Glenn Close Goes for (Oscar) Gold in The Wife

August 16, 2018

Beverly Hills, CA – “And the Oscar goes to… Glenn Close for The Wife.” That is what Sony Classics hopes will be announced at the next Oscars ceremony, (February 12, 2019), when the Best Actress statue is handed out.

For the most part, Oscar contender movies are released in the fall, when voting is fresh on the minds of voters, not in late summer when people are on holiday or getting ready to send their kids back to school.

For the movie The Wife and for Glenda Veronica Close, however, the studio did what they needed to do, what they had to do, to accommodate Close’s rehearsals for her upcoming Off Broadway, Public Theater lead role in Mother of the Maid, (which premieres September 25, 2018), in which she stars as Isabelle Arc—Joan of Arc’s mother. Ironically, the play is written by Jane Anderson, the same woman who adapted Meg Wolitzer’s novel, The Wife, for the big screen.

While The Wife hits NYC and Los Angeles movie theaters August 17, 2018 (and rolls out nationwide, slowly through the end of summer), the junket for the film was July 24 and Close has been promoting it endlessly for the past three weeks.

Directed by Bjorn Runge, The Wife is a movie that will keep you guessing until the very end. After nearly forty years of marriage, Joan (Close) and Joe Castleman (Johathan Pryce) compliment each other: Where Joe is brash, Joan is shy. Where Joe is slovenly, Joan is elegant. Where Joe enjoys a very public life as Great American Novelist, Joan pours her considerable intellect, grace and charm into the private role of Joe’s life, keeping the home running smoothly, the adult kids in close contact and Joe’s pills dispensed on schedule.

The story begins in 1993 when Joe is about to receive the Nobel Prize for his acclaimed and prolific body of work Joe’s literary star has blazed since he and Joan first met in the late 1950s, when she was a Smith student he her (married) creative writing teacher.The film interweaves the midcentury story of the couple’s youthful passion and ambition with a portrait of a marriage, thirty plus years later – a lifetime’s shared compromises, secrets, betrayals, and genuine, mutual love.Whatever our contemporary take may be on the sexual politics at work in the Castleman marriage, it’s all about grey areas. “This isn’t an easy black and white story,” says Glenn Close, dressed in a cream colored Armani pant suit, seating in a room at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire. One of her dogs, golden retriever, joins us for the interview and settles himself under one of the windows in the room. (More about that later). “Ultimately, it’s about power, the power that Joan gives up and finally reclaims. I think it’s hard for us to imagine what it was like to be in that world where women weren’t expected to achieve great things the way men were.”

I needlessly remind Close, who turned 70 this year, that her career took a 180 degree turn from the one of Joan’s. To date, she has been nominated for six acting Oscars, currently the most nominated non-winning actor alive. Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter were also nominated for six acting Oscars, neither even winning.

First nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the 1982 movie The World According To Garp, Close was nominated for four additional Oscars in the 1980s; Best Supporting Actress for 1983’s The Big Chill, Best Supporting Actress for 1984’s The Natural, Best Actress for her most acclaimed role to date, 1987’s Fatal Attraction (where she lost to Cher, who won for Moonstruck), and for 1988’s Dangerous Liasons.

Ironically, Fatal Attraction is as relevant today as it was in 1987. “Yes,” agrees Close, when I point out that the movie could have been made today, and other than cell phones replacing land line phones, nothing much else would have changed.

Twenty four years went by without another Oscar nod, but in 2012 she received one for playing a woman pretending to be a man in the movie Alfred Nobbs.

However, most millennials and those who make up the Generation Z crowd know her best not from any or all of her Oscar nominated roles, rather from playing Cruella DeVil in the live action 101 and 102 Dalmatian movies from Walt Disney Pictures.

Close continues to reflect on Joan in The Wife, “she has the soul of an artist, the curiosity, the focus, the wildly fertile imagination. But her lack of confidence was part of the cultural climate. In working out Joan’s emotional journey with Jane and Bjorn, we were very, very clear that Joan is not a passive victim and doesn’t see herself as one. It’s much more complicated and subtle.”

One of Close’s favorite scenes in The Wife was “when Joan let him (Joe) have it, and then says, ‘I just want to get out of this dress.’ And he starts helping her unzip her dress. That says everything. Little tiny observations – I love that.”

The most interesting thing about The Wife is that in the flashbacks, Close’s real life daughter, Annie Starke, plays Joan.

Starke joined her mother for the interview. As Close recalls, “I said to Annie, ‘You’re the only one that lays down the character. I follow what you have established.’ We talked through Joan’s shyIf ness and insecurities, her felling that she’d have no life without [Joe] because she didn’t think she was worthy.”

“We really put Joan through a microscope,” says Starke. “We’re both sticklers for detail and character development and, also, it helps knowing each other quite well so we could nail each other’s mannerisms and ways of speaking.”

Glenn Close is a three time Tony Award winner: twice as Best Actress (Play), in 1984 for Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” and in 2002 for “Death and the Maiden”, and once as Best Actress (Musical), for “Sunset Boulevard”, playing Norma Desmond. She has also won Emmy and Golden Globe awards. Close didn’t make her big screen debut until 1982, when she was 35. Before that it was all theater.

If her latest theatrical endeavor was not an Off-Broadway production, chances are we could have seen Close winning not only an Oscar next year, but also another Tony.

Oh, yes. More about her canine companion the day of our interview. Close is very active in supporting Puppies Behind Bars and their program Dog Tags: Service Dogs for Those Who’ve Served Us. Close also cofounded Bring Change to Mind, a charity dedicated to confronting, head-on, the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness by empowering people to start the conversation – by Tim Nasson and Dylan Tracy