Glenn Close is one of the most heralded actors in history, with a record eight Academy Award nominations — including this year, as best actress for “Hillbilly Elegy.” But to get there, even she has endured a series of bad auditions. In particular, she remembers a “miserable” experience in the late 1970s vying for a role opposite John Travolta in “American Gigolo.”
On a special edition of the Variety Awards Circuit podcast (scroll down to listen), Close details the “American Gigolo” experience, which began with her taking time off from a Broadway show to audition in Los Angeles. “Travolta was a huge star at the time,” she says. “And I remember that they had been working overnight to create this fancy office for him because he was coming in to audition with people.”
One of the scenes was supposed to take place in bed and when Close walked into the room, she says, “There are about eight people sitting there, with Travolta in a bed. And I wanted to kill myself… I had pages, I hadn’t memorized it. And he didn’t know his lines. And I didn’t know what to do. It was it was it was so horrible. It was so humiliating. And I realized now, what the game was – I should have just tried to seduce him. It didn’t matter what I said. It was like, ‘what’s the chemistry?’ That was that was not a fun experience. And obviously, I didn’t get the role.”
Travolta also ended up not doing the film, which was released in 1980 starring Richard Gere.
It wasn’t her only challenging audition; Close also recounts a story where a she read with a big star who “at one point, he put his hand on my knee and started rubbing it. And I thought, ‘This doesn’t have anything to do with the scene, or does it?’”
Another time, she was auditioning for the play version of “Albert Nobbs” – a role she would later play on film and earn an Oscar nom for. “I did such a bad audition that I stopped myself and said, ‘I am boring myself to tears. So I must be boring you; I’m just going to go home,'” she says. “They called my agent and said that was the most interesting thing that happened to them all day.’ And they wanted me to come back.” That time, Close booked the part.
Close also speaks about how the awards circuit has changed over the years; she is currently Oscar nominated for her role in “Hillbilly Elegy” as Mamaw, the tough but loving grandmother who helped shape the book’s author, J.D. Vance. Close noted that there are some advantages to promoting a film from home. “It’s really nice to be on a zoom call and actually be able to talk to people; I feel like you’re in the room together, you can see people’s faces,” she says. “Whereas before you go into a big gathering, and it’s really hard to have the kind of communication that we’ve had this year.”
Close says that extends to awards shows and roundtables, where she’s been able to spend some virtual time with other actors and the women in her category. “I love my fellow actors and to be able to, to have a quiet conversation together. Talk about whatever we’ve been asked to talk about. It really is has been very enriching. I’m very grateful for it. We have an amazing community.”
Close also notes how premieres have changed, outside of the pandemic, remembering her first premiere for her debut film – 1982’s “The World According to Garp.”
“The premiere of ‘Garp’ in Los Angeles, if I remember correctly, was in that big theater in Westwood, and John Lithgow and I wore our own clothes just out of our closet,” she says. “The red carpet used to be just something you walked on to get into the ceremony. Now, it’s totally changed.”
Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, hosted by Clayton Davis, Jenelle Riley, Jazz Tangcay and Michael Schneider (who produces), is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday.