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With production grinding to a halt in the face of the novel coronavirus, the entertainment industry has found itself navigating uncharted territory. To offer a better sense for how, The Hollywood Reporter is running a regular series that focuses on how Hollywood’s writers, actors, directors, executives and others are living and working in these challenging times.
Glenn Close is currently ensconced in her brick Montana home built in 1892 — “It’s little and I love it” — which sits next door to the home of her younger sister, Jessie. But when it became clear Jessie may have been exposed to the coronavirus, the two had to self-isolate from one another, forcing Close to mostly fly solo while devouring books and baking banana bread. She talks to The Hollywood Reporter about her new normal, the first thing on her post-pandemic to-do list (hint: it’s a new TV project!) and the only company she keeps these days, her beloved Havanese, Pip.
Let’s start easy: how are you?
You know, I’ve never minded being alone. I have Pip, my little dog who makes me laugh and is such a wonderful company. I’m the only one who talks though.
What is your day like now?
I binged Ozark until 3:30 in the morning — I couldn’t stop myself because I loved it — but normally I’m up earlier. In my bedroom, I have these blackout curtains that I can open on top to see the weather when I wake up. Then, I always make my bed because it makes me feel good to start off the day like that. I get dressed, though for a while there I was lounging around in my pajamas all day until I thought, “Hmm, I don’t know about this.” Now, I get dressed, come down, let Pip out and give him his breakfast and make some for myself.
The thing I haven’t gotten a handle on yet is exercise. I keep thinking, “Oh, tomorrow.” It’s never been easy for me to stay on a strict schedule when I’m not working. I could easily sit and read all day long and be totally happy but I feel guilty doing that. But I’m very lucky in that I have some land outside of town, so I can go on long hikes. It’s a blessing to have that.
Aside from Ozark, what kind of content have you been consuming as a reprieve?
I finished A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America. First of all, it’s very, very well written, and what it did for me is remind me of what a shit storm we’ve been in for the last three years and why we are so beaten up and anxious. In a way, it made me feel stronger to go through that recent history because it gives you a different perspective. I have really gotten wonderful comfort and information from The Daily podcast from The New York Times and Michael Barbaro. I just think they’re brilliant. It’s mind-boggling that they put that out every day.
I’m also reading several things including Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile about the Churchills. My mother had an incredible library in this little house. There’s this wonderful book written in 1930 about a Marine named John W. Thomason stationed in China in the 1930s and these are short stories about real people. I just read one this morning about a Mongolian princess. There’s another book by Captain “Bob” Bartlett called Sails Over Ice about his explorations. He went to Greenland in the 1920s, Alaska, Northeast Greenland, all over the place, but mostly the Arctic. My grandfather also went on Arctic explorations and he knew Captain Bob.
Sounds like you can manage a couple of books at a time.
Yes, depends on my mood. My mom was the same way, she used to have a book on every chair in the house. Downstairs, I have Patti Smith’s book Year of the Monkey, which I’m slowly savoring. It’s the kind of book you can read in increments because it’s kind of a meditation. You can get in and out — it’s wonderful.
Anything else on TV?
I want to watch Unorthodox. I was just talking to my daughter, Annie, who recommended I’m Not Okay With This, so I’ll check that out. Before we decided to keep physically apart, my sister and I watched Lawrence of Arabia together. Oh god, what a fantastic film! I always wished I could have been in a David Lean movie. There’s a scene where he gets sucked in by the sand but other than that, you don’t have these huge worlds created by CGI. The camera gets these extraordinary shots of the desert. It’s great — such a wonderful story. I went through a T.E Lawrence phase. One of the best biographies I’ve ever read, which you still can buy interestingly enough, is A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T.E. Lawrence. He’s such a fascinating character in history. I’m not a very well educated movie person, so I think now that I have the time, I will search out movies that I haven’t seen, maybe check out Martin Scorsese’s [list that he curated of essential movies.]
What’s been the easiest adjustment for you and the hardest?
I’m an introvert by nature, so being alone has never been a challenge for me. I’m also lucky in a way to be alone. I’m thinking a lot about people who have young children or who live in apartments with little access to going outside. I’m also thinking of my hometown, New York, and how valiant everybody is there but also how hard it must be — and frightening.
You celebrated a birthday in isolation, on March 19. I saw on Instagram that you played backgammon and hit the snow with your snow shoes. Tell me what that was like.
