• Golden Globe Awards

Nominee Profile 2021: Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy”

From the predatory Alex Forrest of Fatal Attraction to the manipulative Marquise de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons or the iconic Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatiansnot forgetting the ambitious lawyer Patty Hewes of the TV drama DamagesGlenn Close has enjoyed her share of complex parts, for which she has already earned three Golden Globes. This year the actress is up for her fourth nomination for her performance in Hillbilly Elegy.
Born in Connecticut in 1947, Glenn Close grew up traveling the world with her peripatetic parents, Dr. William Close and Bettine Moore Close. When she was 13, her parents moved the family to the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) where her father worked in a clinic. Later she split her time between Africa and boarding school in Switzerland. After attending college, where she studied drama and anthropology, she moved to New York City, where she joined the Phoenix Theatre Company. Close soon began her professional acting career. She made her Broadway debut in 1974’s Love for Love. At first, she loved the stage so much that she never considered film acting, but her talent ultimately translated well to the silver screen. In 1980, after seeing her in the musical Burnum, director George Roy Hill cast her as Jenny Fields, a feminist writer, in The World According to Garp (1982). At that time, she was 35 with an acclaimed stage career to her name, a Tony nomination for Barnum, and an Obie award for playing a Victorian woman who lived as a man in The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs, a project she clung to for another 30 years, eventually starring in the 2011 film version.
After her portrayal of a seductive stalker in the 1987 thriller Fatal Attraction, Close´s reputation was established as a powerful force in Hollywood. Some of her most acclaimed work followed: the scheming noblewoman in Dangerous Liaisons; Sunny Von Bülow, the heiress whose husband Claus (Jeremy Irons) was charged with her murder before being exonerated in Reversal of FortuneMel Gibson’s Hamlet in the 1990 film version. Around that time, Close went back to the stage, where she earned a Tony Award for Best Actress in 1992 for Death and the Maiden and again in 1995 for her portrait of Norma Desmond in the Andrew Lloyd Webber revival of Sunset Boulevard.
Close moved to comedic roles on the big screen, such as Cruella de Vil in the live-action 101 Dalmatians, and the First Lady, Marsha Dale, in 1996’s Mars Attack. She even took a vocal acting role on the animated television show, The Simpsons, playing Mona Simpson, Homer’s estranged mother. Television proved to be a perfect field of action for Glenn Close, who in the 2000s was recognized for her powerful performance of Eleanor of Aquitaine in the made-for-television film, The Lion in Winter, for which she won her first Golden Globe Award. She shone in the fourth season of The Shield, but it was her portrayal of the unapologetically savage lawyer Patty Hewes in the series Damages that brought her a second Golden Globe.
Following Damages, Close returned to Broadway for the 2014 revival of Edward Albee´s A Delicate Balance and traveled to London’s West End where, in 2016, she revisited the role of Norma Desmond in another production of Sunset Boulevard.  She was 70 years old when she played Johnathan Pryce’s wife in The Wife, a film based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer, that in 2018 led her to her third Golden Globe.
Now the actress might add a fourth Globe to her collection for her performance as the resilient and whip-smart matriarch “Mamaw” Vance in Hillbilly Elegy, the Ron Howard-directed film which adapts J.D. Vance’s popular memoir, documenting his intimate story of growing up in a small town in the Appalachian Mountains, an environment beset by poverty and drugs. “I wanted to do this movie because it’s a territory that I have not emotionally or psychologically, explored before so I knew it was going to be a big challenge for me as an actress”, confesses Close who admits, however, that she was not shocked to learn of the impoverished conditions of those communities in the Appalachian region. “I’ve actually been aware of that. My parents spent the last 25, 30 years of their life in a very small working town in Wyoming, where my father was a doctor, so I´ve seen that kind of culture in our country”.
In preparation for the role of Mamaw, the actress devoted herself to figuring out this fierce, funny, larger-than-life woman who kept the Vance family together for a long time. She read books, looked through photos of Mamaw, and watched some family home videos to feel the essence of who this woman was. “She was a fierce mother and a fierce fighter for her family. You can see in the movie how she realizes that she made terrible mistakes, and she didn´t want her grandson to go through the same thing; she wanted him to break out of that”, says the 73 years-old actress who recently reunited with Rodrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs) to do Four Good Days and will soon start working on the Apple TV drama Swan Song with Mahershala Ali.