In a prolific film career that started in 1982 with The World According to Garp, 71-year-old Glenn Close has played dozens of iconic parts. Who can forget her performances in movies like The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, Jagged Edge, 101 Dalmatians, Mars Attack, Albert Nobbs… And now with The Wife, she is once again proving her astonishing versatility.
In the film, she plays Joan Castleman who, after nearly 40 years, wants out of the marriage to her novelist husband Joe (played by Jonathan Pryce). She has made up her mind. She is leaving him, just as he is awarded the Nobel Prize. After a lifetime of feeling ignored and taken for granted, with the growing awareness of how far apart they have irremediably grown, she’s had enough of playing the perfect accommodating spouse, enough of the repeated cheating, enough of being the self-effacing partner and never being recognized for her true self. Enough of the lies and the secrets and all the acclaim going to Joe. After all, she too is a writer.
Adapted from 2003 eponymous best-seller by Meg Wolitzer and directed by Swedish helmer Bjorn Runge, The Wife is the layered and profoundly affecting portrayal of a woman finally coming into her own, who looks back on her life. Once her decision is made, there will be no turning back, no matter what the consequences will be not only for her but also for her family.
“It was new territory for me, acknowledges Close. I never played a character like Joan before. Someone who chooses to be in the background. She is basically shy, she is not somebody who likes confrontation and she is very in her head. It’s a compromise she’s made but is complicit in this complex marriage. That was really challenging to figure out, where I could really believe and understand her and where I thought I could play her fairly without any kind of judgment. I went in kind of liking the idea, but I had to answer the big question for myself which is why she didn’t just leave. But it is much more complex than that. In answering that question, I really came to a place where I understood what she is angry about.”
The Wife took fifteen years to come to fruition, a long process the actress attributes to the fact that “it is a difficult subject matter and evidence of the kind of prejudice from the industry against stories like this. Any independent film is hard to make but this one was particularly hard.” Confessing along the way that “most, if not all the money came from Europe and that actually it was hard to find actors who wanted to be a movie called The Wife.”
The production selected Runge after Close reportedly called his fellow Swede Stellan Skarsgard to get an opinion and she could not have been happier with the result. She liked his aura as a man and “what he brought in just as his persona. He was obviously a careful thinker, and very sensitive. I could instinctively feel that I would be able to trust him. And on set, he created an arena that was trust. When I saw what he was doing and how he was shooting things, I realized that he knew where to put the camera at certain crucial times. It seems simple, but a lot of directors don’t know how to do it. It’s translating what the actors are doing so that you have a seamless emotional connection with the audience.”
And for Close who started as an actress on stage, establishing such a connection has always been paramount. Like the need for personal fulfillment. Equally important is being able to feed her soul, nurture her creative inner life as an artist even at the price of being alone. “Sometimes you are so consumed by your art that you don’t have the energy, any kind of emotional energy to give somebody at certain times” she confesses.
“I have been in this business for over 42 years and I have been in and out of relationships and it’s been a tough road. But I think the irony is that at this point in my life, I have never felt more alive and more eager for whatever is going to come next. I am a very late bloomer. But I do think it has to do with just figuring out who you are and then knowing that’s okay, to be who you are.”