Glenn Close (‘The Wife’): ‘It takes my breath away, the work that people do’ [Complete Interview Transcript]

Glenn Close is on the path to finally winning an Oscar, having just scored her seventh nomination for “The Wife.” Close has picked up all of the major awards precursors so far — winning at the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice and Screen Actors Guild with a nomination at BAFTA — and now she is considered the front-runner to win Best Actress. Her six previous nominations were for “The World According to Garp” (1982), “The Big Chill” (1983), “‘The Natural” (1984), “Fatal Attraction” (1987), “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988) and “Albert Nobbs” (2011).

Close spoke with Gold Derby managing editor Chris Beachum and executive editor Paul Sheehan shortly after the SAG Awards about getting this recognition from her peers, how the Oscars have changed over the years, and the upcoming film adaptation of the “Sunset Boulevard” musical. Watch the exclusive webchat above and read the complete interview transcript below.

Gold Derby (Chris Beachum): Glenn Close, we just watched you less than 48 hours ago at the SAG Awards. It was your second SAG Award but the other one was in television. This was your first one for feature film. Tell us just about that whole evening and the excitement of getting that trophy.

Glenn Close: I don’t know how many years ago it was, I think I got it for “The Lion in Winter.” That’s a really special room to be a part of, I have to say. It’s all my peers, my fellow actors, and it’s one of the happiest evenings for me because I love what I do and I love being with actors and everybody has been in the trenches and everybody knows what it means to be recognized for work. It’s thrilling. It’s very special.

Gold Derby (Paul Sheehan): You win for the film called “The Wife” but so much of the film is about the husband. I’m so curious, you mention working with Jonathan Pryce. You both come from the theater, you’ve got three Tony Awards, he’s got two, but if you could talk about the process, was there a rehearsal process? I know you guys have never worked together before but boy do you ever believe this couple has been a couple forever.

GC: I really think it helped to have a theater background. I think it’s the best training in the craft of acting that one can have. I had just seen Jonathan in his remarkable portrayal of Shylock. He did it with the old Globe theater and I think they went on a world tour with it. I just was able to see the end of the tour last year. I can’t imagine a better portrayal. It was kind of revelatory for me, so that reinforced for me before I worked with him what a great actor he is. I just was so thrilled to have him as a partner. I think the fact that we could sustain those scenes together, the first scene that we actually shot was the very first scene in the movie, the love scene in bed (laughs). We arrived in our pajamas and it went through my head and I think it also went through his, “We’ve been doing this for a long time so let’s just get to it.” (Laughs.)

GD (Chris): A smaller budget movie like this, “The Wife,” really needs nurture and care, and something like you getting on this awards path for the last few months, it can really boost awareness of the movie, box office, DVD sales, all those kinds of things. Just tell us about being on the award circuit for months and months. Just my opinion of what I’ve seen of you, you seem to really be enjoying it this year even though it’s a grueling process. When I’ve seen you on red carpets and at award shows and doing roundtables and Q&As, you seem to be really enjoying the process of it.

GC: Yes, and especially for a movie like “The Wife,” a very small movie, certainly fits my definition of an independent film, which is a movie that almost doesn’t get made. This almost didn’t get made for 14 years. I was attached to it for five. The fact that people are hearing about the movie and my representation of it, I’m representing it, that’s what I feel. I think it’s an exceptional film. I think it was beautifully written and beautifully directed and impeccably cast. It would be so easy for this movie to disappear, but thank goodness that I’ve been recognized and I can represent our whole amazing company that created it. I think it’s a movie worth seeing. The way Sony Pictures Classics has handled it has just been brilliant. I really thank them. It’s out back in theaters in I think over a hundred cities. It’s wonderful.

GD (Chris): And now you just received your seventh Oscar nomination. I’d love to know that first one — I always like to ask people about their first time at the Oscars. That was the ’83 ceremony, you were there for “[The World According to] Garp.” Tell us a favorite memory, you had just come from a theater background, tell us about your first Oscar experience.

