Glenn Close is well-known to many generations of fans. Close began performing on the stage in her late 20s before she successfully hit the big screen with three major roles in a row, culminating with the megahit, "Fatal Attraction."
Yet Close has not been easy to define or stereotype as an actress. A sensitive and versatile actress who's successfully reinvented herself a number of times, Close followed her huge success with "Fatal Attraction" with high-grossing turns in "Hook," "101 Dalmatians," "Air Force One," and Disney's animated "Tarzan," and many young fans know her today from "Guardians of the Galaxy." Close has also made her mark on TV hits like "Damages" and "The Shield," and her career is still going strong after all this time, with eight Oscar nominations and counting.
But there's a lot about Close you may not know about, from her troubled upbringing to her late start in acting, her love of baseball, her lovely singing voice, and her fight for mental health awareness. Like many of the roles she plays, Close is a multi-faceted woman who's had a remarkable life and career. Here's the untold truth of Glenn Close.
In recent years, Close has opened up about her traumatic upbringing in what she described as a cult, and how it deeply affected her life well into adulthood. As she explained, from the ages of 7 to 22, she was in a group called Moral Re-armament, aka MRA (via Entertainment Weekly). "It was basically a cult," Close said in an episode of Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry's series, "The Me You Can't See." "Everybody spouted the same things and there's a lot of rules, a lot of control. Because of how we were raised, anything that you thought you would do for yourself, was considered selfish."
Close's father, Dr. William Taliaferro Close, got involved in MRA in 1954, and the organization later changed its name to Initiatives of Change. (It is apparently still in operation.)
Many years later, Close said her upbringing in MRA made it difficult to form relationships, such as in her three marriages. "It's astounding that something that you went through at such an early stage in your life still has such a potential to be destructive," she continued.
If you or someone you know is dealing with spiritual abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.
Many don't realize that Glenn Close has a good singing voice (she's been in several musicals), and back in the 1960s, she performed with the group Up With People, a pop culture oddity that formed in that era. Up With People grew out of the Moral Re-Armament organization.
In 1965, Close had a folk act with three other women called The Green Glenn Singers. Close wrote two songs for them, "Run and Catch the Wind" and "The Happy Song." Both of these songs wound up on an Up With People album. Close would eventually join the group after she graduated high school, and she left the group after she graduated college.
Up With People featured a number of singers, and the group's message was a counterreaction to the growing anger and civil unrest that came at the end of the '60s. The group's message was achingly positive, and a documentary about them was titled "Smile Til It Hurts." They were a "quasi-cult," and they also performed at several Super Bowl half-time shows (per Deadspin).
Decades later, "The Simpsons" would feature a cartoon group of clean-cut, white-bread singers called Hooray for Everything, which is obviously a goof on Up With People.
Considering her incredible roster of movies, it's remarkable to note that Glenn Close didn't begin acting until she was 27. Close was inspired to try an acting career when she saw an interview with Katharine Hepburn on TV. As it turns out, both Close and Hepburn are from Connecticut (via CT Insider).
Close got her first role right after she graduated college in a play called "Love for Love," which was directed by Broadway legend Hal Prince. Close made her debut in 1974. Close was an understudy, but when Prince decided to fire the original leading lady, Close was ready. "I knew all the lines," she recalled (per Variety). "Before the performance, Hal parted the curtains and told the audience I had gotten my equity card seven weeks earlier, and this was my debut. I went on that night, and I got through it okay."
The lead actress whom Close replaced took it well, and wrote her a note: "I welcome you. Be brave and strong." It was clearly one heck of a way to get started.
Glenn Close's big screen debut was in "The World According to Garp," an adaptation of the novel by John Irving. Close plays Jenny Fields, the mother of T.S. Garp, who was played by Robin Williams. Close did not play it safe with her acting debut, considering "Garp" is an eccentric and challenging rollercoaster ride of a movie that takes the audience on many unexpected emotional turns.
