When Glenn Close speaks of her title character “Albert Nobbs,” she only employs female pronouns.
“It’s very funny, because I always talk about her as a ‘she.’ Other people talk about Albert as a ‘he,’ but it’s just how they perceive it from the outward appearance,” Close says. “I always look from the inside out.”
A Victorian-era woman who determines to disguise herself as a hotel waiter, in order to forestall utter ruin, would be a unique entry on any thesp’s resume. But Close sees signal connections to some of her famous stage and screen roles.
“There’s nothing more compelling in human behavior than someone who has no self-pity, who has a seemingly impossible dream and who is an innocent,” she says. That description of Albert also fits Norma Desmond, Close’s Tony Award-winning diva in “Sunset Boulevard.”
“Norma has delusions, but even though you know she’s way out there, you kind of have respect for her belief,” Close says. “Everybody wants belief, and there’s something incredibly touching about Albert’s belief that she can forge this life for herself with absolutely no tools or no clue how to do it.”
Close copped Oscar noms for characters devoid of innocence. The Marquise de Merteuil in “Dangerous Liaisons” and Alex Forrest in “Fatal Attraction” will stop at nothing, even murder, to get their way. Nevertheless, Close insists, they share with Albert one all-consuming fact.
“These are women existing in very male-dominated worlds. … What I loved about Merteuil is how she refused to let people treat her the way most women were treated. She’s smart enough to get people before they get her, to ruin people before she’s ruined. You could say the same about Alex: ‘I won’t be ignored, you’re not going to just toss me aside onto a garbage heap.’?”
Albert takes the opposite tack, keeping a low profile to escape detection.
Says Close: “She’s perfectly happy to be invisible. She just doesn’t want to be thrown out on the street. She doesn’t want to lose her job or her money. It’s all about survival. It’s just different modes of survival.”