Glenn Close says she was a "late bloomer" in the movie business, as she didn't appear in her first theatrical film until she was in her early 30s.
That was in 1982, when she played Robin Williams' mother in "The World According to Garp." And for that performance, she was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar.
Since then, you could say that Close -- who has a home on Prouts Neck in Scarborough -- has been making up for lost time. In the past three decades, she's been nominated for six Oscars, including a best actress nod for "Albert Nobbs" this year. During her career, she's played lawyers, schemers, psychos, a vice president, a man, and lots of other characters that tested and stretched her acting abilities. And she's done those roles on TV and on the stage as well.
So when she attends the 84th Academy Awards ceremony tonight in Los Angeles, the Connecticut-born Close will not just be vying for her first Oscar win. She'll be taking another step in a career that potentially places her among the greatest Hollywood actresses of all time.
"When you look at the top 10 actresses of the past 80 years, since sound came in, first you have Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn and Meryl Streep -- but I think Glenn Close is definitely in that list," said Cari Beauchamp, author of several books on women in film history and who has twice been named an Academy Film Scholar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
"It's a combination of her guts, in the roles she chooses, and her perseverance. We're talking about 30 years of nominated performances."
Close sounds very matter-of-fact when talking about her career, as she did recently from her home on Prouts Neck. She said part of the reason she's done so many gritty, complex character portrayals is because she hasn't been offered romantic comedies or fluffy characters over the years.
"I don't have the body or the face for romantic comedies, so I've never been offered those," said Close, 64.
"The challenge is that a lot of people see you only as your last character, so you're constantly competing with whatever your last movie was."
"Albert Nobbs" will be a tough one to top. She not only stars in it -- as a woman passing as a man in 19th-century Ireland -- she co-wrote the screenplay, co-produced the film, and wrote the lullaby-inspired song that Sinead O'Connor sings over the closing credits.
The film speaks volumes about Close's resiliency. She played the title role in a stage version of "Albert Nobbs" more than 30 years ago, and bought the film rights to the story 14 years ago.
She had been trying to get it made ever since.
"I've never done this much in one film before. I bought the material, I put the team together, I found the money to finance it," said Close. "The obstacles were like those faced by any indie film that goes way outside of any formula -- you've got to get people to understand the power of the story. Plus, it was tough for people to envision me as a butler."
And as a man.
A man's world
"Albert Nobbs" is a focused and detail-filled story about a woman posing as a butler in a Dublin hotel in order to hold down a job during the 1800s. She keeps her head down, puts up with a lot from employers and guests, and saves her money as she dreams of a very different future.
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