December 03, 2016

Oscars: Could Glenn Close’s Irish win boost her Oscar profile? – AWARDS ALLEY


By Sean O’Connell
hollywoodnews.com: Best Actress nominee Glenn Close could be in for a big Oscar telecast IF there are a large number of Irish voters in the Academy.

The Irish certainly took to Close’s performance as a Dublin manservant in “Albert Nobbs,” rewarding the actress with the Irish Film And Television Academy’s best international actress award Saturday evening. THR reports that she topped fellow Oscar nominee Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”) as well as Tilda Swinton (“We Need To Talk About Kevin”) and Kirsten Wiig (“Bridesmaids”) for the top prize.

In addition to Close, the Irish recognized Ryan Gosling (“Drive”) for best international actor; Michael Fassbender (“Shame”) for leading actor; Chris O’Down (“Bridesmaids” for best supporting actor; Saoirse Ronan (“Hanna”) for lead performance in film; “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” for best international film; and “The Guard” for virtually every other prize, including Best Director (John Michael McDonagh), best screenwriter and the Irish Film Board Rising Star.

But given that Close is the one with Oscar dreams, lets’ focus on her for a minute as the Oscars fast approach.

Close first played the character of Albert Nobbs in an off-Broadway production in 1982. Ever since, she has been fighting to bring the sympathetically tragic character to the silver screen.

I caught up with the film at the Toronto International Film Festival and found it to be a wonderful story of self-discovery, of finding love and loving oneself. I want to repost a portion of a lengthy discussion I had with Close at TIFF, as well as the actress’s acceptance speech from the Hollywood Film Awards, where we honored Close with the Hollywood Career Achievement Award.

Close hasn’t won the Best Actress Oscar … yet. Could this be her year?

HollywoodNews.com: You first played Albert on stage decades ago. How had your thought process changed over the years in terms of approaching her as a character?

I think the essence of the character is probably them same. It’s me! I’ve aged 30 years. And that’s bound to make for a deeper impact. And also, on film, film is such a much more intimate medium than the stage. It was very difficult. There were some scenes where I didn’t know how much to show in my face. I was always going to Rodrigo, “Am I saying too much?” The first time she really looks somebody in the eye is after telling Hubert her story. That’s kind of her release. Before that … servants were not supposed to look people in the eye. She was an invisible person doing an invisible job.

HollywoodNews.com: How common was this practice of pretending to be a different gender to maintain a job?

It was much more common than people expect. You can find many, many stories about people who had to do this. Some of them were rich women, and this was a way for them to get out of the house. Today, in Afghanistan, little girls are dressed as boys in order to get out of the house. It’s not an uncommon thing right now. In a repressive society, where women have no rights, it happens.

HollywoodNews.com: I also think it’s interesting that in films where characters play a different gender, it’s often to deceive, to reach another end. But for Albert, she does it to survive.

Exactly. She’s not going, “Hey! Ho! Look at me!” in a deep and masculine voice. She’s not like putting on a mustache and a beard. She’s just disappeared into that disguise.

HollywoodNews.com: She almost forgets how to be a woman. Speaking to that, on a surface level, when did you feel comfortable enough that the make up, the hair and the surface elements were convincing enough that you wouldn’t distract the audience with a woman playing a man?

Oh, well, the voice was challenging because I often concentrated in scenes about how much was showing on my face. So I did re-voice some of [the dialogue]. My voice was too high in some of the takes, and we had to lower it later. I was probably distracted by five other things. And that was very useful, to be able to do that. As for the look, when it became evident that we really were going to go for it, and that it might be a possible, I said [to my contacts] that I’ve got to convince myself that I can actually do this. I’m 20 years older. So I went out and I did a screen test. Rodrigo got a studio and I went and got Matthew Mungle, who went on to do our makeup on the film, and he [helped]. It wasn’t the final work that you see on screen. But I had to convince myself. I didn’t want it to be a movie where the audience thinks, “Oh, how do they not know? She’s a woman! Everybody in the hotel must be stupid!” I also felt that my face being highly recognizable would be a burden, and that really was a concern. But we did a screen test, and they did a couple of things to my face, and I looked up … and it wasn’t me. And I started crying. Because it was possible. Because we could do this.

HollywoodNews.com: That’s fantastic. Rodrigo has done some impressive television work on films like “Six Feet Under” and “Big Love.”

He has a great sensitivity toward women. He likes women. He writes beautiful parts for women. And also, he comes from that tradition of magic realism, which initially the script had much more of her imagining what her bedroom would be like. So you saw hr arranging things. We just couldn’t afford all of that.

HollywoodNews.com: But the scenes where we see her looking in on the broken down space and seeing her dream shop are wonderful.

Initially, in the script, when she imagined something, you’d see it appear. But the piece of equipment that we needed to do that was 80,000 Euros [laughs] and we had to say, “OK, we’ll do it without it!” [laughs] But this story has a real delicate touch because it’s funny and sad, and I just though Rodrigo came from this tradition. He just gets it.

Awards Alley brings you the best Oscar coverage. Click below to read our exclusive interviews with:
Harvey Weinstein
– The cast of “The Artist.”
Kenneth Branagh for “My Week With Marilyn.”
Bennett Miller talks “Moneyball.”
– Producer Jim Burke for “The Descendants.”
Sir Ben Kingsley and Chloe Grace Moretz for “Hugo.”
Tilda Swinton for “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”
David Fincher, Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”
Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer for “The Help.”
Tate Taylor for “The Help.”
Woody Harrelson for “Rampart.”
Gavin O’Connor for “Warrior.”
Gary Oldman and Colin Firth for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”
Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody for “Young Adult.”
Steve McQueen for “Shame.”
Glenn Close for “Albert Nobbs.”
Seth Rogen and Will Reiser for “50/50.”
– Producer Grant Heslov for “The Ides of March.”

For complete Oscar and Film Festival coverage, visit our Awards Alley for the latest news items, reviews and interviews all season long.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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