For all her love of her profession, Glenn Close has become
"very picky" with roles she accepts, as she readily
confesses, but not because of some enormous conceit.
"Because," she explains, "especially movies, they
interrupt your life and I have a wonderful private life. I have a
child who is eight, and I respect her need to have roots. So at
this point I'm probably more attracted to theatre than
movies...it's all that waiting around [on set] and I have all
Some of that energy comes in handy at home, a renovated old
federal farm house in upstate New York full of animals - three
mice, two cats, three dogs, some fish, a pony and a horse - and
her daughter goes to the little local school, where Close is
getting more and more involved "because I care about public
education in our country and I don't want it to go to hell. I
really believe in 'community' and what that means.
"I have a wonderful fiance - we haven't had time to get
married," she adds with a little laugh, "who I met
while working on Sunset Boulevard. He's a techy [technician],
he's just been working on building up the Sunset Boulevard tour
set, and he's wonderful. I feel like for the first time we have
... a real sense of family, even though he's not Annie's father;
and [with her father] we have a good a relationship as one can
have under the circumstances."
"I try to have a simple house; I don't have a house full
of servants. I have two girls who come and clean every
Monday..." she says it lightly, with a smile, not
By simple, Close also means protective: she won't let Annie
watch much tv and monitors her videos.
"I’ve always had
great respect for actors" - Glenn Close
For relaxation, Close likes to read - in silence. "I
don't know much about music..." she explains, perhaps
unaware of how ironic this sounds in the midst of her making a
film, Paradise Road, whose heart and soul is music.
Japanese soldiers outside are practicing drill, and the Far
North Queensland sun is pushing the autumn temperatures to 28
degrees. We are a 15 minute drive inland from Port Douglas, but
for now it is Sumatra, and the site is a Japanese prison camp for
several hundred women, in the middle of the war.
Glenn Close plays Adrienne Pargiter, an upper crust British
woman thrown brutally into the camp with other English, Dutch and
Australian women - wives, nuns, nurses and including a shy
missionary, Margaret Drummond (Pauline Collins) with whom
Adrienne forms the extraordinary choir that has inspired this
Drummond, (Margaret Dryburgh in real life) recreates
orchestrations of several complex pieces of classical music
specifically for voice - all from her extraordinary memory.
Adrienne Pargiter (Nora Chambers in real life) conducts. The
music not only gives the women something positive to focus on, it
lifts and maintains their spirit in dire circumstances.
Enjoying a rare day with only conducting rehearsals to do,
Close is totally calm, smiling, smaller than I expected, most
unglamorous (brave, some would call it) in a white T shirt under
baggy blue denim overalls with white sneakers (she has small
feet) and without any attention to hair or make up. A day off,
"I've always had great respect for actors," she says
quietly, as if to underline the enormity of her respect.
"And a great respect for the profession and for the
Where did that come from?
"I don't know. My two grandmothers were wonderful women;
one was a beautiful singer and the other one would probably have
been a great actress, and they were both women who weren't
allowed to do that, so maybe it was genetic for me, you know, I
"..a big fish in a small
Close never went to acting school, but did four years in a
"liberal arts" course in Williamsburgh, Virginia, which
had a strong drama department. "I had a wonderful
triumverate of professors and I think the head of the department
recognised my serious intent...I really consider him my mentor.
He made sure I did a variety of roles, with big parts and little
parts, and that I knew backstage, and he kept saying, 'just
remember you're a big fish in a very small pond.'" Close
says with a laugh, the first during our interview, and seems more
at ease, enjoying the topic.
"I always felt this is what I should do. Nobody had to
convince me..." She laughs softly again.
What was it, though, that even made her think of acting as a
career? Was it some great actor she had seen?
"No; because I grew up in the Connecticut countryside and
we very rarely - actually, when I think back - went to movies. Or
Greenwich, Connecticut is a country town; a very sophisticated
one, to be sure, but a country town. Not Los Angeles or New York.
"But my parents were very non-materialistic people; I mean
we could have been in Iowa. We were surrounded by animals, with
beautiful country to run in and imagine things in...that was my
For Close, there was never any doubt: even when she might have
considered being a teacher, it was the standing at the blackboard
PERFORMING for the class that appealed.
