Glenn Close received the Museum of the Moving Image’s annual Salute at a gala on Monday evening in New York City, where leading actors and directors shared their experiences working alongside her — and the Tony-winner herself revealed the advice that’s kept her going throughout her impressive career.
Close now has 84 screen credits and nearly as many awards to her name, but Jim Dale remembers where it all began. The two theater legends co-starred in the original Broadway run of “Barnum” in 1980, which nabbed Close her first Tony nomination — and, as it turns out, her first film role.
“Glenny was sitting in a fake box on the stage as Mrs. Barnum, knitting away and waving to the audience as they came in, as if she knew them,” Dale told Variety on the red carpet. “And a producer and a set designer and a costume designer and a director came in, and they saw her, and the director said, ‘That’s the tranquility I need in the mother of this film we’re making’ — which was ‘The World According to Garp.’ So, Glenny got the part of the mother without even opening her mouth and auditioning. That’s how good she is!”
That film debut left an impression on an entire generation of actors — some earlier than others. Ethan Hawke vividly recalls “Garp” as his first encounter with Close’s work when he was just 14, and his mother took him to see the adaptation of her favorite novel.
“About seven eighths of the way through the film, my mother remembered how the book ended. She literally was like, ‘Alright, we have to go, we have to go, we have to go.’ And we were all like, ‘No, we’re loving this movie!’ ‘You have to go. You have to go.’ We got out, she went to go get the car and we ran back in, she pulled us back out. It seemed the wrong time to teach these teenage kids about oral sex and violence at the same time,” he said, laughing. “But I have since seen the whole film, and along with so many performances, it’s very exciting to be there.”
“Fatal Attraction” director Adrian Lyne echoed those sentiments, calling Close’s first read for the role of Alex Forrest “one of the bravest, most powerful auditions I have ever seen, and something I will never forget.”
Not every part fell into place so easily, but Close has never been one to give up without a fight. Both “Albert Nobbs” and her latest critically acclaimed drama, “The Wife,” took 14 years to make.
“A lot of times independent films depend on the crazy passion of the people who want to make them,” she told Variety. “My definition of an independent film is a movie that almost doesn’t get made, and both ‘The Wife’ and ‘Albert Nobbs’ fit into that category. But that should never change, because it means you’re telling a story people haven’t heard before.”
In addition to her own star turn in “The Wife,” its two screenwriters, editor, and costume designer were all women, something that Close said was important to her. She hopes that kind of diversity “will become a natural part of our culture.”
Close’s championing of independent films and of women in the industry reflects the persistence she’s known for, but she wasn’t always so confident. During her acceptance speech, the “Fatal Attraction” star described an early-career “low point” that led to a late-night call to her agent, Kevin Huvane.
“Kevin was on the other end of the line [in Los Angeles], hearing my distress,” she recounted. Fifteen minutes later, she opened the door to her New York apartment to find a beautiful bouquet and a note she would never forget: “Don’t let the f—ers get you down.”
Close has been looking ahead to the next project ever since. Asked whether the honor had led her to reflect on her career so far, she laughed. “No!” she said. “I feel like I’m 18! To me, it’s amazing. You make these choices and then all of the sudden here you are.”
Also at the gala were Christian Slater, James Ivory, Michael Barker, Maya Thurman Hawke and Adrian Martinez.