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Glenn Close weighed in on two ongoing Hollywood stories when guesting on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s latest episode of the podcast The HFPA in Conversation.
The wide-ranging chat touched on the cultural shift in Hollywood for more equal opportunity and segued into the casting, and uncasting, of Scarlett Johansson in a transgender role, along with James Gunn’s firing from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise over resurfaced offensive tweets. Both instances have sparked larger conversations within Hollywood, including roundtables with transgender stars and creators and think pieces on vetting in the age of social media, as the Galaxy cast has called for Gunn’s rehiring.
Close, who is promoting her new film, The Wife, received an Oscar nomination for her gender-bending role as the titular character in 2011’s Albert Nobbs. Since then, the casting of cis actors in gender queer roles, particularly in transgender roles, has increasingly drawn backlash, with Johansson’s dropping out of Rub & Tug — the biopic about transgender mobster Dante “Tex” Gill — being viewed as a hopeful tipping point within the community.
Of playing Nobbs, a character of 19th century Ireland, Close said she is proud of the film today. “Some people think she’s trans or she’s a lesbian, but she’s neither of those things,” she said. “I always thought of her as a woman who is in disguise. I never thought of her as a guy and I never thought of her as trying to be a guy. I think she changed her voice just to blend in. What she would have been if she had a loving relationship? I don’t know.”
Close praised the film for its empowering message, one that came years before the culture would publicly shift for the transgender community. The actress says Johansson’s casting controversy shows how times have changed, but still have a ways to go.
“I’ve thought about it. Whether trans [actors] should always play trans and visa versa,” said Close. “My thinking right now, is that people who are producing and directing properties like that need to go out of their way to get trans actors jobs. But they also should have the opportunity to cast the best person.”
Close believes that all actors should be able to play all roles, but acknowledged that simply isn’t happening yet. “Acting is a craft. I personally think that anyone should be able to play anyone,” she said. “But I certainly understand the need for those who are the same as the character they are casting, I understand their frustration. Hopefully, that will happen. But they also should be able to play straight people, or whatever the opposite is. To me that’s the real thing, that everybody could play everybody. But I understand why they are so passionate, because this hasn’t happened.”
Close also made the superhero jump when she co-starred in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, directed by Gunn. Gunn was set to direct the third film of the Disney franchise, but was fired in late July after his old tweets resurfaced that contained comments about rape and pedophilia. Gunn has apologized for the tweets, which he characterized as “outrageous and taboo” jokes.
“I felt sad. I felt sad certainly for James and I felt sad for the whole situation,” she said. “I felt sad that we’re in a society where on social media people say things that they might not say in person. I think that’s a real danger. If you’re saying something on social media that you can’t say to somebody face to face, you should think about what you’re saying on social media.”
She added, “When I worked with him it was the first time I had been in a movie like that and he was a really good director and he had a great atmosphere on set.”
Close also talked about the appeal of film roles compared to TV. Listen to the full HFPA in Conversation episode below.
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