Like most Americans living through 2020, my anxiety has been off the charts. With the election inching closer, every day seems to offer a new threat to democracy in the form of news alerts that read like sadistic Mad Libs.
The only thing that’s been able to ease my nerves is Glenn Close’s Instagram feed. The 73-year-old actor has become something of a quarantine MVP while sequestered in her Montana home with her pup Pippi (or Sir Pippin of Beanfield, as he’s called on Instagram). Close is candid and unpretentious in her posts, peppering her page with nature snapshots, a five-minute ode to her beloved New York City, and a jaw-dropping throwback to The Stepford Wives among other musings on life, politics, and art. Her reaction to the first presidential debate really says it all:
Tonight, Close will join more than 75 other members of theater royalty for Broadway for Biden. The one-night only fundraising event—streaming on YouTube at 8 p.m. ET—will be helmed by Tony-nominated Eclipsed director Liesl Tommy and feature an array of original material created exclusively for the event. Expect previews of Broadway-bound shows, never-before-seen stagings of classic Broadway musical numbers, and stars from Rita Moreno to Billy Porter to make appearances.
Ahead of her participation in the broadcast, Vogue caught up with Close to talk about voting in the upcoming election, bringing her Tony-winning performance as Norma Desmond to the screen, marching on Washington with Jane Fonda in the ’80s, and crafting her recent homemade Cruella De Vil costume.
Your Instagram account has been one of the only things keeping me sane during quarantine. Every time you post a photo drinking wine outside with your dog, I briefly feel like everything’s gonna be okay.
Well that’s what’s gotten me through the year. Pip and I just went for our walk all over the neighborhood. I moved because the land is so calming and beautiful, plus I have so many family members here: two sisters, a brother, various nephews and nieces, et cetera. I live across the yard from my younger sister and have friends who have been careful about COVID but I have to say, it’s mostly just been me at home. The last time I was in New York was February, but otherwise I’ve been up here the whole time. I’ve been very lucky, but who knew just how lucky I’d be?
I really enjoyed your Roy Cohn in the Angels in America amFAR performance the other night.
That was a fantastic experience. It was one of the first truly creative things I was a part of since the pandemic began, so it was like drinking water in the desert. I’m not typically a social person. I have my wonderful friends but I don’t seek out social gatherings, so it’s been wonderful being able to see everyone’s faces doing things like that and Broadway for Biden.
What can you tell me about your involvement with Broadway for Biden?
It’s members of the incredibly special Broadway community realizing how deeply, deeply important this upcoming election is. The last time I was really political was Clinton’s first campaign, and then frankly I got kind of disillusioned with politics. It can also be very tricky for somebody who’s labeled a celebrity. A lot of times there’s many people who want to silence us for that reason, but I hate that word: celebrity. I consider myself an American first and foremost. A mother, an aunt, a sister, and a member of one of the most vital industries this country has. So even though I haven’t made that many political statements up until now, I consider it my duty as an American to speak out. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t.
That’s interesting that you would say you didn’t always consider yourself very political. I read that you once marched at a pro-choice rally in D.C. with Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem.
That march was my first big political event. Wow that must’ve been what, ’88?
’89. The National Organization for Women called you and a dozen other actors and singers to spotlight their efforts in front of the Supreme Court.
Yes, my daughter Annie was just a year old and that made me care about all the issues. Because I care about what her future looks like. I went down to Washington with her pacifier around my neck and honestly didn’t have my celebrity in mind. I was a mother first and foremost and they pushed me to the front column with all those women. All those iconic women and, oh my God, I didn’t know what to do! I remember my dad once saying “An act of presence is incredibly important. You don’t have to have all the words, but the fact that you are actually there means something.” So that was the first time I was really there.
The Public Theater recently announced some online content, and you’ve been participating in digital productions like Angels in America and your musical podcast with John Cameron Mitchell. Are you interested in exploring more of these types of experimental productions across mediums in the future?
