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Just because Glenn Close makes giving her latest career-defining performing in The Wife look so effortless doesn’t mean that it was effortless.
The actress, who plays the archetypically supportive, long-suffering spouse behind a newly Nobel Prize-lauded author (played by Jonathan Pryce) who’s secretly played an even more significant role in his literary success, told The Hollywood Reporter during the film’s premiere at the Pacific Design Center’s Silver Screen Theater that she found the role challenging in ways that other parts hadn’t previously tested her.
“It was tricky territory, it’s a tricky relationship,” she said of finding her way into the delicate, sometime fraught dance between the longtime married couple at the center of the movie, based on the 2003 novel by Meg Wolitzer. “And I had to answer for myself why she didn’t leave him, because on the surface I thought everyone will say ‘Just leave him!’ But that wasn’t the story and there are reasons why she didn’t, and that to me opened the door into really a lot of thought and exploration. And I think the result is a very real relationship on film.”
Close explained that the issue the film explores, of the traditionally long odds against female authors and other artists having their work presented to a large audience, struck a deeply personal chord with her. “I knew certainly that there was the phenomenon of very, very few published women novelists at the time that [my character] was wanting to write,” she said. “And I’ve been aware of how difficult it is to get women’s stories told from the very beginning. So yes, it had great resonance with me personally.”
Pryce, who possessed of an enviable resume of memorable performances himself, said there was no sense of sizing up, boundary-testing or reputation awe as he and Close worked out their extremely intertwined performances.
“To each other, we’re another actor,” he said. “I’ve known Glenn on and off over the years — I’ve never been this close to her, but I knew I liked her work and I know that she likes mine, so that helps — but we started with a level playing field. … Once we were on set, there was very little discussion about our inner life, or our emotional life. We just reacted off each other.”
As for why his scene partner has become such a revered actress, Pryce said it’s “only just her commitment to the work. Sincerely, when I say, I wasn’t thinking of Glenn Close, I was thinking a fellow actor who was playing my wife, and whatever she did, it was hopefully true to the moment. She’s an honest actress. There’s no fluffing about, and we just got on.”
“She has always been a brilliant actress,” said co-star Christian Slater, who crosses swords onscreen with Close as the would-be biographer of her husband who thinks he’s discovered a critical secret in the couple’s history. “She is somebody that I have watched and admired for so long, and I’ve always been blown away by all of her performances, so to get to trade barbs and have a moment with her in something like this was a dream come true for me.”
Along with director Bjorn Runge, screenwriter Jane Anderson and actress Annie Starke, the premiere and party (which featured libations by Rakuten Kobo, Ahmad Tea and Bartenura Wines) lured admirers of Close, including Katie Holmes and Close’s longtime friend and The Big Chill co-star Jeff Goldblum. “I can’t fathom the height to which she’s raised every bar,” said Goldblum. “She’s transplendent, and pure quicksilver in everything.”
Goldblum also expressed how impressed he was with the enormous statue of himself — in open-shirted character as Jurassic Park’s Ian Malcolm — recently erected alongside London’s Tower Bridge. “It’s 25 feet long, it’s 10 feet high, it weighs 330 pounds and my exposed nipple is the size of a dinner plate — a large, large dinner plate,” he said, noting he might have a space in his backyard for the tribute. “I’ll take six or seven of them.”
But it was the arrival of friend and former Damages colleague Rose Byrne that prompted Close to pretend to faint: An enthusiastic performance (seen in the photo below) that landed her flat on her back on the red carpet in deathly repose before popping back up again, giggling.
It was a deft demonstration of her instant commitment to even the silliest performance, and how acting remains a source of joy for her — though she’s also relished honing her craft to razor-sharp perfection over time. “First of all, it’s fun,” Close explained. “We play, we’re players. And to be in a company, we have the process of creating something and after the process you hand it over to other people, but you long for and you search out groups of people and stories that will give you a great process, and also help you grow as an artist.”
“I know the challenge and I get just a kind of … ’terror’ might be a heavy word, but that I hope I can find a character, but to me it’s even more thrilling now,” Close added. “I have 42 years of craft and I feel like I’m a late bloomer. I feel like I’m at the top of my craft.”
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