A Driving Force Behind Glenn Close’s Illustrious Career: "I've Never Been the Glam Person"

The Wife-Glenn Close-Still-Photofest-H 2018
Sony Pictures Classics/Photofest

Says 'The Wife' actress: "I'm more attracted to the gray area of life than to the formulaic or the black-and-white kind of stories."

On November 6, Glenn Close was nominated for a Golden Globe for best actress in the drama category for The Wife, an indie film that took years to make and has, once again, catapulted the acclaimed actress into the awards race (she's considered a frontrunner for an Oscar nom). Close, 71, recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter for its annual Women in Entertainment event on how roles offered to women have and haven't changed over the decades.

I’m not the classic, perfect Hollywood beauty. I came into my movie-acting profession older than most people. I played Jenny Fields in The World According to Garp [1982] when I was thirty-something, so I missed playing the ingenue. Also, I don’t think I have the kind of looks for those kinds of parts. Then I went right into The Big Chill [1983], playing another mother, then right into The Natural [1984], another nurturing mother figure (people think of me standing in the stands). I didn’t make the decision to stop playing those characters. You hope you’ll be offered a part that can show something different.

If you read Sherry Lansing’s book, there’s a section about the casting of me in Fatal Attraction [1987]. It’s hysterical. Some of the producers were absolutely adamant I was wrong for the part because they didn’t know if I could be sexy. I loved it when I learned that. Thank god I didn’t know it then. They didn’t even want to meet me when I came out to Los Angeles to audition because they were so mortified that they’d just have to turn me down.

I’ve analyzed what I think is a beautiful face. Big eyes, little nose, beautiful mouth. And it helps if you have lighter eyes. But the little nose is very important. I do not have a little nose. If they trust what I tell them about how to light my face, then I look beautiful.

"Character actor" is probably a silly phrase, because everybody who plays anybody is playing a character, but I’ve never been the glam person. When it comes to "pretty people," I don’t know what the demographics are, but most people aren’t pretty. Hollywood was built on mystery and glamour, and what people wanted to look like. That’s what women wanted, to be that person on the screen. Who has time for it? There’s nothing more boring to me than personal maintenance.

I think it’s incredible that The Wife got made at all, because Jane [Anderson] wrote the screenplay 15 years ago. Of course, the project made the rounds and nobody wanted it — it was called The Wife and written by a woman. What [Hollywood] studio would make it? I think the film is extraordinary. We shot it in 2016. My definition of an independent film is a movie that almost doesn’t get made. And sometimes it doesn’t get made for a series of years, which I experienced with Albert Nobbs. So that’s kind of remarkable. But also, The Wife is pretty timeless in terms of the roles that women choose to play.

My career has been an unusual trajectory, actually. Number one is what stories are you attracted to, and number two, what stories are you offered? I’m more attracted to the gray area of life than to the formulaic or the black-and-white kind of stories.