All an actor wants to do on the simplest level is be a part of telling a great story. I mean, who knows how these platforms will change. Maybe we’ll have holograms or holographic comedies in our living rooms. But storytelling is vital to the human soul. I think the arts will be even more important as we try to recover from COVID and from the turmoil of the last four years. But so far as how we’ll tell those stories, I just hope we never get terribly far away from live theater—telling a real story in front of a real audience. It’s in our DNA. We need those stories, we need to hear them and see them in the context of a community and the most visceral form of that is live theater. I know the movie I did last year called Hillbilly Elegy will be in theaters for a while and then streamed with the potential for a huge audience. A much bigger one than if it was only in movie houses. But I just hope that people realize that we need to look into each other’s eyes and experience that basic exchange in our storytelling.
Can you tell me about everything that went into recreating your Cruella De Vil look for Halloween?
(Breaks into Cruella voice) Halloween? She wasn’t dressed for Halloween! (Laughs maniacally.) Oh my, that was fun.
I promise it was more fun for me.
Bette Midler is doing some virtual entertainment that Cruella is participating in for Hulaween, her fabulous non-profit with the New York Restoration Project. She’d reached out and written something very funny that I’ll post on Instagram after the fact. But as far as Cruella, I guess her only nod to Halloween were the dog ears. Otherwise, you know, that’s Cruella. She wasn’t dressed up. (Laughs.)
The detail was impeccable. I love how you repurposed your coat from The Wife for Cruella’s fur.
Yes! I happened to still have it because I thought it was a great coat. I had to get some animal-printed thing so I found this long set of leopard underwear. I did fail with the gloves though. When we got revved up to do it I hadn’t taken the time to put the black nails on the red gloves. I just sorta cut the tips off the red gloves and shoved the gloves with the black nails down inside. It was not as (Cruella voice) refined as it should’ve been.
Do you have a lot of your old costumes on hand?
I actually don’t have that many pieces because my costume collection is out at Indiana University. Even Mamaw’s [from Hillbilly Elegy] T-shirts are out there now. It’s kind of a living, growing collection of the characters I’ve done in my career.
Back to Cruella, do you have any thoughts on the upcoming origin story with Emma Stone?
The original story by Dodie Smith is so brilliant. Cruella is called De Vil because she’s basically the devil and all the rooms are painted black in her house. There’s a roaring fire in all the fireplaces and that’s why she likes fur! Because she likes to be hot! So as far as an origin story goes? I’m curious.
Your film adaption of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Sunset Boulevard musical was in pre-production before the pandemic hit. What’s the latest update on Norma Desmond?
We have a fantastic script. I’m starring as well as producing, so I’ve been in the trenches with that one. We’re just waiting for an absolute green-light and I hope it’ll happen in the new year because we’re ready. I used to think I needed to play Albert Nobbs before I died, but now I think I need to do this. I can’t really put Norma to rest until I’ve explored her on film, so I hope that that happens.
What appeals to you about translating a character you explored on Broadway every night to the screen?
In theater, if you analyze the songs, some of them are very internal. It’s what’s going on in her head. So that, to me, will be fascinating, because how your face looks when you’re singing a high note in front of a theater will look very different when you see it in close-up. To me it’ll be a great experiment. I personally think it’s Andrew’s most beautiful score. To bring the emotionality of the music with that iconic story to the screen would be simply hair-raising. That’s something I’m looking forward to.
Before I leave you, can you share what’s been keeping you sane as we enter the last few weeks before the election?
It really helps to vote early. I went down to the courthouse and got my ballot and put it in the box right there. And that’s been really helpful as far as doing the most basic thing you can do to try and change things, so I’m hoping everybody votes. That’s what this entire Broadway for Biden thing is for. Please vote! Hopefully for a change, because I don’t think our collective nervous system can take it anymore.
I can feel my eye twitch every time I get another news alert.
My brain can’t deal with a lot of that. It’ll explode. I care about the news, but I can’t listen to it the way I did in the beginning because it’s too stressful. We are battered and we need it to stop. We need people who will understand where everyone is on the stress and anxiety scale and will address it. Sometimes I think I have to fill my days with so many positive actions, but you don’t have to. It’s important to also just take time to sit and read something and just be kind to yourself. I pushed myself a lot until I realized it’s okay to not feel you have to check three things off your to-do list every day. Plus, I’m not terribly good at it anyway!