Glenn Close stands doubled over laughing in the doorway to her downtown Manhattan apartment while her loyal white Havanese, Pip, circles an arriving reporter. It's star time for both. Close, among the most accomplished performers never to win an Oscar, may finally break through with "The Wife," in which, ironically, she plays a deferential spouse (to an acclaimed author, played by Jonathan Pryce) who has been long overlooked. The never-nominated Pip has developed his own following, thanks in part to an appearance on "The View." The dog's Instagram account, under the name "Sir Pippin of Beanfield," is up to 3,400 followers.
What would an Academy Award mean to her?
"It would mean a lot but I wouldn't want it to be a pity Oscar because I've been an actress for 45 years," says Close, whose previous honors include three Tony awards, three Emmys and three Globes. "People have been going back and looking at my basic body of work and the six times I lost and what those roles were. So I can't pretend it's just for 'The Wife.' But I feel like everybody's rooting for me."
But that's not to say Close will be crestfallen if she doesn't win. She smiles. "I've decided if I lose, I'm going to look at the camera and say: 'I'm OK.'"
And she is. Much more than OK, even. Making "The Wife" has been its own cathartic, empowering experience for Close.
"It's taken me a long time to gain control of my own life. When I made 'The Wife,' I was in control of my own life for probably the first time," says Close. "I felt like I had new wings. Or maybe my wings were finally developed." That's a startling pronouncement for an actress who has for decades been one of the most versatile and subtle actors of film, television and theater. A late bloomer, she didn't act in her first film until age 35. But since, Close has unfailingly embodied intelligence and depth in everything from her early breakthroughs in "The World According to Garp" and "The Big Chill" to "Sunset Boulevard" (twice on stage, decades apart; she hopes to make a film of the musical this year); from her ruthless attorney on "Damages" to her infamous Alex Forrest in "Fatal Attraction."
"The Wife," a feminist parable based on Meg Wolitzer's 2003 novel, came to Close about six years ago, shortly before divorcing her third husband, venture capitalist David Evans Shaw. When it's mentioned to Close that she doesn't seem like someone who would ever sublimate herself to another, she responds, "Oh, you don't know me, personally," and lets out a loud laugh.
"I'm at a time in my life where I'm not beholden to anyone. I mean, I always am attached with every molecule in my body to my daughter, whether she likes it or not. But I'm not attached to any partner," says Close, whose 30-year-old daughter Annie Starke co-stars in "The Wife." "And I think it's for the first time in my life that I haven't felt the obligation to not be who I am, to put a shade over the light, to temper your power. And it's incredibly liberating."
That "The Wife" features Close and her daughter (who plays a younger version of the same character) gives the film an added, multigenerational layer of meaning. Both Close and Starke together crafted the character with inspiration from the women of their shared family tree. Foremost in Close's mind was her mother, who married at 18.
"It broke my heart to hear her say in her late '80s that she accomplished nothing," says Close, tearing up. "You can say, 'But, oh, you're such a good mother. Oh, you stuck it out with dad.' That wasn't the point. It was something else. That's what I think resonated with a lot women about that (Golden Globes) speech. Because we do what we naturally do. And for a lot of women that might be OK. But it hasn't been in the tradition to seek personal fulfillment for women."
"The Wife" premiered just as the #MeToo movement was being born. It debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017. Sony Pictures Classic, which acquired the movie, chose to wait to release it in August, timed to get ahead of the awards season rush.
"One of the reasons it was so fresh and so strong for us was how powerful Glenn was in the sequences where she's not even speaking," said Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classic. "It's just her face and her face isn't even the central face in the frame. Even though it was a few months before the MeToo movement really kicked in, it was obvious the theme was very urgent and important."