They say that like fine wine, we get better with time. If you want proof of this, just look at Glenn Close, who turns 72 on March 19. While many women turning that age are thinking of slowing down, the beloved veteran actress is hitting her stride—winning several awards for her nuanced performance in The Wife, including a Golden Globe
Later this week, we’ll see if Close will get the ultimate kudo—an Academy Award. Close has received seven nominations with no wins, but her much-talked about performance in The Wife has placed her as the front-runner for best actress.
In the movie, Close plays the introspective Joan Archer, who goes with her husband to Norway, while he accepts the Nobel Prize for Literature. The story is told mostly in flashbacks, as the character thinks back about her life and her lengthy marriage—what she’s given to the relationship, what she’s put up with, and the fairness of the arrangement with her husband. The characters’ marriage is an extreme example of a woman getting lost in a relationship, and the film suggests we’ve lost much as a society by not allowing women to pursue their potential, passions and talents freely.
Life Paralleling Art
In her Golden Globes acceptance speech, Close acknowledged the parallel between her mom and her tour-de-force role.
We women have to say, ‘I can do that, and I should be allowed to do that.’
“To play a character who is so internal, I’m thinking of my mom who really sublimated herself to my father her whole life. And in her 80s, she said to me, ‘I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything.’ And it was so not right. And I feel like what I’ve learned from this whole experience is, women, we’re nurturers, that’s what’s expected of us. We have our children, we have our husbands if we’re lucky enough, and our partners. But we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, ‘I can do that, and I should be allowed to do that.’”
It is the personal fulfillment of creating provocative roles for decades that really drives Close.
“When I was little I felt like Muhammad Ali, who was destined to be a boxer,” she said onstage. “I felt destined to be an actress. I saw the early Disney films and Hayley Mills and I said, Oh, I can do that! And I’m here today. It will have been 45 years in September that I am a working actress, and I cannot imagine a more wonderful life.”
Her Mother’s Life
In the pressroom, Close elaborated, telling reporters her parents got married when they were 18 years old. “My dad went off to the war. My mom, actually, never went to college. She started having children very early. She had a great artistic mind. She was very good at art herself.”
Close’s dad went on to be a surgeon. “She always said, ‘I made a vow, and I am going to stay in this.’ I can’t say that it was fulfilling for her for the potential that she had. When she said to me, ‘I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything,’ of course as her child you say, ‘no, no, no, that’s not true. You have children and we love you and you have supported your husband all these years.’”
But Close understood what she meant.
“There’s another part of you that has nothing to do with who’s in your life, everything to do with what’s in your heart and what’s in your soul and what feeds you and makes you feel that you are giving an important contribution to your life. … I hold her in my heart. I’m very moved to get this award for this particular story for her sake.”
The director said, ‘Do you trust me?’ ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Do you trust me?’
Close also talked about navigating her craft, particularly in the pivotal closeup scenes.
“Our director trusted the close-up. He knew how to light them, and he knew how to put the camera. He said ‘do you trust me,’ ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Do you trust me?’ ‘Yes.’ That’s how we made this.”
She added: “I work really in my imagination and to imagine myself in those scenes, thinking the thoughts that that character would be thinking—I think it resonated on film.”
Glenn Close on Roles for Older Women
Backstage, NextTribe’s Susan Hornik asked Close to talk about how it seems like there are more roles for women over 40 than ever before.
I long for the day when it’s not a woman’s movie, just a good movie.
“I think it is changing,” she enthused. “With all the places where these wonderful stories are being told now it’s a whole different landscape. There’s so much content. … I think we are getting to a point where women are taking control and developing, starting production companies and nurturing stories that will give them good roles themselves and good roles for women.
“And I really long for the day when it is not a woman’s movie, just a good movie, that it is not characterized by that. I am very excited about what’s to come and all the different adventures and possibilities.”
Stay tuned this weekend and watch the Oscars to see if Close finally gets her golden statue. We’ll be applauding her no matter what for all that she’s done over her long career and for speaking the truth about what women our age feel and want. Brava!!
Susan L. Hornik is a veteran entertainment and lifestyle journalist. She is an expert at making lemonade from lemons.