Nationality: American. Born: Greenwich, Connecticut, 19 March 1947. Education: Attended William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Virginia, graduated 1974. Family: Married 1) Cabot Wade;
The Orphan Train (William A. Graham—for TV) (as Jessica); Too Far to Go (Fielder Cook—for TV) (as Rebecca Kuehn)
The World According to Garp (George Roy Hill) (as Jenny Fields)
The Big Chill (Kasdan) (as Sarah Cooper)
The Stone Boy (Cain) (as Ruth Hillerman); The Natural (Levinson) (as Iris Raines); Something about Amelia (Haines—for TV) (as Gail Bennett); Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (Hudson) (voice only, dubbed Andie MacDowell's voice)
Jagged Edge (Marquand) (as Teddie Barnes); Maxie ( Free Spirit ) (Aaron) (as Jan/Maxie)
Fatal Attraction (Lyne) (as Alex Forrest); Gandahar ( Light Years ) (Wernstein—animation) (voice only)
Stones for Ibarra (Gold—for TV) (as Sara Everton); Dangerous Liaisons (Frears) (as Marquise de Merteuil)
Immediate Family ( Parental Guidance ) (Kaplan) (as Linda Spector)
Hamlet (Zeffirelli) (as Gertrude); Reversal of Fortune (Schroeder) (as Martha "Sunny" von Bulow); I'll Take Romance (Haggard—for TV)
Sarah, Plain and Tall (Glenn Jordan—for TV) (title role, + co-exec pr); Meeting Venus (Szabo) (as Karin Anderson); Hook (Spielberg) (as pirate); Brooklyn Laundry (as Birdie)
Lincoln (Kunhardt—TV doc) (as voice of Mary Todd Lincoln)
Skylark (Sargent—for TV) (as Sarah Witting + exec pr)
The House of the Spirits (August) (as Ferula)
The Paper (Ron Howard) (as Alicia Clark)
Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story (Bleckner—for TV) (title role + exec pr)
Mary Reilly (Frears) (as Mrs. Farraday); 101 Dalmations (as Cruella De Vil); Mars Attacks! (Tim Burton) (as First Lady Martha Dale)
Paradise Road (Beresford) (as Adrienne Pargiter); Air Force One (Petersen) (as Vice President Kathryn Bennett); In the Gloaming (Reeve—for TV) (as Janet)
Tarzan (Buck & Lima) (voice of Kala); Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End (Jordan—for TV) (title role + exec pr); Cookie's Fortune (Altman) (as Camille Dixon); The Lady with the Torch (Heeley—doc) (herself as host)
102 Dalmations (Lima) (as Cruella De Vil); Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her (Garcia) (as Dr. Elaine Keener)
South Pacific (Richard Pearce)
Do You Mean There Are Still Real Cowboys? (Blair—doc) (pr)
Journey (McLoughlin—for TV) (exec pr)
Interview with J. Hurley, in Films in Review (New York), February 1983.
"Too Close for Comfort," interview with Ross Wetzsteon, in American Film (New York), May 1984.
Interview in Time Out (London), 1 March 1989.
Interview with B. Hadleigh, in Film Monthly , July 1990.
Interview with Frank Spotnik, in American Film , November/December 1991.
"Glenn Close, Opera Queen: The Diva of Meeting Venus Is Game for Anything Gay," in Advocate (Los Angeles), 3 December 1991.
"Playing the Diva," interview with Stephen Schiff, in New Yorker , 14 November 1994.
"Leaving the Role," in New Yorker , 10 July 1995.
Newcomer, Ron, The Films of Glenn Close , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1996.
Current Biography 1984 , New York, 1984.
Kaplan, J., "Close to the Bone," in New York , 12 September 1994.
Allenman, Richard, "Getting Close," in Vogue , November 1994.
"Close Call," in Movieline (Escondido), November 1996.
Thomson, D., and others, "Who's the Best Actress in Hollywood," in Movieline (Escondido), November 1996.
* * *
The early 1980s witnessed the emergence of three actresses who still enjoy great popularity and critical acclaim: Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, and Glenn Close. Graduating from five years of stage experience, Close earned five Academy Award nominations between 1982 and 1988 in five of the most popular and successful films of the decade. During this period, Close also firmly established her credentials as a distinguished actress on Broadway (winning a Tony Award for The Real Thing ) and on television (receiving an Emmy nomination for Something About Amelia ). From this explosive start, her superb skills as an actress continually grew while her roles reflected the cultural priorities of the times.
Close's early 1980s films created an image of conservative femininity: a nurturing, virtuous, attractive, and vulnerable woman. She plays an overly protective mother in The World According to Garp , a serene and loving wife in The Big Chill , and a deified muse in The Natural . This stereotype (which won Close her first three Academy Award nominations) also underscores the dilemma of women's roles during a decade that championed masculine heroism. Actresses found themselves playing characters who often merely supported the male lead in his endeavors. When this stereotype of the feminine ideal becomes threatened in The World According to Garp (Jenny Fields's mothering leads her to a radical feminism) or questioned in Jagged Edge (Teddie Barnes improperly uses the legal system to protect her lover, the killer), the character is punished by assassination or physical and emotional trauma.
