A few months ago, it might have been difficult to imagine a celebrity who’s been a household name since the ’80s—when supermarket tabloids drove so much discourse—arguing publicly for gossip’s value. But there in front of me earlier this week in the Crosby Street Hotel was national treasure and six-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close, talking about the lengthy statement she gave to the New York Times in October, in the wake of the initial reports about Harvey Weinstein’s pattern of predation and sexual misconduct. During this conversation, she explained how gossip about men like Weinstein and Kevin Spacey informed her of what would eventually become public knowledge that could possibly alter culture as we know it.
Close was promoting Crooked House, Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s beloved (and ultimately audacious) 1949 mystery. Close plays Lady Edith, the de facto head of a wealthy household whose patriarch’s recent murder leads to an investigation that drives the story’s plot. It’s an ensemble piece, also featuring Christina Hendricks, Gillian Anderson, and Terrence Stamp, and in it Close rides the edge of madness, inching her way to the top without ever going over it. She told me hitting that frequency, which is just a dial or two down from camp, was “absolutely” intentional.
I interviewed her alongside Max Irons, who plays the man investigating the murder, Charles. Close has known Irons since he was a child—he’s the son of Jeremy Irons, with whom Close starred in 1990's Reversal of Fortune and 1993's The House of Spirits. Crooked House is one of two new movies Close is appearing in with the younger Irons—the film adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s novel The Wife premiered earlier this year at the Toronto International Film Festival to raves and will be released in 2018. We talked about that, but mostly we spent our small amount of time in conversation about the current Hollywood climate. Irons respectfully took a back seat for the majority of our talk and let the woman do most of the speaking. An edited and condensed transcript of our conversation is below.
JEZEBEL: At age 70, you continue to work steadily. What do you think of the narrative that states it’s harder for women over 40 working in Hollywood?
GLENN CLOSE: I think it’s true, but I’ve never felt more in tune with myself or my craft and the power of what we do ever. I think I’m top of my game. My friend Annie Roth said I haven’t peaked yet, which I think is a nice thing to say. I’m still curious about the possibilities and I like to do different things. I love to surprise myself and go into different psychological and emotional territory. This [Crooked House role] was very much different from what I’ve done before. I wouldn’t have taken it [otherwise]. I wouldn’t know how to do it, I’d just be bored.
Do you think it’s a matter of shifting expectations in terms of what roles are offered as you get older?
GC: Well, you go through your phase where you’re a mother or a grandmother or the aunt or something. But I’m not getting that many offers [like that] anymore, it’s really kind of cool. I can only hope there’s more and more material available, because I think anyone my age would say, “You’re the best you’ve ever been.” That’s the way I feel.
I haven’t seen The Wife yet, but I hear you’re great.
GC: That was a journey.
MAX IRONS: Something I was struck by as a young actor was that every single minute of every single day, you were clawing away, searching for the truth of that character.
GC: Yeah, right.
MI: At no point did you seem to rest or seem content that you knew.
GC: I found her very tricky.
The book is widely regarded as feminist. Did you relate to that aspect?
GC: Yes, in fact that’s one of the tricky things. The book is much more black and white than the movie. If you read the book, any woman would say, “Why does she stay with him?” I had to answer that question for myself, and I think in finding that understanding and really working through with [screenwriter] Jane Anderson and [director] Björn Runge that emotional journey, still there were tricky scenes to shoot.
In the statement you gave to the New York Times regarding Harvey Weinstein, you called yourself “angry and darkly sad” in the wake of the allegations. Do you still feel that way two months later?
GC: I think I’ve moved away from that. As more and more people are being exposed and more and more women are being able to come up and say they were abused or preyed upon, I feel that it’s kind of in the male DNA, that if somebody walks in the room, your first thought is, “Do I want to fuck her?” Honestly speaking. Women maybe, but not to the same degree. If you expect that to change, I think it’s stupid. But I hope this is a tipping point and I hope it will represent a social revolution. Evolution. Evolution. Because the only way I think it won’t keep happening is if we evolve to a different place. It takes both and women. There are men who have acted on it, and men who don’t. To condemn all men is stupid and counterproductive, but just to say, “Okay, we’re biological creatures and this is a natural instinct, but we have a social contract.” And this can, hopefully, evolve into a new culture for us.
Civilization depends on the regulation of our base instincts.
Your statement spoke to such experience that I wondered if what you wrote was the result of years of thinking about this culture or if the Weinstein allegations induced an epiphany.
GC: Thinking back, I never was preyed upon. In the Harvey case, you’d be lying if you said you didn’t know that he had a terrible reputation. He was known to be a pig. [To Max] You heard that, too.
GC: There were times when I was made extremely uncomfortable in two [non-Weinstein] auditions. It was like, “What game is going on here? I don’t even know what the rules are, what the game is.” I go in very sincerely trying to do a scene, and all of a sudden, it has nothing to with a scene. Now I realize they’re set up, especially when it’s all men [although] in one of them there was women, where basically it’s like putting a dog in with a bitch in heat. They’re looking at sexual chemistry rather than anything else. If I’d been more kind of savvy, I’d have gone in and just tried to flirt or come onto this person so they’d say, “Oh yeah, there’s chemistry there.” I get that now. It’s fucked and it’s unfair.
MI: It’s such a complicated issue and it’s an issue that extends from Weinstein down to the factory line manager. It’s a social problem and to get to the heart of it we have to be honest with ourselves and look at ourselves as human beings with base instincts and the exchange of goods that goes on and how to manage that. My worry, personally, is whether we as a society using the forms of communication we’re seeing at play here, chiefly social media, whether it’ll be sabotaged by that.
GC: Turned on its ear. Like all of a sudden there will be a huge backlash and we’ll be back where we used to be?
MI: What we really need is focused, considered examination of this social problem as opposed to what we’re seeing quite a lot of and what makes headlines and what sells newspapers: emotionally led, impulsive statement, which is gobbled up by people with phones. And consequently, the issue that’s at the heart of it will be missed.
GC: I mentioned in my statement how important it is to have a dispassionate examination.
What’s it been like to see so many named that you have worked with or have been photographed with or know?
GC: Weinstein, that was his reputation. Kevin Spacey, that was his reputation. My brother said, “Did you know you were on Fox News?” Apparently they said, “She knew and she didn’t do anything.” I thought, “That’s where I think gossip is good.” Someone wrote about that: Gossip is what women do sometimes to keep themselves out of danger. I heard gossip, but I didn’t hear, you know... The gossip informed me. But I think what’s different is first of all you’d hope people would be brave enough to come out, who have actually had these situations, and then restitution. Something has to happen. It’s not behavior you want to condone.
When you called yourself angry and darkly sad in that statement, were you implying that you were at all angry at yourself?
GC: No. I was angry at the whole situation, that women were put in that situation again and again and again. ‘Cause I knew Harvey was just the tip of the iceberg. Big tip of the iceberg, but yeah. And I think that made me angry. I can put myself into the shoes of a young girl who has no defenses and I’ve learned that there’s fight, flight, and freeze. People say, “Why didn’t you just...” I can see where you’re in this room and you don’t know the rules. It’s terrifying. That made me angry. I think now we have to just support and we have to be articulate. [A pause] I think about my daughter.