Glenn Close is hardly new to the Oscars race.
The actress, 71, earned her seventh nomination Tuesday for her turn in the title role of “The Wife”: Joan is a writer who lives in the shadows of her Nobel Prize-winning husband even though she has had a big hand in his work.
[Read more about the nominations | Check out the full list of nominees | See the snubs and surprises.]
Close has never won an Oscar, but she may break that streak after racking up several accolades for her performance, including a Golden Globe. Speaking from her home in Montana after enjoying a celebratory pancake, Close talked about her “problematic character” and why getting an Oscar nomination is “even more exciting” the seventh time around.
Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.
How does it feel to be nominated for the seventh time?
It feels incredible to be recognized at this point in my career for a movie that could easily have just disappeared. I’ve done many independent films but there’s something about this story and this woman in particular, even though she doesn’t say much, that has had great resonance with audiences. To know that my work has connected with people — that’s the most thrilling thing of all.
What is your most memorable Oscar nomination?
The last one I had, [in 2012] for “Albert Nobbs.” The fact that Janet McTeer and I and the incredible hair and makeup team got nominated was very, very, very gratifying. But this is [nearly] 10 years later, for a role that I found problematic. It was tricky and it was an incredible collaboration. As a process, it was one of the best of my career.
Why did you find Joan’s character problematic?
You look at the story and on the surface, your first reaction is — as a woman — “Oh, just leave him!” But it was much more complicated than that. Finding the complexities of the character was the challenge, and when I settled into her skin and felt freed by the assurance that whatever I did would end up on film, that was thrilling to me. As artists, you never know what’s going to happen afterward, when it gets handed over to publicity and distribution. So I felt that the process that we all went through to create this movie and this character — it’s what we all long for, that kind of fulfillment.
Your daughter, Annie Starke, played the younger Joan. What was it like working with her?
We worked around the table, talking a lot. But I got out of town when Annie was working because I didn’t want her to have any pressure from her mama. When I saw the footage of what she’d done, I was so moved by it. She has the ability to really hold a close-up, and you feel that there are things going on in her mind and it’s fascinating to watch. And this character would not have resonated at all, to the extent that she does in this movie, without the close-up. So it was fun. To have a scene where you don’t have any words, that’s my idea of heaven. [Laughs.]
You mentioned your mother in your Golden Globe acceptance speech. How did her life relate to your character’s?
My dad was highly, highly educated. He was a brilliant physician. My mom didn’t graduate from high school. They got married when they were 18 and my dad went off to the war. She had been brought up in the tradition that women basically were wives and mothers and dinner party organizers and all that. So it wasn’t in her DNA to feel that she should fulfill her personal talents, even though she had many. She really was there for my dad, but ultimately it didn’t fulfill her soul. Women are used to defining themselves through someone else, through their children and through their husbands. If you find that personally fulfilling and that’s all you need, that’s great. That’s part of what women do. But there’s something different. There’s another dimension that I think we need, which has to do with personal fulfillment, where you define yourself through yourself and not through anyone else.
What do you think Joan’s role as a woman who takes a back seat to her husband means in the #MeToo era?
I think what has resonated is that the film brought it down to a very personal, very specific level. The film is about a very complex relationship and I found that you can’t play generality. You have to play something specific, and the more true and the more human you could make that specific character, the more people can bring their own lives and their own baggage to it. I think you can intellectualize and say, “I agree with the movement,” but you have to make it personal. You have to find a place in yourself that makes you re-evaluate where your life is, and what you feel your personal contribution to society is.
You’ve won many awards in your 45 years as an actor. Does an Oscar even matter at this point or are you happy just to be recognized for your part in “The Wife”?
It’s thrilling to be recognized. If I, in my heart and soul, feel that I’ve fulfilled the challenges of a certain character, that’ where I find my personal fulfillment. I don’t feel like I need to be validated by some award, even though in the nature of our business, it does mean something. It’s not just for this role — I think I’m being recognized for the body of my work and that is deeply gratifying. So at this point in my career, that means a lot to me: That my work still matters.