George Roy Hill, the director of "Garp," saw Close perform in "Barnum" on Broadway, and invited her to a table read of the script (per The New York Times). Close said, "It was daunting. Stage is very different from film. Luckily, I had George Roy Hill directing, and he had started in live television. He rehearsed that movie like a play" (via Yahoo! Entertainment).
The risk paid off because Close was nominated for an Oscar, a remarkable feat for her very first film. Close also loved working with Williams, whom she called a "fascinating, beautiful genius." "He was a wonderful person to have on set," she said." "He kept everybody's esprit de corps up because he'd just say the funniest things at the most perfect time. He was a great."
"Fatal Attraction" was a big, and controversial, hit in 1987. As one report explains, there was a lot of resistance to Close playing the role of Alex Forest in the '80s blockbuster. But her powerhouse agent, Fred Specktor, insisted to the studio that they see her. Despite anyone's initial misgivings, it was another knockout role for Close, and the film became a cultural phenomenon.
"It came out at an opportune time where there was this anger boiling up between the sexes because of feminism, it hadn't really been expressed, and that was just plugging right into it," Close recalled (via Yahoo! Entertainment).
Still, Close wasn't totally happy with the film. She heavily researched the role, and she "didn't think [Alex] was a psychopath. I thought she was a deeply disturbed woman."
Close added, "I think my task as an actress is to find a common humanity with the character. Otherwise, you're judging them. And when you judge them, you separate yourself from them" (via Digital Spy).
She also resisted shooting the new ending of the film, where she stalks Michael Douglas's family, and is finally killed by his wife, played by Anne Archer. In the original ending, Close dies by suicide, and Michael Douglas is arrested on suspicion of murder.
Once the studio decided to change the ending, Close said, "You can take me in a straitjacket, but you can't make me do it." After fighting the studio for two weeks, she gave in, and whether you like the ending or not, you can't say it wasn't memorable.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Many actors like to keep the props and costumes they use in their movies, and Close chose to keep the knife she wielded in "Fatal Attraction" as a macabre souvenir.
The knife Close used in the film was a prop, not a real knife that could accidentally stab somebody, but it looked real enough that it terrified audiences when she wielded it near the end of the film. And viewers would be surprised to learn it's actually made of cardboard, not steel.
Close keeps the knife framed in her kitchen, and she told The New York Times, "It's hanging up behind me as I speak, on the wall of my kitchen. It's beautiful, made of wood and paper. It's a work of art!" (She also marveled to Vanity Fair, "It's all an illusion. It's a cardboard prop!")
And Close couldn't help but add, "It's nice for our guest to see it. It lets them know they can't stay forever."
While Close has many great dramatic roles on her resume, she also has film geek cred because she was in "Guardians of the Galaxy," playing Nova-Prime Irani Rael. She was also in a zombie film called "The Girl With All the Gifts."
"Gifts" was based on a 2014 best-selling novel, and while it seems odd that Close would star in a zombie film, she explained she didn't "want to repeat emotional territory. I'm always up for anything. If it's a script that I love, I'll do it." In fact, Close committed to "The Girl With All the Gifts" after reading the first 10 pages of the script. The actress raved, "It effortlessly brings up serious questions about humans and what we're doing" (via Digital Spy).
And indeed, the film got good reviews, with The Guardian calling it "provocative and imaginative," and The Wrap noting that the film offers "a surprisingly clear-eyed message about survival" and "an unsettling departure from cliché."
Glenn Close had a major career reinvention with the 1996 live-action remake of the animated Disney classic "101 Dalmatians." It was Close's biggest box office hit, making over $300 million worldwide (per Box Office Mojo).
At first, Close wasn't that interested in doing the role of Cruella De Vil, and it took some wooing from director Stephen Herek, who wanted her from the get-go. As he recalled, "When I finally committed to do the movie, the first thing that I thought about was Cruella, pure evil, and Glenn came immediately to mind." But once Close committed, "she really got into it," Herek continued (via The Washington Post).