I was with my sisters [Tina and Jessie] and my brother, Sandy, who is also [nearby]. He came in the morning and we had coffee and that was fun. He always makes us laugh. Jessie ordered one of the biggest birthday cakes I’ve ever seen, with this top hat and mocha icing, which I love. Luckily, we didn’t eat the whole thing. It was such a rare treat for me to be with my siblings. I have lived on the East Coast my whole life. I started my career in New York and raised Annie on the East Coast, so I have not seen my family, aside from various intervals, for most of my entire adult life. I’ve been compelled to come back to be with them at this point in my life. To see my siblings on my birthday, I don’t have any memory of the last time that happened. It was really, really special.
I saw your post about feeling like you’re still 18 though “not as disastrously clueless” as you were at 18. Have you learned anything about yourself during this period of isolation?
I’ve always had a conflict of private versus public. How much of my time do I give to others? What I’ve learned over the last, I’d say really, really deeply over the last four years, is that we can’t be everything for everybody. A wonderful friend told me to think of it as a glass. You can empty yourself out with work, a social life or social media, but then you come to a point where you can get anxious or depressed and you have to go through a process of filling yourself up again. That means so much to me. We have to do the work to keep our glass — our beings, our soul, our heart — full, and then we deal with the world using the overflow. It gives me permission to stay away from things that jangle me and avoid things that I don’t need to be a part of. Those things that empty my cup too fast.
You posted a video in which you talked about the interconnected fate of humanity in this pandemic. You said, “We will live or die with how we connect with each other.” Can you tell me your thought process in coming to that conclusion?
I woke up thinking about it. One of my favorite books is The Social Conquest of Earth by [Edward O. Wilson]. He’s a huge, huge figure in the scientific world, and he’s now in his nineties. As one of his many, many, many books, it’s about how we evolve to be who we are. It starts with the [Paul] Gauguin’s painting in the corner, and he says, “Where did we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?” That’s probably the basis of every religion, right? I really think about our need for connection. We are a tribal herd. We are successful as a species because we learned altruism early on, which means you sacrifice for the whole. There are many, many, many examples of altruism going on in the world today. Think of the doctors and nurses right now — they’re sacrificing for the good of the whole. You can’t have a successful society without that and yet we’ve kind of moved away from that. We’ve moved away from altruism. What I was saying is that we live on connection and how we connect. That’s this crucible we’re going through now and as we do, let’s focus on connection.
Taking a turn here. What have become your go-to comfort foods during this period?
I baked some banana bread the other day, not realizing that I was the only one who could eat it [laughs]. I try to be very careful with what I cook. My daughter is a wonderful cook and is always posting these things. She just posted a lemon turmeric tea cake, which I thought, “Oh, my god, that looks great.” But my comfort food, I guess, has been popcorn, Popsicles and scrambled eggs.
Have you found yourself stockpiling anything?
I’ve stockpiled a lot of boxed soups, some rice milk, stuff in boxes, some yams and spaghetti squash. I’ve got some frozen stuff. I probably could survive on the food I have here for another month.
How would you describe your corona-era wardrobe?
I keep going back to my L.L. Bean corduroy shirts, which are very roomy and cozy. I wear a long-sleeved shirt under them because I don’t like to have the heat on too much. Then I put on a nice pair of leggings or sweatpants with slippers.
The last time I saw you was at the Spirit Awards where you were wearing a pink metallic suit by Sies Marjan …
That was so much fun for me! By that time [of the awards season], I’d been on so many red carpets, I was starting to get PTSD. So, I had Pippi with me and he got to take all the focus. He was so charming and I loved seeing the photographers getting down on their knees to get pictures of him.
In these times, what cause is most important to you?
Our local food bank [here in Montana], and then the charity that is most important to me is Bring Change to Mind, which we started to help lift the stigma around mental health. It has a wonderful and vital social media and website presence. We’re in, gosh, I think 400 high schools, creating these stigma-free clubs that are peer to peer. It has really taken off. That’s very, very gratifying and authentic for us because Jessie has bipolar disorder and it helps to have that connection. There’s nothing worse than feeling marginalized or shamed for something you have no control over.
What’s atop your to-do list once this is all over?
It will be great to get back to work. Hopefully I’ll be doing a miniseries that hasn’t been announced yet but it will bring me back home. Oh, and probably look forward to a great celebration. I don’t know when that will be, when we’re all allowed out of the house — we may have to be careful for a long time.
Can you tell us any more about the miniseries?
I’ve always loved TV and when this was presented to me, I loved the premise of the story and the character. It will be something that’ll be fun, creative and different. And by the end of the year, I really would love to work on the movie based on Sunset Boulevard the musical. That’s always on my mind and I think we’re getting closer …
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