There are many sins committed every minute of the day. But when it comes to Oscar oversights, there is one that might be rectified soon. Thanks to just-opened “The Wife”, Glenn Close could finally get a little gold man to call her own after six previous tries. She is currently tied with the late Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter as the actress with the most nominations without a win.
Close plays the indulgent wife of a renowned author (Jonathan Pryce), a self-absorbed lothario who wins the Nobel Prize for literature. As they journey to Stockholm for the awards ceremony, their relationship is strained as a long-unspoken secret can no longer be denied. Does Close’s much-raved-about performance in “The Wife,” which grossed a stellar $111,137 at the box office in just four theaters, have the same emotional weight as the sight of her weepily mourning her ex- lover while slumped naked in the shower in “The Big Chill”?
Not quite. But it would be similar to Julianne Moore winning on her fourth try as a middle-aged sufferer of early-onset dementia in “Still Alice.” Or Leonardo DiCaprio’s overdue triumph as an avenging frontiersman in “The Revenant” on his fifth attempt. In other words, the win would likely be for her body of quality work, rather than their her peak performance ever.
Here’s a ranking of all six of Close’s Academy Award-nominated roles, from worst to best, as well as a reminder of which rival beat her that year.
6. “The Natural” (1984) – Best supporting actress
Close embodied a source of inspiration rather than a fleshed-out character, a vision in white whose presence results in Robert Redford’s struggling baseball player Hobbs hitting a game-winning home run. Turns out she is Iris Gaines, his high-school sweetheart with a 16-year-old son whose father happens to be Hobbs. She attributed her second nomination to the way cinematographer Caleb Deschanel lit her wide-brim hat just so. Lost to: Peggy Ashcroft, “A Passage to India.”
5. “The Big Chill” (1983) – Best supporting actress
Director Lawrence Kasden wrote the part of Sarah Cooper with Close in mind, an earth- mother type among old college chums who gather for a classmate’s funeral. With everyone at her family’s vacation house, the weekend is an emotional roller-coaster as her gracious hostess dances to Motown hits and smokes pot before breaking down in private over the loss of her former lover. She soon wears a beatific grin, however after she grants permission for her husband (Kevin Kline) to try to impregnate her desperate-for-a-child unwed pal. Lost to: Linda Hunt, “The Year of Living Dangerously.”
4. “The World According to Garp” (1982) – Best supporting actress
Close, then a stage and TV vet, snagged a juicy role as eccentric ultra-feminist icon Jenny Fields, based on a character from John Irving’s best-seller, for her first movie role at age 35. As a school nurse who becomes a towering symbol for women’s rights, Close is a nurturer who tries to set her son, Garp (Robin Williams), on the right path. She imparts this wisdom to him, “You know, everybody dies. … I’m going to die too. So will you. The thing is, to have a life before we die. It can be a real adventure having a life.” Lost to: Jessica Lange, “Tootsie.”
3. “Albert Nobbs” (2011) – Best lead actress
After playing a stage version of this titular gender-bender – a woman who disguises herself as a shy hotel manservant at a late-19th century Irish hotel – Close steadfastly pursued getting a movie version of the play off the ground for 15 years. The challenging role allowed her to assume a more subtle and subdued approach to a character who courts a young girl (Mia Wasikowska). She told me at the time about what drew her to the character: “She doesn’t feel sorry for herself. There’s something universal about the theme of an innocent trying to negotiate a world without the tools to be successful.” Lost to: Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady.”
2. “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988) – Best lead actress
In 18th-century France, Close’s sexually devious Marquise de Merteuil creates havoc among French aristocrats — along with her male conspirator in her erotic games, Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) – as they plot to deflower a virgin, seduce her boyish true love and bed the wife of a rival. But complications arise, with Valmont falling in love with one of his prey, and Merteuil becoming mired in scandalous gossip. Close embodies this wickedly amusing manipulator as if she were born to play her. Lost to: Jodie Foster, “The Accused.”
1. “Fatal Attraction” (1987) – Best lead actress
Close left behind her litany of high-minded ladies and got down, dirty and downright dangerous as book editor Alex Forrest, who turns what is supposed to be a fling with Michael Douglas’ lawyer while his wife and daughter are away into a deadly obsession where suicide is threatened, pregnancy is claimed and a poor pet bunny is boiled. The actress, with a vampish hairstyle and an anything-goes attitude, showed a seductive side that was rarely capitalized upon on the big screen. As a result she became a femme fatale for the ages, whose warning cry, “I’m not going to be ignored,” is still quoted. Lost to: Cher, “Moonstruck.”