Close signed up to play Cruella after playing Norma Desmond on stage, and she called both characters "strong, delusional women. There's something very moving about characters who have that belief, along with a lack of self-pity. They're very compelling" (via The New York Times).
These days, Close told Vanity Fair that college kids know her as Cruella, and younger kids know her Nova Prime from "Guardians of the Galaxy," proving she's been able to reinvent herself nicely for new generations of fans.
Close kept all her Cruella costumes from "101 Dalmatians," and it was specifically in her contract that she got to take them home after the movie was done shooting. Close later recalled that Disney then tried to renege on the deal once they realized how much the costumes cost. The studio even offered to make duplicate costumes for Close, but the actress refused (via Variety).
In 2017, Close donated her costumes from 47 different roles to Indiana University, and she said in a statement, "My costume collection has been a treasured possession. It represents not only the characters I have played in the last 35 years, but also the thousands of hours spent in fitting rooms, collaborating with brilliant costume designers and builders. These garments represent a process that is at the very core of my craft."
As an actress, Close also understood how important the right costume was to enhancing a performance. She added that wearing these pieces throughout her career "has added, immeasurably, to my understanding of the characters I have inhabited."
When Glenn Close hit the big screen, she immediately made her presence known as a talented and sensitive actress, and her first three performances in "The World According to Garp," "The Big Chill," and "The Natural" were all nominated for Oscars.
While she's been nominated eight times, Close has yet to win an Oscar of her own. (She was also nominated for "Fatal Attraction," "Dangerous Liaisons," "Albert Nobbs," "The Wife," and most recently for "Hillbilly Elegy.")
Yet at the age of 73, Close is refreshingly philosophical about it, and if she doesn't win an Oscar, that's fine with her. She rhetorically asked, "Who in that category is a loser? You're there, you're five people honored for the work that you've done by your peers. What's better than that?" (via AP News)
She even wondered, "Is it better to be wheeled out in a wheelchair and get the lifetime achievement award? I just have to keep doing what's good. You're fulfilled by your work, and that's the process to me. It's what feeds my soul" (per Variety).
She even joked, "It might be cool to never get one. I wouldn't mind being wheeled out when I'm old and drooling, and I have a gray wig to cover my bald head."
Glenn Close's second big-screen role was in the Robert Redford hit "The Natural," about a legendary baseball player. As it turns out, Close is a big baseball fan, and loves the Mets.
Close said, "The Mets are iconic. I adore the team." As she explained, "My grandmother was a huge Yankees fan. It was a time when George Steinbrenner was really overpowering, and I got so annoyed by how he was affecting the team, that I said, I don't wanna watch this anymore, I'm gonna go over to the Mets. And it was fantastic" (via the Amazin' But True podcast).
Many don't realize that Close has a good singing voice, and she recalled a friend dared her to sing the National Anthem at a game. "It was terrifying," she recalled (via AOL).
After she got over her initial fright, Close has sung the National Anthem many times since. On "Live With Kelly and Ryan," she explained, "I'm very proud to do the National Anthem twice the year they won the pendant."
Close is one of many celebrities who is speaking out openly about mental health disorders. It's a subject that hits close to home because her sister is bipolar, and her nephew has schizoaffective disorder (via AOL).
Close is the co-founder of a non-profit organization called Bring Change to Mind, which is dedicated to increasing mental health awareness. Close told CNN that in her family, there was "no vocabulary" regarding mental health, and one of the big keys to fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness is having a dialogue.
As Close explained to AOL, "I think the beginning of changing people's minds about mental illness, and helping them realize it's just part of the human condition, is actually just to be able to be open and talk about it."
She also explained to CNN, "It's a chronic illness. It's not who you are. It's something, because we have this amazing, wondrous, fragile brain, it's part of being a human being."
If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.
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