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

  • Film Constellation Boards Werner Herzog's Japan-Set

    Film Constellation Boards Werner Herzog's Japanese Film 'Family Romance'

    London-based sales house Film Constellation has boarded Oscar-winning director Werner Herzog’s highly anticipated Japanese-language film “Family Romance” which will have its world premiere in the special screenings section at the Cannes Film Festival. Written and directed by Herzog, the movie shot last spring and summer in Japan in Tokyo and Aomori with non-professional Japanese actors [...]

  • Avengers Endgame Box Office: Can It

    'Avengers: Endgame' Expected to Shatter Box Office Records

    “Avengers: Endgame” has its sights set on world domination. Disney and Marvel’s upcoming superhero epic should light the box office on fire when it launches this weekend, with the hopes of setting domestic, international, and global records. In North America alone, “Avengers: Endgame” is expected to earn between $250 million and $268 million in its [...]

  • Katie HolmesAT&T Presents: Untold Stories Luncheon

    Katie Holmes, Kal Penn Help Decide Winner of $1 Million Filmmaker Grant

    Tribeca Film Festival and AT&T gave one young filmmaker a million and one reasons to rejoice at the “Untold Stories” third annual competition. After a nerve-wracking 10-minute long pitch in front of over 850,000 live stream audience members and a panel consisting of celebrities and industry leaders, filmmaker Kate Tsang was awarded $1 million on [...]

  • Reed Hastings seen on day one

    Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' Compensation Jumps 48% to $36.1 Million

    Netflix chief Reed Hastings is being handsomely rewarded for calling the shots at the streaming giant. His compensation package, which is largely in the form of stock options, climbed 48% in 2018 to $36.1 million. That’s up from $24.4 million in the previous year. Hastings’ salary is a relatively modest $700,000, but his stock options [...]

  • Emma Thompson to Star in Extinction

    Emma Thompson to Star in Extinction Rebellion Climate-Change Satire (EXCLUSIVE)

    Emma Thompson will play a climate-change activist in “Extinction,” a timely satirical short film that will include footage of the Extinction Rebellion group’s ongoing wave of action in London. Two-time Oscar winner Thompson has herself been involved in the high-profile London-based protests. She addressed crowds over the weekend from Extinction Rebellion’s signature pink boat, which [...]

  • First Look at Cannes-Bound ‘Diego Maradona’

    First Look at Cannes-Bound ‘Diego Maradona’ Feature Documentary

    Diego Maradona waves to raucous Napoli fans before heading into a media scrum and press conference in the first clip from the feature documentary about the soccer superstar. “Diego Maradona” is the third film from the team behind the award-winning “Senna” and “Amy,” with Asif Kapadia directing and James Gay-Rees and Paul Martin producing. They [...]

  • Raising Hell: The Life and Times

    Film Review: 'Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins'

    One of the more entertaining as well as insightful political commentators of the past half-century is paid a suitably entertaining tribute in “Raise Hell.” A long tall Texan too amusingly outrageous to draw real resentment from most of her targets, Molly Ivins nonetheless aimed stinging criticism at political figures both national and in her native [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content