Glenn Close

Human Characters

Program Date: January 20, 2018

When award-winning actress Glenn Close took the stage of The Richmond Forum on January 20th, it was the outcome of a lifetime of decisions, circumstance, and chance. Not just in her life, Close explained, but in the lives of each and every person in the room.

“So, hello,” she said to an audience of 4,500 in the packed Altria Theater.

In a very personal presentation, laced with a few songs and mementos she had carefully packed for her trip to Richmond, Close shared the story of her life: from the hay fields of her childhood to her family’s involvement in the Moral Re-Armament cult to attending the College of William and Mary, where she learned the art and craft of acting that would become her life’s work.

Program BookGlenn Close Program Book

Despite the acclaim she has received, “I still haven’t peaked, so life continues to be exciting,” she said. “When I’m not working, I feel like a Ferrari in a garage.”

Her story begins with her earliest memories of the cast album of South Pacific and her childhood ambition of being a horse while growing up playing in the wide-open hay fields of Greenwich, Connecticut.

Close’s most vivid memory is one of meticulously plucking the heads off of clovers when she was five years old and realizing that her hand wasn’t actually her; she was whatever was making that hand move. Close recalled a strong feeling of separateness from herself in that moment.

“I wonder if that moment, which has stayed vivid in my mind all these years, is the reason I was compelled to become an actress at such an early age. Perhaps it’s a particularly acute feeling of separateness that fuels an actor’s engine; that creates an impulsive need to connect to a character and ultimately through that character to the audience.”

That balance between separation and connection became a cornerstone of Close’s life. It was how she found a way into characters like Alex Forrest from Fatal Attraction and Patti Hewes from Damages.

That balance between separation and connection became a cornerstone of Close’s life. It was how she found a way into characters like Alex Forrest from Fatal Attraction and Patti Hewes from Damages.

When asked by an audience member if there are pieces of herself in each role or if some are pure invention, Close replied, “I like to use my imagination…to think of things that might have happened in their life that leave either a subliminal or subconscious thing.” But, she said, it’s important to imagine a character without having any judgment. “If I judge, it’s impossible to find a place where we share a common humanity.”

When asked by an audience member if there are pieces of herself in each role or if some are pure invention, Close replied, “I like to use my imagination…to think of things that might have happened in their life that leave either a subliminal or subconscious thing.” But, she said, it’s important to imagine a character without having any judgment. “If I judge, it’s impossible to find a place where we share a common humanity.”

Her life experience has shaped the way she approaches her characters. After first playing the role 22 years earlier, Close was given the opportunity to reprise Norma Desmond of Sunset Boulevard for a 2016 West End production. In doing so, she “threw out everything” from her previous interpretation of the character. Close realized a fragility and longing in the character that she says she would not have recognized without the loss and hardship that came to pass in her personal life in the time between 1994 and 2016.

In that time, her sister Jessie was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and her nephew Calen was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Mental illness was never a topic of discussion in the Close family, and the revelation that Jessie was contemplating suicide came “like a bullet out of the blue.”

In 2009, Close co-founded Bring Change to Mind, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness. Her goal, she said on Saturday, is to help her sister and nephew to live safe and productive lives.

From stage, Ms. Close also commended the work of the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation and how the local community has rallied to support the Richmond non-profit’s work to help those affected by teenage mental illness.

There is an inherent reluctance towards using the language of mental illness, she said. “I know the great power of the spoken word,” Close explained. “If we say the words enough, it will help normalize the words and minimize the power of those words.”

Close likes to measure her life in change. She likes to see where she’s been, and where she’s going. She acknowledged the change happening through the marches occurring across the country and through the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. But when asked how she decides to spend her time lately, she responded with a simple, “At this point, I don’t want to leave home and not have a good time.”

