Ingenue, temptress, murderer, man.
In a storied career spanning four decades, actress Glenn Close has played many roles to perfection. But Friday night at the Smith Rafael Film Center, the only role that seemed to matter to her was as the honored guest of the .
Close was on hand for an following Thursday night's sold-out screening of her new film, Albert Nobbs. After posing for photographs in the lobby and making her way into a theater packed with expectant guests, a relaxed-looking Close took to the stage in a sleek black shirt and pants, her red-soled stilettos the only nod to her previous incarnations as on-screen vixen.
And though her resume is studded with some of the past few decades' most iconic roles for serious actresses, she was thrilled to kick off the conversation with MVFF Program Director Zoe Elton by talking about, of all things, Disney.
"I was a Disney kid!" she exclaimed happily. "I desperately wanted to be Hayley Mills." She recalls a childhood fascination with fairy tales, and a particular fondness for the golden age of Disney cartoons, which made her 1996 role as Cruella de Vil in Disney's live-action version of 101 Dalmations a personal thrill.
A whiz-bang clip reel highlighted Close's many unforgettable roles. Though she's been honored with five Academy Award nominations for film performances, she has also done some of her most memorable work for television - starting in the seventies with Something About Amelia and Sarah Plain and Tall, and continuing through the decades with groundbreaking roles in Serving in Silence: the Margarethe Cammermeyer Story and The Lion in Winter, and of course her most recent, award-winning star turn as Patty Hewes in Damages.
Not that everything has been so serious: she also played Homer Simpson's mother.
Close's sense of humor was on full display last night, often eliciting hearty laughter from the audience, but more often just hinted at with a wonderfully conspiratorial smile.
She described her "most embarassing moment as an actress" as a time when she was asked, as the voice of Kala in the animated film Tarzan, to make gorilla noises. Recounting her embarassment, she imparted some hard-fought words of wisdom to the audience, saying "You've got to be willing, no matter how old you are, to make a total a**hole of yourself." And then she put her money where her mouth was, letting loose with thoroughly authentic-sounding gorilla noises for nearly thirty seconds, to howls of laughter and applause.
Close has worked steadily in film, television and on stage for nearly four decades, winning accolades and respect in each medium. But she clearly has a special attachment to her most recent role as Albert Nobbs in the film of the same name. It's a role she originated off-Broadway in the 1980s, winning an Obie Award, and one that took many years to make its way to the big screen. Calling it "the best working experience of my entire career," Close not only embodied the lead role but also served as the film's producer and co-wrote the screenplay. And if MVFF's with its honorees is any indication, chances are high that Close will be a ubiquitous presence on the Hollywood awards circuit this winter.
At the end of the program, MVFF Executive Director Mark Fishkin arrived on-stage to present Close with the Mill Valley Film Festival award, a handsome statue designed by Mill Valley artist Alice Corning. In a welcome break from tradition, Close used the opportunity to deliver some words of her own, addressing the audience with a message of thanks and appreciation for all of those who've helped her along her way.
They were powerful words spoken by a beloved actress at the top of her game, and they left more than one audience member in tears.