"craft and technique
is basically common sense"
Throughout her career, Glenn Close has been regarded as a
highly intelligent actress (she doesn't care whether she is
called actor or actress), with a huge range. For instance, she
played the ill fated Sunny von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune,
opposite Jeremy Irons, and then flew immediately to England for
the filming of Hamlet with Mel Gibson, in which she played Queen
She made her first film in 1982, The World According to Garp,
and was immediately nominated Best Supporting Actress for her
role as the strong willed Jenny.
She went on to portray a few other strong willed women: In
Jagged Edge, she is the attorney who falls in love with her
client while defending him against murdering his wife. In Fatal
Attraction, she is the disturbingly ferocious and determined
mistress; in Dangerous Liaisons she is the sexual games
mastermind, Marquise de Merteuil. Both latter roles won her Oscar
Now she has been Cruella de Ville, then First Lady of the USA
opposite Jack Nicholson in Mars Attacks!, and now a reserved
English prisoner of war, one after the other in quick succession.
What has made her such a fine actress, and so versatile?
"I think I've been lucky to learn by observing the actors
I've been working with and being directed by some wonderful
directors. I think a lot of craft and technique is basically
"I wanted the audience
to love me"
Theatre is very important to Close, more and more because she
feels highly energised energy, and it's very hard to find roles
in film that can take such large performance size. Theatre
In other words, what drives and fascinates her is acting: the
art and craft of it, not the star trip. And she analyses
everything minutely, "but much of it is private," she
says. She feels as much at sea beginning this role as Adrienne
Pargiter as with any other, trying to find the connection and
the emotional line, which is very important to her. "Good
acting I think is like being a magician, in that you make people
believe; because it's only when they believe that they are moved.
And I do want people to get emotionally involved. I think
technique is important but it isn't everything. You can have a
great technical actor who'll leave people cold. That's not my
idea of great acting. As audience, I don't want to be aware of
"That means you have to have great trust with your fellow
actors, because to have that connection is a great act of trust,
and you have to look into their eyes as far as they'll let you.
And you have to let them know that they can look into your eyes
and it'll be okay.
"I've worked with actors who'll only let me in this
far..." as she holds her right hand like a brick wall in
front of her ear. "They were frightened," she says with
a little incredulous laugh, "I don't know why."
Close has played many characters who have had little or no
chance to explain themselves to the audience. She recalls great
lessons in this, "especially from director Mike Nicholls,
when I did The Real Thing on Broadway with Mike directing and
Jeremy Irons was my co-star. That was a VERY difficult part,
because Jeremy played the Tom Stoppard character and had these
AMAZING words, and so articulate even when he was wrong, and I
played this basically inarticulate woman who wasn't always wrong
but never had a chance to explain to the audience why...why she
was behaving the way she did and it KILLED me, because I wanted
the audience to LOVE me.... like everyone else in the
" . . . couldn’t
explain herself to the audience…"
The lesson, she says, is to stay true to the character, and to
love the character. "Without that love of the character you
become judgemental and that makes you separate from that
character. That's not fair. The actor has no right to
Even when you play the extraordinary, rabbit boiling, revenge
mistress from hell in Fatal Attraction. "Absolutely. The
first thing I did when I got that part was to go to two
psychiatrists and I gave them the script. I said I want to know
why she behaves this way. First of all, I said, is this behaviour
real. Especially boiling the rabbit. Would somebody really do
that. Secondly, what would create that behaviour. That research
led me to that character I really loved and had great pity for,
because she was ultimately a victim...and she was impeccably
written. She'd been sexually abused at an early age, probably by
her father. All of the behaviour came from that; it was clinical,
classic...except the ending which was tacked on. But the rest,
she was a self destructive, abused woman. And of course that was
another character who couldn't explain herself to the
And what about Adrienne Pargiter? "Her great contribution
to the camp was her sense of perfectionism; there they are in
this squalid, horrible nightmare, this hell, and she'd say to the
women practicing, "no, no, no, do it again, you were a bit
sharp there..." The thing is, it MATTERED to her. FABULOUS!
If she hadn't that sense of perfection, nothing would have