Actress Glenn Close marked her 45 years in Hollywood with an unexpected best actress win at the January 6 Golden Globe Awards. As she accepted her trophy, the star of The Wife urged all women to follow their bliss. That’s something that Glenn, 71, has done throughout her career. “When I was little, I felt destined to be an actress,” she admitted. “I saw the early Disney films with Hayley Mills and said, ‘I can do that.’”
Glenn did do it — and along the way created some of the big screen’s most memorable female villains, including a live-action Cruella de Vil in Disney’s 101 Dalmatians, a conniving widow in Dangerous Liaisons and a very dangerous date in 1987’s Fatal Attraction. “I’ve played a lot of women that people have called bitchy or evil,” she previously admitted to The Guardian. “They have been incredibly strong.”
That strength runs in Glenn’s veins, too. “I come from a line of tough, wonderful Yankee women,” Glenn, who held tight to her dreams of acting even after her parents William Close and Bettine Moore Close moved their family to Switzerland to join a “cult-like” religious group called Moral Re-Armament when she was 7, has said.
Glenn spent 15 years in the organization but made a break at age 22 when she enrolled in Virginia’s College of William and Mary to study drama. “Many things led me to leave,” she said in a previous interview with The Hollywood Reporter and also told Weekend Magazine, “I walked straight into the theater department and became someone else!”
It’s paid off for the actress, who based the character she plays in The Wife on her mother, who always put her husband’s needs and aspirations before her own. “In her 80s, she said to me, ‘I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything,’” Glenn said in her 2019 Golden Globes acceptance speech, and later told Pop Sugar, “My mom and my dad got married when they were 18 years old. My mom never went to college. She started having children very early. I can’t say that it was fulfilling for her, for all the potential that she had. She had a great artistic mind.”
Watching her parents’ complicated marriage made Glenn, who has been wed four times, determined never to live in the shadow of a spouse or romantic partner. It hasn’t been easy. “I don’t think the male ego is necessarily conducive to having a really successful and recognizable partner,” Glenn admitted to The Guardian. She most recently quietly divorced businessman David Shaw in 2015 after nine years together. “Yes, I’m single,” she told Weekend Magazine. “But the irony is that I’ve never felt more alive or more eager for what’s coming next.”
In addition to The Wife, which is likely to garner the actress her seventh Oscar nomination and possibly her first win, she is hoping to reprise the role of Norma Desmond in both a Broadway theatrical and big-screen adaptation of the musical Sunset Boulevard. “It’s a profound story,” she told The Guardian, “and has huge resonance today.”
So does Glenn, who’s always lived her life on her own terms. “Women are nurturers. We have children and husbands or partners if we’re lucky,” she said in her Golden Globes speech. “To find personal fulfillment and follow our dreams, we have to say, ‘I can do that,’ and we should be allowed.”
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