Jagged Edge introduced the opposite side of Close's stardom: the feminine threat. Her next two roles, Alex in Fatal Attraction and the Marquise de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons , unleashed characters who follow the tradition of the femme fatale; women who are sexy, independent, manipulative, and duplicitous. Alex is a successful businesswoman, but unmarried and childless. Her desire to achieve a "traditional" family initiates a perverse drive to replace the legitimate wife. Her unsuccessful attempt results in Alex's death (at the hands of the legitimate wife), the punishment of the adulterous husband, and the reestablishment of the nuclear family. The Marquise's social and sexual machinations, based upon contempt for love and masculine power, destroy everyone including herself. Utterly alone, she recognizes her contempt has denied her any chance of happiness. This second stereotype (which won Close her next two Academy Award nominations) again underscores the dilemma of women's roles in 1980s Hollywood. Actresses found themselves playing characters who often threatened the male lead and deserved punishment for their aggression.
The tension between these two stereotypes reached its apex in Maxie . Close plays a character who literally manifests the notion of feminine duality. Portraying a dedicated wife possessed by the spirit of a freewheeling "flapper," she must synthesize the contradictions of these two characters to achieve peace and emerge as an ideal figure of womanhood.
Close's early difficulty in finding films that did not perpetuate the two extremes of the feminine stereotype found resolution during the 1990s. She combined attributes of the strong, determined woman with a more traditional femininity and created characters with complex psychological motivations. This synthesis links her to Bette Davis, whom she admits emulating. Davis always played a powerful woman inflected in two ways: a self-sacrificing and maternal figure or a manipulative and destructive one. Close continues this tradition but in a way that doesn't necessarily present these two types as mutually exclusive. In Immediate Family , Hamlet , The House of the Spirits , In the Gloaming, Serving in Silence , Paradise Road , and the Sarah, Plain and Tall trilogy ( Sarah, Plain and Tall, Skylark, and Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End ) she plays strong, nurturing, virtuous, and yet vulnerable women. Each character offers a different facet of this model, from lesbian mother to repressed spinster, but the results ultimately reaffirm feminine strength, love, and determination. Even her "role" as Kala in the animated Tarzan emphasizes these culturally important characteristics of nurturing. In Reversal of Fortune , Meeting Venus , The Paper, Cookie's Fortune, and 101 Dalmations she plays strong, sexy, independent, and manipulative women who are punished in some way for the problems they create. In Reversal of Fortune she plays "Sunny" von Bulow whose "failure" to be a traditional mother offers another explanation why her husband attempts to kill her. In Meeting Venus she plays Karin Anderson, an opera diva whose affair with a conductor destroys the conductor's marriage. In The Paper she plays Alicia Clark, the managing editor of a New York daily newspaper. She engages in a surprisingly physical brawl with Michael Keaton, an altercation she ultimately wins. Yet when accidentally shot, parallel editing equates her helplessness to Michael Keaton's wife's emergency C-section. In Cookie's Fortune she plays Camille Dixon whose secret past, over-mothering, and class consciousness leads to her nervous breakdown and imprisonment. Occasionally this model is pushed to extremes, either for comic effect (Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmations gave Close the opportunity to play a living cartoon, which she did with great fun and gusto) or melodramatic excess (Norma Desmond in the stage version of Sunset Boulevard allowed Close to turn in a stunningly psychotic—and musical—performance as a deranged silent film star).
And like Davis, Close is both an actress and a star; finding a new mannerism and vocal quality to make each character unique and memorable, yet retaining that core persona which quietly states "this is Glenn Close." Her most interesting films include Reversal of Fortune , Meeting Venus , In the Gloaming , Paradise Road , the Sarah, Plain and Tall trilogy, and Serving in Silence . In Reversal of Fortune , playing a comatose Sunny von Bulow, Close appears in flashbacks as a woman who suffers emotionally and physically from a diffident husband, alienated children, diabetes, alcoholism, and a bourgeois ennui. In Meeting Venus , Close portrays a celebrated artist confident with her career but less certain about her romantic relationships. In In the Gloaming , Close's touching performance as an upper-class mother re-connecting with her dying son at the expense of her husband and daughter earned her an Emmy nomination. In Paradise Road , Close's coolly detached patrician attitude disappears to reveal a warm and caring leader, a survivor who keeps a group of women alive during their years as prisoners of war. In the Sarah, Plain and Tall trilogy she authors one of her most complex characters; an obdurate New England spinster who answers a mail-order wife ad, moves to Kansas, falls in love, and raises her new husband's two children. Ostensibly a Western, the films allow Close that rare opportunity to play a woman who embodies the characteristics of both a nurturing mother and a fiercely independent woman without lapsing into either stereotype. In Serving in Silence , Close masterfully creates another complex character: a woman torn between her homosexual desire, her military career, and her sons. That her performance never falls into caricature and that the film allows a believable merger of these conflicting drives (never forcing a choice) shows the maturity of Close's acting techniques and the film's willingness to reflect more culturally (and personally) diverse solutions to real problems. Close's 20 year career nicely parallels Hollywood's shift from limited stereotypes in the 1980s to a wider range of social beings in the 1990s. Her talents have contributed to and benefitted from this change.
—Greg S. Faller