As Glenn Close is expected to reap her sixth Oscar nomination for “Albert Nobbs,” it is interesting to look back as to why this acclaimed actress has yet to make it to the podium on Oscar night. Close has plenty of awards hardware including three Tonys and three Emmys but she remains an Oscars bridesmaid.
The Academy had an extraordinary love affair with Close in the 1980s. She was nominated three years in a row for Best Supporting Actress (1982-1984), reaping bids for three of her first four films. After winning her first Tony Award (“The Real Thing”) and earning her first Emmy nod (“Something About Amelia”), Close was elevated to leading lady status and landed two consecutive Best Actress bids beginning in 1987. Yet, somehow there was always somebody else who brought the momentum to Oscar night and sent Close home empty-handed
Best Supporting Actress: “The World According to Garp” (1982)
Close’s first nomination came as Robin Williams‘ mother in “The World According to Garp.” Despite being only four years older than Williams and never having worked in a feature film Close made an unforgettable impression as Garp’s indomitable, unconventional feminist mother. She would have been a strong contender to take the award home had Jessica Lange not made Oscar history that year by being the first performer in four decades to receive nominations in both the lead and supporting categories. Since Meryl Streep and her choosing Sophie were unstoppable for the leading award, Lange was given the supporting prize for her subtle if unspectacular work in “Tootsie” (as opposed to the lead award for “Frances” which she has described as her best work.) Lange’s win denied Close the chance to join the likes of Julie Andrews (“Mary Poppins”) and Barbra Streisand (“Funny Girl”) who won Oscars for their film debuts.
Best Supporting Actress: “The Big Chill” (1983)
Close was placed in the awkward position of being the only one of the acclaimed ensemble of “The Big Chill” to get a nomination. William Hurt as a drug dealer and Jeff Goldblum as a writer were considered likelier nominees. Close played a woman who lets her husband father another woman’s child. Linda Hunt prevailed for her role as a man in “The Year of Living Dangerously.”
Best Supporting Actress: “The Natural” (1984)
Close has said this nomination was mostly due to good lighting. The only truly memorable moment she had in the film was when she stands in the bleachers gloriously lit like an angel encouraging her boyfriend, played by Robert Redford, at bat. Perhaps voters just so used to writing down her name that she got this third bid by force of habit. It wasn’t a particularly notable year for supporting women. Dame Peggy Aschroft had dominated the critics kudos and won the Oscar as well for her role in “A Passage to India.”
After her trifecta of supporting bids, Close moved up to leading lady and delivered a strong performance in the box office hit “Jagged Edge” and received a Golden Globe nod for her comic turn in the little-seen “Maxie.”
Best Actress: “Fatal Attraction” (1987)
As the mentally ill New York publishing executive who becomes obsessed with a married man, Close earned her first Best Actress bid and kicked off a cultural phenomenon. The film remains her most famous and her character is still referenced for any woman who pursues a man relentlessly. Unfortunately, Oscar doesn’t court controversy so all the debates, op-ed pieces, and commentary generated about male/female relations made Close an unlikely winner. In addition, Close expressed her dissatisfaction with the final cut of the film. She thought her deeply intricate work as a self-destructive woman ending in suicide was thrown aside when test screenings demanded a bigger ending. Against her wishes, she was forced to reshoot a more suspenseful ending where the cheated upon wife shoots the raging monster who has come to hurt her family. The final scene was reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver blowing up the creatures at the end of the Alien films and was far from the detailed character study that Close had worked with a team of psychologists to create. Close lost to Cher in the smash hit “Moonstruck.” Although she had been denied a bid two years prior for “Mask,” Cher had charmed by appearing on the Oscarcast in an outrageous costume.
Best Actress: “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988)
Close rebounded with a second nomination the following year for the film adaptation of the hit play “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” Close had been scheduled to take over this role on Broadway in the fall of 1987. However, low tickets sales prompted producers to close the show prior to that, a move they must have regretted when “Fatal Attraction” made her a worldwide sensation. While this was Close’s fifth nomination in seven years, it was the first time she walked into the ceremony with a very strong chance of winning. Her strongest competition was Jodie Foster (“The Accused”) and Melanie Griffith (“Working Girl”). In addition to her acclaimed performance, Foster had a compelling back story. The former child actress was appearing in her first studio film since her life was torn apart in 1981 by obsessed fan John Hinckley who shot President Ronald Reagan in a misguided attempt to impress her. Foster’s role as a rape victim required some impassioned angry scenes that paralleled her victimization by Hinckley. Voters wanted to welcome her back to the film business with open arms. Unfortunately, this meant yet another year of getting Close but no cigar.