Preparing for Glenn Close’s tribute at Mill Valley Film Festival last year, I called a filmmaker/writer friend in London who regularly helps me brainstorm ideas for interviews with filmmakers, and whose insights I always value. She remembered British producer David Puttnam talk about working with her (he produced Meeting Venus, directed by Istvan Szabo, in which she played an opera diva), and talking about her thoroughness and rigor as an artist, and the importance of having the environment on set be supportive of actors’ work.
I was also busy watching Close’s films, and working with an editor who was creating the clip reel we would use for the tribute program. He emailed me one day and asked what my favorite Glenn Close moment was. And he attached a clip, and said: Here’s mine! It wasn’t from The World According to Garp or Jagged Edge or Dangerous Liaisons, or her luscious Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations. It was from Frank Oz’s 2004 version of The Stepford Wives.
On a busy, multi-taking day at the office, I watched it. And I completely cracked up. It made my day.
Later, as I began to pull together my questions for her interview, I remembered this clip, since The Stepford Wives was set in Connecticut, where Close is from. Seemed like a good opener, to talk about roots, where she grew up, that kind of thing. So that was where I began our on-stage hour, asking about Connecticut. But she didn’t want to talk about Connecticut. Onstage, she looked at me with that twinkling smile, and it was obvious we were not going there. And about the film: she didn’t want to go there, either.
I had a moment’s hesitation, re-grouping and wondering what was actually going to be OK to talk about. But she did offer a little about the filming of Stepford Wives, and in doing so gave an insight into that film in particular, but also, indirectly, into her work. With a degree of diplomacy, she revealed that as the shoot progressed, she didn’t know whether her character was a robot, or was real. She would arrive for a scene without the complete picture of what, or who she was playing. As she said that, I thought back to the conversation with my friend in London, and Puttnam’s observation about her work: this did not sound like an ideal process for Close’s needs as an actress.
So the conversation moved on, to Garp, Dangerous Liaisons, Cruella de Vil, and then to her extraordinary performance in Albert Nobbs, which she co-wrote. As she described the process of working on this period piece, the meticulous research and work that went into creating the character of Albert, the work with her director, Rodrigo Garcia, her costumer, and an incredible company of actors, it was obvious that the experience of working on this film was one of her best. And this, of course, became her sixth Best Actress Oscar nomination, along with other accolades for her co-stars. And it was, well, quite a long way from Stepford.