Feature Interviews - Actresses
Interviews A to E > Glenn Close
REACHING THE HEIGHTS
By Brad Balfour
All rights reserved. Posted: June 29, 2005.
Having reached the
heights of the acting pantheon, Glenn Close found making Heights
almost a walk in the park compared to some of her earlier groundbreaking
roles in such films as Fatal Attraction and The Big Chill.
But having established herself as a hard working actress, Close continues
to take on challenges whether they be big budget blockbusters or small
personal tales like this one where she plays a diva-esque star grappling
with her daughter’s impending marriage.
Was it weird playing an actress, Diana, who's playing an actress that's
doing Shakespeare in this film?
was very self-conscious about the Shakespeare bit. I wanted to make sure
the audience knew it was a technical rehearsal and not a performance level
thing. We improved a lot in that.
Was your character based on anyone?
I really didn't base
my character on anyone. I think there are certain actresses that have that
kind of energy about them. Zoe Caldwell comes to mind, but she's not like
Diana. She has that kind of life force.
Did you enjoy the opportunity of playing your character in a somewhat
No, not really.
Truthfully, I think that diva is a cliché. You think of an opera star as
someone spoiled in a fur coat. You could say that [stage actress] Audra
McDonald's a diva but she's not. It has a negative connotation. She is a
diva if that means a larger-than-life performer. I would label a diva as
someone whose talent doesn't match what they're trying to play, so all
this temperament comes out. Temperament becomes the substitute for talent.
For the hugely talented women that I've worked with or observed, it's not
a question of temperament or ego. It's a question about just getting it
right. If they have a reputation for being difficult, it's usually because
the don't [take any bull]. When I hear that somebody's difficult, I say,
"Oh, I can't wait to work with them."
How did you feel
about your hair color in Heights?
I think it makes the
part. The dark wig had very heavy, straight hair. I have light, frizzy
hair. I have a brilliant wig maker that I've been working with for 13
years. He can do anything, and we thought to do something different.
What is the
relationship between your character Diana and her daughter Isabel played
by Elizabeth Banks (Spider Man, The Baxter)?
It was very well
written. Because of Diana's past, Isabel was put in the parent position,
and I was more of the child. When you see us in this movie, it's just
getting to a different (place) where I'm becoming the parent. You have a
feeling, as they progress, that they will have a new kind of
You worked with
the late producer Ismail Merchant [of Merchant/Ivory, producers of such
Oscar-nominated films as Remains of the Day and Howard’s End] on
Le Divorce as well. Could you share with us any memories you have of
He was just the most
seductive, passionate, outrageous, driven, genius of a man. You think of
the incredible legacy that he and [director] Jim Ivory created together
with [screenwriter] Ruth [Prawer Jhabvala]. He just made it happen. He
could squeeze money out of a telephone poll, and I loved him for that. The
last time I talked to him was a month and a half ago. I didn't know that
he had those ulcers and went to the hospital during Le Divorce. I think
it was a shock to everyone. The genius about Heights is that he [Merchant]
recognized [director] Chris Terrio's talent. I first met Chris on the set
of Le Divorce. He was interviewing everyone and doing our EPK and there
was something delightful about him. He was certainly intelligent. It was
Ishmail who picked up on his talent. He let Chris do his own movie. I'm
sure they had big fights, but it's not a Merchant/Ivory film. It's a Chris
Do you feel passionate about doing films in New York?
wonderful as television show The Shield was, it made me realize
that I have been, basically, sacrificing my life for my work. At this
point in my career, I want it the other way around. I want to find work
that fits into my life that will be based here. That  was a great
year for me, because I did The Stepford Wives, the thing with
Sidney Lumet [Strip Search], and Heights, and it was all
here. It was heaven.
How was your
experience working on the LA cop show The Shield?
