Glenn Close on Life in Westchester, #MeToo, a New Film, and Her Favorite Westchester Stage
Our interview with the legendary actor (and Bedford resident).
Photo by Ruven Afandor/CPI Syndication
For Glenn Close, the Westchester region has always been more than home: It is a living connection to her past and family. “This is kind of a microcosm of where I grew up, of my early childhood,” says Close of Bedford, where she has lived since 1991. “I have this wonderful New England field, and I have some of those wonderful stonewalls and big trees — it really is my sanctuary.”
Unsurprisingly, when her daughter, Annie Stark, married management consultant Marc Albu in July, Close’s Bedford residence served as the wedding venue “because it’s where Annie grew up,” says Close. “It provided a great sense of closure for her.”
The ceremony was a hit, with Close reading from a humorous book, prompting Vanity Fair to declare that she may be “history’s greatest mother of the bride.” For the two-time Golden Globe winner, the comical reading paled in comparison to Annie’s nuptials. “My God, I could not believe that of all the incredible things, that’s what people are going to remember,” Close says with a laugh. “I never knew it was going to get onto social media the way it did. I guess that’s just my naiveté.”
In fact, her daughter is the reason Close calls Westchester home in the first place. “When I got pregnant with Annie, I was living in the city, and I just didn’t know how to bring up a child there,” says Close, who discovered her pregnancy during the filming of Fatal Attraction. “I grew up in backcountry Greenwich, only about 20 minutes from Bedford. Greenwich had changed so much [when I came to live here] that I looked in Bedford.”
In the ensuing years, Close developed a genuine love for the town while earning a reputation as one of America’s greatest actors. She has taken home three Tony Awards, three Emmys, two Golden Globes, no fewer than six Academy Award nominations, and a Drama Desk Award for roles in films ranging from Dangerous Liaisons to Air Force One and megahit TV shows, like Damages. Ironically, this tremendous success has only intensified Close’s appreciation for the slow pace of Bedford.
“It’s the place that I get up, throw on something, and go down and get my nails done,” she says. “I don’t feel like I have to get all dressed up in order to go around Bedford. I feel like I can be myself. It’s very laid-back.”
While Close certainly has some famous friends within a municipality known for residents like Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, she asserts that she really comes to Bedford to get away from it all. “I don’t hang out with many people, because when I’m here, it’s usually downtime for me,” she explains. “Paul and Cathy Shaffer are very good friends, and of course Michael Douglas is a friend, but I don’t see him that much. I think we all come here to kind of decompress.”
Decompression for Close isn’t so much about trendy restaurants or chic clubs but rather the Bedford Playhouse. It is a place she has frequented since her earliest days growing up in Connecticut, and it helped spur her interest in the stage.
“I don’t feel like I have to get all dressed up in order to go around Bedford. I feel like I can be myself. It’s very laid-back.”
“I went to the Playhouse since I was tiny, because it was easily accessible from where I was living. I have the most wonderful memories of it,” shares Close. “You’d see newsreels, then you’d see cartoons, then the main movie — which for me was probably a Disney movie. It was a beautiful old theater.”
Later this month, the Playhouse will be unveiling an extensive renovation as part of a multimillion-dollar overhaul funded in part by a generous donation from music mogul Clive Davis. According to Close, the renovation marks a new chapter in the Playhouse’s long-running impact on the region.
“The fact that [the Playhouse] has been renovated to be not only a movie house but also kind of a community gathering place is absolutely wonderful,” notes Close. “I think it’s wonderful for this particular community, because people are very private, and it’s a very sophisticated population. There will be many wonderful lectures, Q&As, documentaries, and films, and I believe it will be a great place for people to rent for occasions, as well as a great art-house theater. Anything that can bring us together like this is so much at the heart of the community.”
