Toronto: Glenn Close Rips Hollywood Ageism, Says Older Actresses Are "At the Peak of Our Power"

Credit: Embankment Films
Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce in 'The Wife'

The 'Wife' star also recalled her first professional theater role as an ingenue while in conversation at TIFF.

Glenn Close on Wednesday ripped Hollywood for punishing older actresses when casting film and TV roles.

"It's kind of ironic, because we're at the peak of our power. We really are," Close said in a conversation at the Toronto International Film Festival while promoting her latest movie, The Wife. Having never lived in Los Angeles, the Hollywood actress said she hasn't thought deeply about Hollywood ageism.

But the golden age of television should help women get more work, in front and behind the camera, she ventured." I think actually the advent of cable, and all the other places where people can express themselves, will hopefully be helpful for women, because there will be more places to find money for their projects," Close said.

The Wife sees the six-time Academy Award nominee and Jonathan Pryce play a married couple at a breaking point. Close at one point flashed a mock frown when it was pointed out her lead role in The Wife was perfect for an "actor of mature years."

"It's because I let my hair grow," Close joked. Based on Meg Wolitzer's novel and directed by Bjorn Runge, The Wife sees Close as Joan Castleman, wife of one of America's preeminent novelists (played by Pryce) who is about to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

But after decades spent ignoring her own literary talents to focus on his, she finally decides that enough is enough. Close pointed to the added irony of her first professional theater role coming in 1974 as she replaced an aging Mary Ure in a pre-Broadway production of Love for Love, directed by Hal Prince.

She had been hired by the Phoenix Theater Company as the understudy for Ure, and before long Prince was looking to put Close on stage without any rehearsal as she'd memorized her lines. "I was so green and hungry, that I'd sit in the back of the theater and watch every rehearsal," she recalled.

During a final dress rehearsal, Prince summoned Close onto the stage, and disclosed he was considering jettisoning Ure, who was late in her career and married to Robert Shaw at the time. Prince told Close he'd make his decision after the next upcoming performance.

In the meantime, would she be available to go on that night for a matinee? "Yes!" Close recalled, answering determinedly before nervously retiring to her dressing room to see if she'd been called down to the costume department.

The call did come and, after getting into Ure's dress, she received a note from the departed lead. "It’s a tradition in the British theater for one leading lady to welcome the next. I welcome you. Be strong and brave," the note read.