Glenn Close ~ Close-Up
Character Actor Glenn Close
The star system has been a part of the American Film Industry since the early 1900s. The American public makes a "Star," their influence on society has been enormous. However, not all stars are character actors.
What makes a character actor? Techniques. In one sense there is no technique of acting. Meaning an actor is in front of a camera and there is no thought of technique. The actor attempts simply to only be there. The technique in acting has to do with the preparation an actor participates in before acting a role.
There are two basic requirements; developing the necessary physical external skills and freeing the internal emotional life, This is an actor's inspiration. The physical skills are a well-developed body and voice, the ability to imitate other people's gestures, and mannerisms. You must have favorable conditions for the appearance of inspiration. You must learn to relax and avoid distraction, develop imagination, and have the ability to memorize sensory details such as taste and smell ECT.... Some actors utilize past emotions in order to recreate the emotions that are needed for the role. You must also possess the belief in the imagined truth or the creativity, this is magic. In rehearsal, the most important question the actor asks of the role is"What do I want and why?" Another important technique is the art of improvisation. This is spontaneous creativity. Improvisation is taught to actors in a game like exercise.
I decided to concentrate on a very highly regarded and intelligent character actor, Glenn Close. Glenn Close did not attend acting school. However, she attended four years taking courses in Liberal Arts in Williamsburg, Virginia which offered a strong drama department. Glenn Close majored in Anthropology and minored in Drama. She grew up in the Connecticut countryside and rarely went to the movies. Close appeared in regional theatre and made her New York stage bow in 1974's Love for Love. Her work in New York which led to her first film role when director George Roy Hill after seeing her in the Broadway musical Barnum. She was then cast in "The World According to Garp" in 1982.
"The World According to Garp"
The film "The World According to Garp" Glenn Close won the role of the protagonist's political activist mother "Jenny Fields." This portrayal was super interesting due to the fact that she was only five years older than protagonist Robin Williams, who played the role of her son T.S. Garp. She won a Best Supporting Actor nomination that set her career on the road to much acclaim.
The film "The World According to Garp" totally enraptured me because of it's honesty. This is definitely a purely character driven story. Very odd curveballs are thrown in this film. We seem to laugh at inappropriate situations. We laughed when Garps mother Jenny Fields who becomes a feminist leader, simply because she prefers to live without men. We even laughed at a group of Jenny's followers the Ellen Jamesians who have cut their tongues out in sympathy for Ellen James a 10 year old girl who had been raped and had her tongue cut out. Rape and mutilation are not the least bit funny.
I truly believe Glenn Close had to find a connection, an emotional line to Jenny Fields. She also had to develop great trust with her fellow actors. She completely stayed true to the character of Jenny Fields. She was not judgmental of Jenny Fields, which I think is very important. I believe that in order for someone not to become judgmental you must love the role that you have been cast. Since this is a maternal role she had to develop an emotional connection to her son, played by Robin Williams. This must have been difficult due only a five year age difference.
The World According to Garp is a novel by John Irving. Close researched her role by reading Irving's novel to understand how Jenny Fields was portrayed. Close had to go inside of herself to investigate whether she had anything in common with Jenny Fields. The language in this film was very important to the role, the use of the word lust gave the viewer an insight into Jenny's psyche.
The World According to Garp was directed by George Roy Hill and is definitely a drama with comedic overtones.
Glenn Close in the role of Jenny Fields
In 1987, Fatal Attraction directed by James Dearden hit the screens. Again Close earned an Oscar nomination this time for Best Female Actor. She portrayed the role of psychotic Alex Forrest. In this film she stared with Michael Douglas and Ann Archer.
I believe that it is very important for an actor to get their character emotionally attached to their audience. Close accomplished this the first time we meet the character Alex Forrest. It was obvious that Close was attempting to draw a response from the audience. The response as I saw it was that Alex would stop at nothing to get Dan Gallagher, played by Michael Douglas.
Close accomplished this in her conversation with Dan at the bar; she constantly played with her cigarette lighter, making this into a very sexual gesture. This was my first hint of what was to come later in the film. As Dan sees his wife Alex enquired as to who she was, after receiving the response that this is his wife Alex stated "You better run along." I see this as an attempt by Alex to plant the seed in Dan's head that he can no longer do as he pleases. The whole time she is speaking to Dan she is smiling and flirting. As Dan joins his wife Alex does not take her eyes off of him as she slowly smokes her cigarette. You can see her planning right then and there how she was going to capture Dan. This is an excellent example of gestures and mannerisims. This quickly pushes the story forward.
