You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Glenn Close in ‘The Wife’: A Master Class in Film Acting

The BAFTA Awards are Feb. 10, with Oscars two weeks later. All the lead actress nominees are terrific, but Glenn Close creates something unique because it’s so subtle. What she does is harder than it looks.

In Sony Classics’ “The Wife,” Close has the least showy role of the contenders, which is usually an awards disadvantage. She doesn’t have any “big scenes,” there’s no hysteria, no scenery-chewing, no calculated “This’ll get ’em!” moments. Instead, she offers a lesson in film acting.

Close told Variety that the challenge and “thrill” were in creating a woman who has so much going on internally; the character, Joan Castleman, has spent her life trying to fade into the background of her writer-husband, but both hit a crisis when he’s awarded a Nobel Prize for literature.

“There were years of her reveling in the work, but slowly seeing her husband become delusional about his creative process,” says Close. “And the growing rage that she has suppressed, suppressed, suppressed. For a long time, she thought ‘It’s worth it, to be able to do what I do’ — until it isn’t any more.”

Joan tells a reporter, “Please don’t paint me as the victim. I’m much more interesting than that.”

The performance is remarkable for what Close does — and what she doesn’t do.

Jonathan Pryce, who also offers a multi-layered performance as the insecure-narcissist husband, adds: “Joan doesn’t set the house on fire, doesn’t destroy everything, even though that’s what she wants to do. She’s spent her whole life holding those feelings in, and that’s what Glenn does so wonderfully, all those pent-up emotions.

“When I saw the film, I noticed that Bjorn [Runge, the director] and the editor very often stay with the person who isn’t speaking, and a lot of the time that was Glenn. That’s what’s wonderful about her performance: She shows everything that’s unsaid between them.”

Close adds, “It was incredibly rewarding to sit with the audience in Toronto at its world premiere and to feel the response,” she says. “It’s a quiet, intimate story, and the audience was getting every nuance. I realized, we had created something bigger than we’d thought.”

She said it was sometimes uncomfortable to film certain scenes, because of the complex emotions, and because it was a constant reminder of generations of women who sublimated their dreams. “I think about my mom, what she could have created, that would have given her such fulfillment,” she says. Working on the film also reminded her of her grandmother, who had unspoken wishes to be an actress.

Close represents the sole Oscar and BAFTA nomination for the film, but she frequently deflects conversation to others, including Pryce and her daughter Annie Starke, who plays Joan at a younger age. “Those flashbacks are so important and I’m so proud of Annie and what she did to establish Joan,” she says.
She also has high praise for everyone behind the camera, such as DP Ulf Brantas, editor Lena Dahlberg, scripter Jane Anderson, and novelist Meg Wolitzer, and especially director Runge, saying, “I revel in collaboration, and I had great collaborators.”

This is Close’s seventh Oscar nomination, with no wins so far. But if she is victorious at BAFTA and the Oscars, this wouldn’t be a gift, or a make-good. She has been creating indelible movie characters for decades, including in “Fatal Attraction,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” “Albert Nobbs,” and Cruella de Vil in “101 Dalmatians.”

On TV, memorable work includes Nellie Forbush in “South Pacific,” Patty Hewes in “Damages,” and Margarethe Cammermeyer in “Serving in Silence,” plus on-stage performances in “Sunset Blvd.,” “The Real Thing,” “Death and the Maiden,” and “A Delicate Balance.” She’s always done interesting projects, has always been good and always a pro, respected in the industry.

But those are not the reasons to vote for her. Close’s work in “The Wife” is the reason to vote for her.

More Film

  • Emma Thompson

    Emma Thompson Exits Skydance Animation Movie 'Luck' Over John Lasseter Hire

    Emma Thompson has dropped out of the voice cast of Skydance Animation’s upcoming film “Luck,” a spokesperson for the actress told Variety. The beloved British star did some recording for the project, but dropped out in January, following John Lasseter’s hire to the top animation job at David Ellison’s studio, an insider close to the [...]

  • Daniel Kaluuya Lakeith Stanfield

    Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield in Talks to Star in Film About Black Panther Party Leader

    Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield are in negotiations to star in the historical drama “Jesus Was My Homeboy” about Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. The project is set up at Warner Bros. with “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler producing along with Charles King through his Marco production company. Executive producers are Sev Ohanian, Zinzi [...]

  • Watch First Trailer for Motley Crue

    Watch First Trailer for Motley Crue Biopic 'The Dirt'

    Netflix has dropped the first trailer for its Motley Crue biopic “The Dirt” — based on Neil Strauss’ best-selling history of the legendarily bad-behaved ‘80s metal icons — and it looks like the film pulls no punches in terms of the band’s famously sordid history. In this two-minute trailer, we get glimpses of singer Vince [...]

  • ‘Tomorrow and Thereafter,’ ‘Diane Has the

    MyFrenchFilmFestival Prizes ‘Tomorrow and Thereafter,’ ‘Diane Has the Right Shape’

    Actress-director Noémie Lvovsky’s “Tomorrow And Thereafter,” a heartfelt homage to the director’s own mother, and Fabien Gorgeart’s “Diane Has the Right Shape,” about one woman’s surrogate motherhood, both won big at the 2019 UniFrance MyFrenchFilmFestival which skewed female in its winners and viewership, making particularly notable inroads into South East Asia and Latin America. Opening [...]

  • Vue International Chief Slams BAFTA For

    Vue International Chief Slams BAFTA for Awarding Prizes to 'Roma'

    Tim Richards, the founder and chief executive of Vue International, one of the largest cinema chains in Europe, has slammed the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for awarding prizes to Netflix’s “Roma.” Alfonso Cuaron’s black-and-white film, which is also up for several Oscars, won four BAFTAs at the awards ceremony in London on [...]

  • Oscars Ultimate Party Guide

    Oscar's Ultimate Party Guide 2019

    Welcome to Oscar week. It’s the time of year when Hollywood’s film industry celebrates all things movies. But it’s certainly not just the big show everyone is looking forward to. With voting closed, it’s all about the parties now. Who’s doing what and where and when are they doing it are the questions everyone is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content