Hollie Hammel and her band traveled from Nashville to be a part of the evening.
Ms. Close carefully packed mementos for her trip to Richmond.
Actress Glenn Close appeared at The Richmond Forum on January 20, 2018 and shared personal stories of her life and career.
Glenn Close shared personal stories of her life and career for 4,500 subscribers and students.
Glenn Close reacts to a question submitted by the audience.
Glenn Close receives generous applause as the program concludes. January 20, 2018.
Forum director Bill Chapman had a surprise for Ms. Close: her Google Arts & Culture doppelgänger.
Ms. Close answers an audience question. January 20, 2018.
Glenn Close at The Richmond Forum. January 20, 2018.
QUOTED

Perhaps it’s a particularly acute feeling of separateness that fuels an actor’s engine; that creates an impulsive need to connect to a character and ultimately through that character to the audience.–Glenn Close
If I judge, it’s impossible to find a place where the character and I share a common humanity.–Glenn Close
I know the great power of the spoken word. If we say the words [describing mental illness] enough, it will help normalize the words and minimize the power of those words.–Glenn Close

LISTEN

Glenn Close on connecting to a character

Glenn Close on addressing mental illness and Bring Change to Mind

Glenn Close answering an audience question about how she picks her projects today
COMMENTS

True to the Forum’s mission of providing the opportunity to be close for a couple hours to people who are often distant, we enjoyed the candor, the transparency, the insightfulness, and the vulnerability that she brought to us.–Subscriber Comment

BIO

Glenn Close Speaker Bio

Glenn Close headshotActress Glenn Close is a beloved and acclaimed performer whose powerful portrayals have graced the stage, screen, and television for four decades. From her Broadway beginnings in Barnum, to critically acclaimed performances in Fatal Attraction, FX’s Damages, and the Tony Award-winning musical Sunset Boulevard, Close enthralls audiences with very human characters that reflect the best and worst in all of us.

Close received three Tony awards for her performances in The Real Thing, Death and the Maiden, and Sunset Boulevard. She recently reprised her Boulevard role as fading film star Norma Desmond for London’s West End in 2016 and on Broadway in 2017.

Close made her film debut in The World According to Garp in 1982, receiving an Academy Award nomination for her performance. She went on to receive five additional Oscar nods for performances in The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, and Albert Nobbs. Other popular films that she has appeared in include Jagged Edge, Reversal of Fortune, Air Force One, 101 Dalmatians, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Her performance in Fatal Attraction was ranked 36th on Premiere’s list of the 100 greatest movie characters of all time. Some of her recent projects include Father Figures, starring Owen Wilson and Ed Helms, Netflix’s What Happened to Monday, The Girl with All the Gifts, The Wife, and Amazon’s Sea Oak.

For her television work, Close won an Emmy Award for the TV film Serving in Silence, plus a SAG Award and a Golden Globe for her performance in Showtime’s The Lion in Winter. She won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for her role as Patty Hewes in the FX drama series Damages. The Los Angeles Times said, “Close’s performance illuminates rather than outshines with its high wattage.” Airing for five seasons, the show garnered over 50 nominations and won 11 awards, including 4 Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and a SAG Award.

Close was born and raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, to socialite Bettine Moore Close and doctor William Taliaferro Close. When Close was seven, her father brought the family into a religious group known as Moral Re-Armament (MRA) that dictated their beliefs and way of life. It took Close 15 years to find a way to leave the group, which she did by enrolling at the College of William & Mary (Class of 1974) to study theatre and anthropology.

In 2009, in response to her sister Jessie’s diagnosis with bipolar disorder, Close founded Bring Change to Mind, a charity whose mission is to fight the stigma that surrounds mental illness. The two sisters and Jessie’s son, Calen Pick, act as ambassadors for the organization and use Close’s celebrity to promote mental health awareness.

Close is a trustee emerita of Sundance Institute and a trustee of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

EVENTS

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2017-2018 Season

President Barack Obama
President
Barack Obama

November 18, 2017
glenn_close_cmyk
Glenn Close
January 20, 2018
Peter Diamandis
Peter Diamandis
February 17, 2018

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