EXCLUSIVE: It appears Glenn Close may be shaking up the Best Actress Oscar race this year. Today’s announcement that Roadside Attractions and Liddell Entertainment have acquired all U.S. rights to Albert Nobbs, in which Close plays a woman passing as a man in order to survive in 19th century Dublin, and plan a fall release and likely Oscar campaign adds a bit of drama to 2011′s budding Academy race. Meryl Streep, a two-time winner and 16-time nominee, is the presumed front-runner as Margaret Thatcher in the Weinstein Company’s The Iron Lady. Streep hasn’t won since 1982, and many think (sight unseen) that Thatcher could be her ticket back to the winner’s circle. Ironically, that was also the year Close received the first of her five nominations (for her first film, The World According To Garp) in a remarkable run between 1982 and 1988 when she received her last nod for Dangerous Liaisons. Of course she’s won Tonys and Emmys, but the Oscar has famously eluded her.
In fact, 1982 was also the year she first played Albert Nobbs in an off-Broadway production of the play and won an Obie Award for it. Even though that was near the beginning of her career, she’s had her eye on it as a possible film ever since and has been actively trying to get it produced for the past 15 years. In addition to starring, she also co-produced and co-wrote the screenplay, enlisting her Nine Lives and Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her director Rodrigo Garcia to helm.
When I caught up with her today on the phone from her Maine vacation spot, she still couldn’t believe this dream project was finally going to be seen this year. “I’m kind of pinching myself. It’s a story I never ever forgot and an extraordinary character. It’s a simple story that has huge resonance,” she said, adding that ultimately this is a very human tale dealing in part with the power of secrets that people hide about themselves.
She offered words of praise for Roadside, which had a very big year in 2010 with Oscar contenders Winter’s Bone and Biutiful, saying the film got wonderful response from other potential distributors but that Roadside was the most passionate. “They got it to the depths of the story. No one has been a part of this project without bringing committment and passion to it, so they just extended all that, which was thrilling for all of us,” she said.
Close hopes the film will be prominent on the fall festival circuit, which might include Telluride, Toronto, New York or others. Of course, that would mean freeing herself from her Damages shooting schedule. That series, for which she has won two Emmys (it’s not eligible this year, though), returns to the air via DirecTV on July 13 and will be in production for a fifth season just around the time of those fests. “That’s our dream. We would like to go to festivals very much. We haven’t heard back from everyone yet, but we’re waiting to see when I have to get down on my knees to my Damages writers to break me out so I can go to a couple of fests.”
Of course with any fall entry like this, particularly one with a challenging, transformative type of role for an actor who persevered for years to bring it to the screen, the word Oscar is bound to creep into the conversation. Close, who hasn’t been nominated in more than two decades, doesn’t shy away from the subject. “I think it’s tremendously important, very very important. The thing I’ve always believed is, I never was offended if somebody didn’t get the vision for this movie. I think a lot of the movies that have acutally ended up being honored at the Oscars are films that almost didn’t get made. We’re in that grand tradition of independent film, and I think a lot of that is because it’s different and different can make a lot of people feel insecure,” she says. As for her many previous nominations, all in the ’80s, she says it has been awhile. “All the prints of my movies are getting a little yellowed, ” she laughed.
Although she hasn’t had many choice feature film roles in the past decade, concentrating instead on TV projects like Damages and The Shield, there was talk about turning her Tony-winning triumph as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard into a big movie musical. Although Barbra Streisand was also mentioned for the movie version, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber reportedly wanted to do it only with Glenn. But after lukewarm response to the film version of The Phantom of the Opera, Paramount (which released Billy Wilder’s 1950 classic film original) seemed to get cold feet.
“It would have been fabulous. It still would be fabulous. That part is a classic, and you can play it until you’re practically dead. Why it hasn’t happened, who knows what the politics are?” Close said.
Perhaps Oscar attention for Albert Nobbs could help her revive interest in it. At any rate, just getting this one made is a win for Close. “It feels wonderful, and I’m deeply grateful we will be seen by real audiences now,” she says.
Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.