Glenn Close is laughing hard as she stands in the doorway to her New York City home. Her loyal little white dog is circling an arriving reporter.
Both are stars in their own right. Close has been a critically praised actor for more than 40 years. Her four-legged friend, Pip, has developed his own large fan base, thanks in part to an appearance on the television show "The View." The dog's Instagram account, under the name "Sir Pippin of Beanfield," is up to 3,400 followers.
Unlike his owner, however, Pip has not won three Tony Awards, three Golden Globes, and three Emmys. Close has also been nominated for an Academy Award seven times. She holds the record for number of times nominated for an Oscar without winning, in fact.
Close may finally break with tradition later this month at the 91st Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, California. She is nominated for a best actress Oscar for her performance in the film "The Wife."
She plays Joan Castleman, an obedient and long overlooked wife to a famous writer, played by Jonathan Pryce.
Inside her New York home, Close gives the reporter a bottle of red wine to open as she talks about something that happened a few hours earlier. She was walking Pip in a park when a woman stopped her to talk. The woman told Close about her own story of being held back in her profession by a man. These are the kinds of stories Close has heard a lot since "The Wife" came out and since she won a Golden Globe for her work in the film.
"Another woman crossing the street was like, 'I love you, Glenn!'" Close said.
"People down in the pharmacy, they're all cheering me on."
It seems as if everyone sees the 71-year-old star as the leading competitor for the best actress Oscar this year. “The Wife,” an independent film, has made just $9 million in ticket sales since it opened six months ago. But the moment feels like it is meant for a Close win.
So, what would an Academy Award mean to her?
"It would mean a lot but I wouldn't want it to be a pity Oscar because I've been an actress for 45 years," says Close. "People have been going back and looking at my basic body of work and the six times I lost and what those roles were. So I can't pretend it's just for “The Wife.” But I feel like everybody's rooting for me."
But that is not to say Close will be heartbroken if she does not win. She says, "I've decided if I lose, I'm going to look at the camera and say: 'I'm OK.'"
And she is. Better than OK, in fact. Making "The Wife" has been an empowering experience for her.
"It's taken me a long time to gain control of my own life. When I made ‘The Wife,' I was in control of my own life for probably the first time," says Close.
"The Wife" is a feminist work based on Meg Wolitzer's 2003 novel of the same name. It came to Close about six years ago, shortly before she ended her marriage to her third husband.
She said, "I'm at a time in my life where I'm not beholden to anyone. I mean, I always am attached with every molecule in my body to my daughter, whether she likes it or not. But I'm not attached to any partner."
That adult daughter she spoke of, Annie Starke, also appears in “The Wife,” as a younger Joan.
Both Close and Starke thought about the women of their shared family when working on the character of Joan Castleman. At the front of Close's mind was her mother, who married at 18.
In Close’s acceptance speech earlier this year at the Golden Globes, she spoke movingly about how her mother sublimated herself to Close’s father, a successful doctor.
"It broke my heart to hear her say in her late 80s that she had accomplished nothing," Close said, as she began to cry. "You can say, 'But, oh, you're such a good mother. Oh, you stuck it out with dad.' That wasn't the point. It was something else. That's what I think resonated with a lot women about that (Golden Globes) speech."
Starke also thought about her father’s mother. She was a scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II until she was dismissed for being pregnant, Starke said.
"I know she always wondered what could have been," Starke said by phone from Los Angeles.
"It was quite a powerful preparation experience," Starke said of working with her mother. "She keeps telling me that she feels like she's at the top of her power. She's getting recognition for something that hit so close to home."
"The Wife" was first shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017. The #MeToo movement came about not long after. The company Sony Pictures Classic bought the movie but chose to wait to release it in August 2018, timed to get ahead of the awards season rush.
Close says she, like most everyone, thought Lady Gaga was going to win at the Globes for her leading role in “A Star Is Born.”
"I was just kind of going with low expectations," Close said.
All through the awards season, Close has worn her grandmother's wedding ring. It serves as a reminder of the many women who, like Joan Castleman in “The Wife,” surrender their own self-expression to serve a husband or a family.
"She should have been an actress," Close said of her grandmother. "So I feel like they're with me."
The Academy Awards will be held February 24.
I’m Caty Weaver. And I’m Ashley Thompson.
The Associated Press reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
wine - n. an alcoholic drink made from the juice of grapes
pharmacy - n. a store or part of a store in which drugs and medicines are prepared and sold
pity - v. to feel sorry for (someone or something)
root - v. to express or show support for (a person, a team, etc.)
feminist - n. a belief in equal rights for men and women
beholden - adj. having obligations to (someone)
accomplish - v. to succeed in doing (something)
resonate - v. to have particular meaning or importance for someone : to affect or appeal to someone in a personal or emotional way