To portray the revenge mistress from hell, she consulted with Psychiatrists by providing them with a script. Close needed to know why someone would act this way. She was especially concerned wit the rabbit boiling scene. Her research ultimately led her to portray Alex as a victim. She decided that Alex's father had most likely abused her sexually at a young age. The entire behavior that followed was very clinical and classic. She believed Alex to be a very self destructive woman. Of course this character could not explain herself to the audience.
"Fatal Attraction" created healthy controversy and struck a very sensitive nerve in society. Men thought twice before having a one-night-stand. Close probably brought a flood of people to therapists offices. In Fatal Attraction Close all but caused the screen to combust. Fatal Attraction is very much the psychological thriller.
Dangerous Liaisons directed by Stephen Frears was the splash of 1988. Close frightened of being typecast as a psychotic woman, went on to another Oscar nomination in her devastating wicked performance in her role of Marquise De Merterrit. This was one of her darkest roles; she was the master of seduction and betrayal. Stephen Frears took us deep into the hearts and the minds of the players.
Dangerous Liaisons is a terrific period piece taking place in the 1700's. The story centered on the moral decadence of the French aristocracy and how corruption foreshadowed the French Revolution. Frears captured the timelessness of this tale of deceit.
The first thing I noticed about Dangerous Liaisons was how well lit this film is, the costume design won an Oscar. This film opens with the dressing of the Marquise by her servants. She was corseted, coiffed, and powdered as if being girded for battle. This must of been difficult for Close, she had recently given birth to her daughter Annie so she most definitely had to work to get her body back in shape for this role.
This fiilm as I have mentioned is basically a morality tale but it fascinates us with it's exposure of ego, vanity, intrigue, and the war between the sexes. The issues are timeless in their relevance despite the period setting.
The Marquise had to always give the appearance of desirability so that men would want her and women would wish to be like her. Close had to endure rapid costume changes throughout the film. The central theme of this film is her obsessive desire to control and inflict cruelty on others. This was shown with the language used, especially the phrase that is repeated over and over, "It is beyond my control." This pushed the storyline forward for me. It is then that I knew she would inevitably lose control at some point.
The film ended as it had started with the Marquise dressing, except this time there is no bright smile, only tears and she is alone. This film was rewarding for me on many levels, especially Close's terrific performance and Frears skillful direction.
Glenn Close in her role of the Marquis in Dangerous Liaisons
Glenn Close as Cruella De Ville
In 1996 Close took a giant leap into the role of Cruella De Ville in 101 Dalmations. This time She had to humanize a cartoon character. She viewed the cartoon with her daughter Annie in preparation of the role.
Once more Close had to get her body in shape, she was corseted everyday and she had to achieve an elongated look. Her waist appeared to have been only 18 inches. Her first approach to play the role of Cruella was to read the book and decide just how far she was going to take this character. She spent four months in make-up. She started with outrageous faces and masks and those were just not working. She decided to go with the glamour look and let her inner character distort her face.
I loved the costumes Cruella wore right down to the gloves that have fingernails. The story centers around the fact that Cruella needs the Dalmation puppies for their skins so she could make this gorgeous outfit.
Again, language was extremely important. My favorite phrase in this film is when Cruella says "I just love the smell of extinction." Her over the top gestures and mannerisms really helped the audience to view just how evil Cruella was.
101 Dalmations was directed by Stephen Herek and based on a novel by Dodie Smith. I believe with a name like Cruella De Ville (Cruel Devil) that Herek in his direction of Close gave the devil her due.
Close had to be an incredible sport, with the vat of molasses she appeared to be almost joyful. She obviously spent a great deal of her time as a vision in slime. I am sure this was very uncomfortable, her coat alone must have weighed at least 90 pounds. Her shoe heels that seemed to be four inches tall, she literally had to be on her toes for this role.
I am sure to do this role, Close had to get in touch with her inner Drag Queen. Close put a strong sense of character into her humanization of Cruella De Ville.
Glenn Close has achieved Diva status with her strong performances. Close has won five Oscar nominations, Tony Awards for her work in the theatre, and Emmys for her television roles. She will be remembered for some of the greatest lines spoken on the silver screen such as "I am not going to be ignored Dan" and "You may have won the battle but I will win the wardrobe."
I believe Glenn Close to be one of the best character actors of this century. She has the unique ability and talent to do an enormous range of characters. These examples I have chosen are my favorite roles she has portrayed.