Glenn Close got her start on Broadway in the ‘70s, appearing in such shows as “Barnum,” and made-for-TV movies including “Too Far to Go” and “The Orphan Train.” She was 35 at the time of her big-screen debut in 1982’s “The World According to Garp.” But Close swiftly made up for lost time by racking up three back-to-back supporting actress Oscar nominations for “Garp,” “The Big Chill” and “The Natural.” With “Fatal Attraction,” “Dangerous Liaisons” and “Albert Nobbs,” she would add three lead actress nods to her total, and currently holds the record as a living actress with the most Academy Award nominations – six – without a win.
That Academy Award losing streak might come at the 2019 Oscars, thanks to Close’s tour de force star performance as the put-upon spouse of a womanizing, self-absorbed novelist (Jonathan Pryce) who wins the Nobel Prize in literature in “The Wife,” opening Aug. 17. An early private screening in the Hamptons had one Oscar voter raving to Gold Derby, “It’s the best thing she’s ever done. She’s got my vote.”
In honor of Close’s new release, take a tour of our photo gallery above ranking her 15 greatest films from worst to best.
15. HOOK (1991)
Close proved herself to be a good sport in this reunion with Robin Williams, who played her son in “The World According to Garp,” by committing to a brief yet cheeky cameo. She was virtually unrecognizable behind her male facade in this spin on “Peter Pan.” The actress is disguised as Gutless, a bearded pirate, who commits a “boo boo” and gets locked in a “boo box” filled with scorpions by Dustin Hoffman’s Capt. Hook.
14. MARS ATTACKS! (1996)
In this so-so campy homage to ‘50s sci-fi based on trading cards, Close beat out the likes of Meryl Streep and Stockard Channing for the choice role of wacky First Lady Marsha Dale opposite Jack Nicholson’s president. After a failed try to assassinate her hubby, the Martians invade Washington, D.C. In the ensuing mayhem, she is crushed to death in the White House by her “Nancy Reagan chandelier.”
13. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)
Every star, no matter how revered, is allowed at least one pay-day part in a superhero blockbuster. Close is planetary leader Nova Prime, who recruits a misfit crew of space heroes – including a tree and a raccoon – to save the universe. She was a good sport when it came to wearing a pretzel-style hairdo and was repaid with a few zingers, including calling an ambassador for the Kree, a rival alien race, a “prick.”
12. COOKIE’S FORTUNE (1999)
You can tell from the jokey title that this is one of Robert Altman’s more light-hearted ensemble efforts. The standout is Close as she spins comic gold as pompous Southern belle Camille, who finds her aunt’s body after she commits suicide. The director of her church’s Easter play reconfigures the death to look like a break-in and murder, throwing her small town into a panic when an innocent black man is a suspect.
11. JAGGED EDGE (1985)
You might groan after learning that this drama has Close’s defense attorney Teddy Barnes both fearing and falling in love with client Jeff Bridges, a newspaper publisher accused of viciously killing his rich socialite wife with a knife. “Edge” is a typical Joe Esterhaus overheated potboiler, but Close knows how to elevate populist fare, especially when the camera and Ann Roth’s form-fitting work suits accentuate her figure.
10. AIR FORCE ONE (1997)
Close was a late casting choice as the vice president to Harrison Ford’s sky-high president in this taught, top-notch thriller. While the commander in chief tries to secretly foil Russians who have hijacked his official plane, her level-headed Kathryn Bennett calls the shots on the ground. Close’s one request: That a crying scene be cut. Her reason? “We’d be doing women a disfavor if we had that cliché moment.”
9. REVERSAL OF FORTUNE (1990)
Jeremy Irons won an Oscar for his haughtily humorous portrait of Claus von Bulow, who was charged with the 1982 murder of his comatose heiress wife, Sunny, who often overindulged in drink and drugs. But the actor would be nothing without Close’s wifely narration of tawdry tabloid-ready events. Her bemused if downbeat presence ever hovers as she observes, “I like to be in bed. I didn’t much like anything else.”
8. THE PAPER (1994)
In this whirlwind depiction of 24 hours inside a New York City daily tabloid office, Close crackles as the heavy, Alicia Clark, an ambitious managing editor tasked with reducing costs and cutting corners. She particularly resents the boy’s club atmosphere of the newsroom while butting heads with Michael Keaton‘s Henry, her dedicated metro editor. A highlight: When she bloodies his nose in a fight over the presses.
7. THE NATURAL (1984)
Many a fan of this sports-metaphor-laden fable would probably pick Close’s appearance in the stands as Iris Lemon, the luminous mystery woman in white, as one of their favorites. Robert Redford’s aging baseball hitter Roy Hobbs is desperate for a second chance at a big league career. As he spies her in the stands in a hat that glows like a halo in the sun, Hobbs hits a game-winning home run and comes out of his slump.
6. THE BIG CHILL (1983)
Little is more glorious in this Baby Boomer-palooza than the sight of Close shaking her suburban groove thing to “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by The Temptations while doing dishes and putting away leftovers. Her Sara is a mother hen to a flock of college pals on the occasion of a classmate’s suicide. But the scene when she weeps naked in the shower over the loss of an old lover shows her vulnerable side.
5. THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (1982)
Talk about encouragement. Earning an Oscar nomination for your big-screen debut is no easy feat. But Close fully embodies author John Irving’s larger-than-life feminist icon Jenny Fields. She aspires to be a good mother to Robin Williams’ Garp, her fatherless would-be writer son. But he is forced to exist in her shadow, whether she solicits a hooker for him or pens a massively influential autobiographical tome.
4. 101 DALMATIANS (1996)
The filmmakers blew it in this live-action version by not allowing the spotted pooches to speak. But they got their puppy-snatching villainess just right when they cast Close as pelt-craving, high-fashion maven Cruella de Vil, who haughtily howls, “I live for fur – I worship fur.” The actress insisted on taking her cues from the original ‘toon by making her Cruella “bitchier and funnier” than what John Hughes envisioned.
3. ALBERT NOBBS (2011)
Close stood by her Irish cross-dressing manservant since she played him off-Broadway in 1982. Her persistence in turning this shy creature – a rarity for her — into a fleshed-out film character paid off with her getting a sixth Oscar nomination. Says Close, who refers to Albert in female terms: “What I find compelling is Albert doesn’t feel sorry for herself. She has a dream that she doesn’t know is impossible.”
2. DANGEROUS LIASIONS (1988)
There were dueling versions of this tale of diabolical deceit and twisted sexual manipulation in 18th-century France. But the less-acclaimed one directed by Milos Forman came out a year later. For her part, Close’s devious Marquise de Merteuil has both wit and nastiness to spare as she collaborates with John Malkovich’s Valmont to create havoc in the intimate personal lives of various French aristocrats.
1. FATAL ATTRACTION (1987)
If any of Close’s performances touched a nerve, it is her portrayal of Alex Forrest, a sexually available single woman and book editor who has a fling with Michael Douglas while his wife and daughter are out of town. That she won’t go away quietly after their weekend together is probably most men’s worst stalker nightmare. As she has noted, “Men still come up to me and say, ‘You scared the (bleep) out of me.”