I had a great time on
The Shield [she played Captain Monica Rawling]. First of all, I
have a totally different view of law enforcement. My total inspiration for
that part was deputy inspector Theresa Shortell down at the 6th precinct
of Manhattan. I heard that they've added another [female] commanding
officer since The Shield, but I don't know if that's true. Before I
started, Theresa was the only female commanding officer [in New York
City]. She's phenomenal. Here is a woman who is making a mark on law
enforcement in Manhattan. Literally, she let me look into her closet, and
there was Jones New York. I wear Jones New York on The Shield.
you play a part in defining your character?
I had discussions
with the writers about whether she [Rawling] was married or not. I said,
"How could she be married?" If she's married, she has to have a
problematic marriage because I've heard that it's very hard for people in
her position to do both. So we knocked that off. She didn't have a
husband. She never had a relationship. This makes what Vic [played by
Michael Chiklis] and I have together much stronger.
Would you want cops like Vic out there?
He gets the job done.
Everybody I've talked to in law enforcement says it happens. It's a very
grey area. Vic is a brilliant cop, but he's very complicated. I don't
think I would call him a bad man compared to some of the other guys. It's
Are you coming back next season?
I am not. My
daughter's a senior in high school and I live here (New York), and there's
no way I could be away like that. It was very hard.
How do you feel when people (actors and directors alike) appear
intimidated by you as a star?
I'm really very aware
of that, because it puts you in a strange situation when you think that
everyone is looking at every little thing you do. And you know that you're
not that good. It's not good to be in a situation where people don't want
to direct you or don't want to question something.
Do you think the better roles are reserved for the younger actresses?
Good roles are hard
to find no matter what age.
Did you think your career would last this long? Did you ever have that
I never got into this
business thinking I would be a movie star. I grew up running around the
Connecticut countryside, pretending I was Hopalong Cassidy. I was always
somebody else so that was an indication. Acting was always something I
wanted to do. To me, it's about the incredible adventure of examining the
landscape of human heart and soul. That's basically what we do.
When you made
Fatal Attraction, did you know that Alex Forrest would become such an iconic character? And what did you feel about the changed ending
of the film?
There came a point
where we got really excited, because it was pretty special. Everyone was
right on their game. It broke my heart to reshoot that ending. She was not
a psychopath. She was a self-destructive, wounded creature. All the
did showed that it was textbook behavior from someone who was molested at
a very early age. She was very much a victim. When they tested the movie,
people were so upset by her behavior. Americans like everything neatly
wrapped up. They want to believe that family will survive. They were so
upset that they, literally, demanded her blood. And they gave it to them.
I fought against reshooting it. I didn't want to trash my character like
that. It was very painful, but I learned that there's something about a
catharsis that is very important. In some ways, I think the movie wouldn't
have been as effective without this new ending, even though I didn't think
it was true to the character. The audience was put to a point that, if you
didn't give them some kind of catharsis, I don't know what they would have
done. It would have been okay in Europe maybe, but not this country. The
[initial] script I read was seamless film noir. We [Alex and Dan Gallagher
(played by Michael Douglas)] had the fight, his fingerprints are on the
knife, she kills herself, she cuts her own throat with that knife, and
Dan's taken off to prison. That was it. Then they introduced the tape with
the wife [played by Anne Archer] and I'm saying, "I want to kill you."
They tried to stack the cards against me, which wasn't totally fair to
that character. But I think that movie has become a part of our culture.
The term "Bunny Boilers" is now a part of our language. People still come
up to me and say, "You scared the shit out of me!"
independent feature with a first time director that’s coming out in
August, The Chumscrubber. It was a great piece of writing, a very
dark comedy. I thought it was an original social satire. It made me laugh
and scared me at the same time. Arie Posin, who directed and co-wrote it,
like Chris Terrio, is an emerging talent. And I did a movie with Rodrigo
Garcia called Nine Lives. I don't know when it's coming out but it
premiered at Sundance. There are nine stories and each story is done in
one continuous take. It made me proud to be an actor. Some of the work in
that movie blew my mind.