GC: I still can remember vividly being told that I was nominated for that. I was in the basement of Tidalholm where we were shooting “The Big Chill.” I think it must have been in between setups or something. I wasn’t there all alone. I was with some of the other wonderful company and I heard that I’d been nominated for an Oscar. It was so completely out of my expectation. It was beyond anything. I never will be able to have that sense of astonishment to hear that I was nominated for an Oscar and would be going to Hollywood for that.

GD (Chris): What about that first ceremony? Was there a favorite memory?

GC: Who was it, Jessica Lange that won? I remember the dress that I wore. It was designed by Ann Roth and Annie I’ve known my whole career, and I still have that dress. It’s in my costume collection. It was a beautiful little velvet dress with a twist, very simple. There was not the red carpet then as there is now. The red carpet was something you walked on in order to get into the theater. Now it can be two hours long. Yeah, it was thrilling and I think Jessica gave a wonderful speech. I always think when I lose, “Would I have said something as eloquent as that?” (Laughs.) I think she had an eloquent speech and I remember also when I lost to Jodie Foster, she had a wonderful speech about how cruelty is never acceptable, something like that.

GD (Paul): You’ve certainly given acceptance speeches. You mention “The Big Chill,” that brings you back to the Oscars the next year. What a year that is, ‘cause you get your first Emmy nomination for the landmark “Something About Amelia” and then you win your first of three Tonys for “The Real Thing.” Not that “The Wife” and “The Real Thing” are the same, but it’s again the husband and the wife and the interplay. I’m curious about that year for you where it’s happening on all fronts. How do you keep yourself grounded? Is it by then going back to the theater as you’ve done repeatedly? How do you not let it get to you?

GC: I think I have a family that keeps me very grounded. All my siblings live in Montana by now, and I go there and everything just slips off and I’m who I am with my family, and basically who I am (laughs). Before, when my parents were alive, they lived in Wyoming, kind of a no-bullshit way to live and people don’t have airs and people accept you for who you are and know your family. “Something About Amelia,” when I look back, I think, and you all will probably know better than me, I think it was the first time after a movie for television that there was a hotline. That one had a hotline about incest.

GD (Paul): It was ABC Theatre. It wasn’t even just a TV movie. They presented it in a very special way and I think that’s why it resonated with people and then with Ted Danson playing so against type. That’s something you have never been afraid of to do, play against type.

GC: I remember I had just done “Garp” and they were afraid that I’d be too old for Ted Danson! (Laughs.) They had no idea how old I was. That was when my agent at the time said, “If you do television, it’s gonna ruin your movie career.” I think that’s the first time I said, “Well, the English do it. Why can’t we? It’s a great piece of writing, so I’m gonna do it.” I remember going to those Emmys and it was a totally different crowd. It was really two different demographics. Now, that’s totally changed. Everything’s interchangeable now, which I think is exciting and the way it should be.

GD (Chris): You mentioned no red carpet that first year you went to the Oscars, so that’s a big change over the years. In this past 35 years since you’ve been a voter, what else have you seen as changes within the Oscars, either the ceremony or the voting or the types of movies? What changes have you noticed?

GC: That’s a hard one. To make a generality, to me a lot of the movies that resonate with Oscars are movies that are not with any kind of formula. A lot of them are the independent films, the new voices. One of the things that I think has changed the whole landscape is what [Robert] Redford has done with Sundance. I just was at Sundance, I was on the board for 16 years, and that man, when he didn’t have to, stuck to his passion of giving young artists, young filmmakers, a voice, and look where we are now. It really is remarkable. Ryan Coogler’s first movie was at Sundance. Now he’s doing the big films. He’s just one of many. I think there always will be a struggle between the big tentpole types of films, where the big studios basically know most of the time how much money they’ll make — now they’re talking billions of dollars rather than millions of dollars — and the ones that come up from the other area, for new voices, breaking the mold. They will always have an impact. I don’t think that will change. The craziness about the red carpet is really different from the way it used to be. What you wear. A lot of people, I think, tune in now just for the dresses.

GD (Paul): You mention Redford, so I think if you’re being queried about if you’re too old for Ted Danson, I think of “The Natural.” If anyone wonders, he was too old for you.

