A drama starring Glenn Close as a female writer who fights to make her previously suppressed voice heard reads like a dream project for women in the #MeToo era. But at the Los Angeles premiere of “The Wife,” the cast and filmmakers expressed hope that men, too, see the appeal of female-centric projects.
“It took 14 years because back in 2004, the studios didn’t want to do the film starring women, and there were no male American stars who would play the second lead to a woman,” said screenwriter Jane Anderson. “It took the wonderful Jonathan Pryce, who’s a Brit and a theater actor, to say, ‘Yeah, this is a great role! And let me go play with Glenn.’ I was battling male egos at every turn back then, and I thought this project was dead many times over, and here we are.”
“The Wife” features Pryce as Nobel Prize-winning author, while Close plays his titular wife, whose own writing talent has been sacrificed and squelched in favor of her husband’s star. Close says she was drawn to her character’s problematic arc.
“I had a lot of questions,” the six-time Oscar nominee told Variety at the Pacific Design Center during Monday night’s premiere. “I was challenged by answering those questions, the main one being: Why didn’t she leave him? There are many, many reasons why women don’t leave men that they probably should, so that’s very real, but I had to find it in a really personal, authentic way. It was a thrilling and challenging exploration.”
While the film is titled “The Wife,” Pryce stressed the importance of the husband’s motivations as a window into the relationship’s toxic dynamic. Pryce recalled his organic and intense approach that sometimes involved raucous yelling to elicit an appropriately frightened reaction from Close.
“There’s a whole other side,” Pryce said. “There’s Joseph’s story, which people aren’t picking up on. Why did he do what he did? Why did he have endless affairs? What was he looking for?”
Christian Slater, who portrays investigative journalist Nathaniel Bone, lauded Pryce’s courage to accept a role opposite Close’s lead, which, he noted, times up perfectly with discussions surrounding sexism in Hollywood.
“It was very brave of Jonathan because there aren’t a lot of men who would be willing to be in a movie called ‘The Wife,’” Slater said. “These are the kinds of stories that are vital — this one certainly coming out at a time when this is an extraordinarily prevalent issue. I only hope that it continues to be a prevalent issue and gets more attention, and for [Close] to have a role like this is extraordinarily special and timely and unusual.”
Close’s daughter Annie Starke, who portrays young Joan, echoed her castmates’ comments on the movie’s significance in the push for more complex roles for women in Hollywood, but she added that Joan’s journey should not resonate with women alone.
“It’s a story that not just women, but also men, I think, will hopefully respond to,” Starke said. “I feel like you can’t make this up. I’m happy that the change is coming, and I’m happy that this movie is a part of that change.”
While Close acknowledged the extensive ground that has yet to be covered — especially when it comes to female representation in Hollywood’s executive positions — she hopes the spousal drama is a step in the right direction for women’s liberation.
“I think we are progressing,” Close said. “Whether we’ve reached the tipping point, I don’t know, because I think it’s something that people can’t ever be complacent about, and that will depend on producers and directors — people who hire people. But I don’t think we’ll ever go back to where we were before. I think there’s been too much of one explosion after another, and I hope we find a balance that will settle into a real cultural revolution where women are in a different place.”