“I like pretending to be someone else,” said Glenn Close to Leonard Maltin in the opening segment of her Modern Master tribute at the Arlington on Sunday, thus making a remarkably varied and dynamic career sound simple, which it clearly was not. Maltin interviewed Close for a little over an hour about her career not only in film, but also on Broadway (in the musical Sunset Boulevard and on television (in the series Damages).
The conversation touched on the audition process, on rehearsal methods, and on creative control when projects reach critical decision points. It was punctuated by the unexpected arrival on stage of Sir Pippin of Beanfield, Close’s Havanese dog, who joined her for the second half of the event, first sitting quietly on her lap, and later stealing the show during Close’s acceptance speech by executing a handful of frisky rolls at center stage. The award was presented by Roger Durling, a last-minute substitute for Jeff Bridges, who was not able to make it after the event was rescheduled from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon. Durling handled his role with customary aplomb, citing the many Broadway performances by Close he has witnessed over the years, many of which were favorites of his father.
The conversation’s high points revolved around Close’s most groundbreaking roles, including Jenny Fields in 1982’s The World According to Garp, Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction (1987), the Marquise de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisions (1988), Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmations (1996), and Patty Hewes in the television series Damages. It was particularly interesting to hear Close’s version of how the ending of Fatal Attraction had to be rewritten and reshot after a disastrous test screening caused the studio to decide against having Close’s character commit suicide. She was angry, and fought the change for two weeks, asking her co-stars repeatedly how they would feel if this happened to their characters. Eventually, according to Close, Michael Douglas answered her by saying, “Babe, I’m a whore,” presumably meaning that he would be willing to go along with whatever changes were proposed by the studio and the director. Close said that in the end, she felt that, difficult as it was to accept at the time, the decision to change the ending of the film was correct, as the audience needed some kind of catharsis after being subjected to the harrowing behavior her character exhibited earlier on.
It was a great pleasure to spend this Super Bowl afternoon in the Arlington with one of the greatest American actors of our time. Close exemplifies the supreme patience and watchful intelligence it takes to sustain a significant career over a lifetime, and, in her acceptance speech, she speculated that her most recent success with The Wife could potentially herald a new era for women in Hollywood.
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