Even tucked away in her dressing room deep in the basement of Broadway’s Palace Theater, it proved impossible for Glenn Close to ignore what was happening in the outside world on a recent Friday. After all, it was Jan. 20, and 225 miles away in Washington, D.C., Donald Trump was being inaugurated as the new president of the United States.
Close wasn’t happy about it. “He doesn’t stand for anything I believe in,” she said of Trump, taking a moment before huddling with her costumers about the quick changes that would be required of her during her Broadway return in “Sunset Boulevard,” which starts previews on Thursday.
“But I don’t believe in just fighting against something,” she continued. “We have that all the time. So I went out and I bought copies of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and all the amendments for every member of my family. I’m sending it to them. And then I thought, well, no one who hasn’t learned how to read a Constitution can really understand it, including me. So I’m thinking, okay, we’ll find a professor of constitutional law and have them come and talk to us. It’s the beginning of learning what our democracy is based on. I think this is an opportunity for us to really evaluate why we love this country and what has made it endure with the freedoms that we have. We just have to be conversant about that. It’s our democracy that we need to defend, against the insidiousness of rights being slowly taken away. That’s what’s on my mind.”
Also on her mind, of course, is her return to playing Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical adaption of “Sunset Boulevard,” for which she won a Tony in the original 1994 Broadway production. This year marks 22 years since her first turn as Norma.
It’s also the 30-year anniversary of another of her most memorable roles: Alex Forrest in the 1987 Adrian Lyne movie “Fatal Attraction.” The role of a professional woman whose affair with a married man makes her increasingly unhinged must look a little different to her, now that Close has become a vocal advocate for mental health, co-founding the nonprofit Bring Change 2 Mind in 2010.
“In my research back then, none of the psychiatrists that I took that script to even suggested that Alex had some mental disorder,” Close remembers. “When I played her, what we came up with is someone who had been incested at a pre-memory, enough to have it really, really, really destroy her. People have said the character had an extreme version of a borderline personality. And I have to put ‘extreme’ there, of course, because it’s not at all reflective of every borderline personality.”
The movie became a controversial sensation back in the 1980s. “I’ve always thought that it was like this building pressure, like what’s growing under Yosemite, because feminism had come to the fore, and the battle between the sexes had been raging, and it was like this big festering boil that ‘Fatal Attraction’ plunged a needle into. That’s why I think it was so powerful. It was a combination of where we were as a society and what buttons it pushed.”