GC: Not at all, no, no, ‘cause he’s not (laughs).

GD (Paul): The diversity of your career, you and Jonathan Pryce are one of the very few performers who have won Tony Awards for both plays and musicals. I’d certainly be remiss if I didn’t mention “Sunset Boulevard,” and I know there’s been talk on and off over the years of a film version of “Sunset Boulevard.” Can you tease us with anything about that?

GC: Well I can tease you by saying that this week I’m sitting down with the director and the writer.

GD (Paul): Oh, gosh. I think we’ll be having a conversation with you about your eighth Oscar nomination.

GC: That would be so fascinating because I’m really, really challenged and intrigued by how you translate something that’s so deeply theatrical onto film. I think it can be done. I think it’s tricky. The thing I find very exciting is the musical. It’s such a beautiful score. With that incredible story plus that music, I think if we don’t have the audience plastered to the back wall, we wouldn’t have done our job.

GD (Paul): You could redress one of the great Oscar wrongs, which is that Gloria Swanson didn’t win for “Sunset Boulevard.” A comedic performance, Judy Holliday, wins that year. Extraordinary.

GC: Wow, that is extraordinary ‘cause comedy, even now, comedy doesn’t win very much, does it?

GD (Paul): But like you, Judy Holliday was somebody who came from the theater, went back to theater repeatedly, a very multifaceted performer just like you.

GC: I hope our young actors do wet their toes in theater. I think it makes for a much more interesting and viable career, personally.

GD (Chris): As we wrap up I’ve got one last Oscar question. You’ve been voting for many, many years. I’m wondering along the way, starting in the ‘80s, anybody you wanna name, just two or three performances along the way you saw in a film that just knocked your socks off and just blew you away and you just really enjoyed them in the film?

GC: I’d have to say, I was at the Governor Awards dinner this year and it was given to Cicely Tyson. She did not win an Oscar for “Sounder,” but if you remember that performance, I just kept thinking, “Thank God she’s still around.” It really moves me. It makes me very emotional because I think she’s 93 years old and to see her get an award, it’s like, “Wow. Now she got it? Thank God!” That movie is an astoundingly beautiful, emotional, incredible movie and she’s right at the heart at it. I think justice was done but I kept thinking, “Thank God she’s still here and that she can get it in person.” What she said was so moving.

GD (Paul): To think just a couple of years ago she was doing eight shows a week in “The Trip to Bountiful” and won a Tony Award.

GC: Isn’t that incredible? Think of Angela Lansbury, who’s in “Mary Poppins Returns.” That little turn of hers in that, the whole screen lights up. I’m in an amazing profession. It takes my breath away, the work that people do and how much it becomes part of our nervous system and how important that is to be fed that way, spiritually and intellectually. I think that’s where I’m so proud to be in the room with such incredibly gifted people who I think take what we do seriously, as it should be taken.

GD (Chris): Speaking of righting wrongs, I remember the year you presented Deborah Kerr with an Honorary Oscar and I don’t know if it made up for it, but it made up for the fact that she had never won one before.

GC: Yes, I remember that so well. I was so honored to do that and I had a great Armani dress on, I remember that too (laughs).

GD (Chris): Glenn Close, Paul’s gonna finish up here but I just wanted to say congratulations on everything that’s going on in your life, especially all these awards lately. Good luck here in a few weeks.

GC: Thank you so much. I could talk to you forever. You obviously know everything about film!

GD (Paul): I just wanted to wrap up by referencing what you said at the SAG Awards and about film in particular and what you do in “The Wife,” with those eyes looking at each other and really seeing it on the big screen. It’s the only medium where people can sit and totally connect with the performers in a whole different way than theater or on television, so thank you for giving us that.

GC: I’ve learned over the years that the closeup is how you keep emotionally connected to the audience and a great director is one who understands that and knows where to put the closeup to keep the audience emotionally connected, which is where everybody wants to be.

GD (Chris): Thank you, Glenn Close. Good luck with everything.

GC: Thank you so much.

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