Although Close does not have a seat on the Playhouse’s board, she nonetheless aids the organization out of sheer appreciation. “I don’t like being on boards, but I am with [the Bedford Playhouse] in spirit, and I’m very thrilled that my movie is one of its first screenings and that I can meet people, talk to them, and answer their questions afterward.” Close is referring to her new film, The Wife, which premiered last year at the Toronto Film Festival to rave reviews and was screened recently at the Bedford Playhouse in July.
In The Wife, Close plays the troubled Joan Castleman, whose husband is set to receive the Nobel Prize just as she begins to reappraise their marriage. It is a role that the actor says she had to dedicate herself to wholly, yielding a performance that The Guardian called “undeniably brilliant.”
“The script was really intriguing, and it posed a lot of questions for me,” says Close, “but in delving into the character, I was able to answer them. It was very tricky and was one of the more difficult roles I’ve taken on, so the fact that people are reacting to it is really gratifying.”
Plus, the film’s local debut was a welcome change from Close’s usual press junkets. “It’s much more fun for somebody like me to go to a screening at the Bedford Playhouse than to do some kind of red-carpet event,” she says with a smile. “I think it’s a really nice place for people to come and see the film.”
Glenn Close with Co-Star Jonathan Pryce, in The Wife. Photo by Greme Hunter, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
This isn’t the only recent work for which Close has recently received rave reviews. She also just reprised her role as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, more than 20 years after its original run at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre.
The role, which debuted in London’s West End before heading to The Great White Way, was hailed by the New York Times as “one of the great stage performances of this century.” This follows Close’s Tony-winning 1994 run of the same play, which tells the story of an aging silent-film actress, adapted from Billy Wilder’s iconic 1950 film. According to Close, who was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2016, stepping back into the shoes of Desmond was a learning experience.
“I was finding new things [in the role] up until the last week of the performance. That’s the great luxury of theater,” says Close. “People who’ve never done theater ask how I could do the same thing every night; I reply that it’s really not the same thing, because you’ve got a different audience, and you’re always in a mode of exploration.” Indeed, this wasn’t the 101 Dalmatians star’s first experience exploring a role she had taken in the past.
“I’ve returned to two roles: One was Albert Nobbs, 30 years after I first played it, and Nora Desmond was about 22 years after I originally played it,” recalls Close. “It is a huge luxury because you have more craft under your belt, and I think the portrayals can be much deeper and much more effective the second time around.”
Along with her stage work, Close has been equally passionate about activism and philanthropy. Throughout the past four decades, Close has tirelessly engaged in advocacy, ranging from marching alongside Gloria Steinem for women’s rights to receiving a GLAAD media award for serving as an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ individuals. She has also maintained a deep commitment to mental-health initiatives, inspired by her sister Jesse’s battle with bipolar disorder, as the founder and chairperson of BringChange2Mind, an organization that works to rid the world of stigmas surrounding mental illness.
Glenn Close has more Academy Award nominations without a win than any other living actress. Below, we round up her notable nods.
Fittingly, the dawn of the MeToo movement has become a source of hope and interest for Close. “I hope that it represents a cultural evolution,” says Close of MeToo, “an evolution in that we now know this is not accepted behavior. I also hope it will empower women who are not in positions of power to say something. We have these new generations coming up, and I think they’re the ones who are really going to change the world. The kids in high school now and just at the end of college, I think they get it, and I think they’re the ones whom we have to really empower to follow their instincts.”
Meanwhile, Close will be changing the world in her own way, with an exhaustive docket of acting ahead. “I’m going to be doing a new play at the Public Theater in the fall, by Jane Anderson, about the mother of Joan of Arc, called Mother of the Maid, which is very challenging,” shares Close. “I’ve never played a character like that before, basically an uneducated peasant woman with an extraordinary daughter. I’m reading up about the Middle Ages and just trying to get the images in my head of what would be outside the door…. It’s an exercise in imagination.”
As for why Close — who at 71 could easily rest on her laurels — keeps acting at such a breakneck pace, the answer is simple: “I just think it’s the joy in what I do,” she says. “The curiosity, the exploration, the collaboration with fabulous people; there is a lot to keep me going.”