-edged knife. And the murder in the film took place on June 12, 1985. Coincidence?” Close looks confused.
“June 12th,” I repeat. “The same date that Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were killed, slashed to death with a knife.”
The color has drained from Close’s face. “Are you sure?”
“Positive. And the husband in the film gets away with it. How many times do you think O.J. has seen Jagged Edge?”
“Stop it, you’re really scaring me,” says Close, so I do.
“Maxie was your first flop.”
“You know, I played two roles in that film, a modern woman and the spirit, that inhabits her body. I think now that it was a mistake to play both characters. They should have used a young, coltish girl to play the spirit, so you would have seen the two of us trying to come together.”
“Glenn, believe me, they could have used a real colt and it wouldn’t have made a difference. But then came your breakthrough role as Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction. This was the first truly sexy woman you ever played. She is so etched into the national psyche that it’s a miracle that men still cheat on their wives …”
“You know, everyone else thought of Alex as a maniac, but I thought of her as damaged. I thought it was so obvious, when she says to Michael Douglas, ‘If you can’t fuck me, you might as well just hit me …’ that she was obviously an abused woman. I figured that people would have some sympathy for her. Shows you what I know.”
“I remember when I read that script, it had such a better ending than the one you finally filmed …”
“Don’t get me started,” says Close. “The original ending was a gorgeous piece of film noir. She kills herself, but makes sure that his prints are all over the knife, and he gets arrested. He knows he didn’t do it, but he’s going to jail anyway. But audiences wanted some kind of cathartic ending, so we went back months later and shot the ending that’s in the movie now.”
“You were nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. Who’d you lose to?” “Cher,” says Close, with no apparent irony.
“Cher? In Moonstruck?”
“Yes. And I understood it. Because those awards are always for so much more than that one film. And Cher has this mystique, and she had made a sort of comeback, and people were rooting for her.”
“So then you played the Marquise in Dangerous Liaisons.”
“We filmed in France.” says Close. “And I had given birth to Annie seven weeks before we started preparing for the film. For the first time in my life, I had these great breasts. It’ll never happen again, but for one brief, shining season, I had the most incredible breasts. James Acheson, the costume designer, who won the Oscar this year for Restoration, did the costumes, and I just loved it because they pushed my breasts up and made me have cleavage. I guess I should be saying something more intellectual about the film, but I just remembered how great it felt to have those breasts.”
“Don’t worry, we don’t push for the intellectual. Anyone who wants to talk about their breasts is welcome to do just that. Then you sort of went back to saintly in Immediate Family.”
“In that film, James Woods and I adopt the baby of Mary Stuart Masterson and Kevin Dillon, but then they lake it back. The film was about open adoption, where you meet the mother of the child before she has the child. But I think a lot of people thought it was about surrogate motherhood, which had been getting a lot of bad press.”
“Sounds plausible.” I say, “but I think the reason the movie failed is that nobody could imagine anybody even considering letting James Woods adopt their child.”
Close rolls her eyes. “Could be,” she says with a giggle.
“So then you played Mel Gibson‘s mother in Hamlet. She was certainly one of the most deranged mothers in stage or screen history.”
“It just struck me that Gertrude was a woman that these three amazing men are totally enthralled with, Hamlet, Claudius, and the ghost, her husband. And because Mel and I are so close in age [nine years apart], I figured that I was the political bride, brought to the court at age 12, marrying this warrior king, and she probably had a baby at 14 or so. And it’s like she had grown up with her child, and it was all very sensual to her. And she’s not a rocket scientist. She’s a very sensual woman who had never had a really full sexual experience because her husband was so old, he was more like a father figure. So when Claudius comes into her life it’s like, wow, and she’s just quivering. And she takes touching her son for granted, because that’s the way it’s always been. But he’s become a man.”
“I remember that scene where she kisses him on the lips and he just gets so uncomfortable…”
“Yeah. And she doesn’t get it.”
Posted on November 1, 2016, in Movieline Articles and tagged 101 Dalmations, Dangerous Liaisons, Fatal Attraction, Glenn Close, Sunset Boulevard, The Big Chill, The Natural, The World According to Garp. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.