For renowned actress Glenn Close, who was honored for her contributions to independent cinema at the Waterville Opera House on Sunday with the Maine International Film Festival’s Mid-Life Achievement Award, bringing “Albert Nobbs” to the screen was a labor of love. And, for Close, it was a journey that took more than a decade to complete.
“My definition of an independent film is a film that almost doesn’t get made,” Close said after accepting the award – a moose statuette in the guise of Close’s title character. “I don’t think there is a better definition. It took me fourteen years to make Albert Nobbs. From the time I got the rights to the time we all gathered in Dublin to start the filming was fourteen years.”
“Albert Nobbs,” the 2013 film from director Rodrigo Garcia which earned Close both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for her portrayal of the title character, is the story of a butler in 19th century Dublin who was born as a woman but identifies and passes in her everyday life as a man. He lives a regimented and orderly life in solitude, holding tightly to his secret by distancing himself from those around him. His life is thrown out of sorts one night, however, when the hotel hires a house painter named Hubert (Janet McTeer, also nominated for a Golden Globe and Oscar for her role) who is to room with Nobbs.
Hubert discovers Albert’s secret, and in turn, Hubert reveals he is also a woman living life as a man. He also reveals that he has married a woman. In Hubert, Albert finds hope as he aspires to someday have a wife of his own, and to buy and run a tobacco shop.
“I had actually played that role in an Off-Broadway play thirty years before that,” Close said. “In many ways, Albert is a culmination of the best things I’ve learned in my career. And making it was a joyous, joyous experience. So I’m very, very happy to be receiving this award with you having just seen the film, which I refused to give up on.”
Close describes the character as being “not what she seems,” and was drawn to Albert because she is fascinated with what’s behind the mask.
“I just found her a heartbreaking character. I love characters that have a dream that as we watch, we know it will probably never happen,” Close said. “But the ferocity of that dream is something we’re all moved by. Also, I really like characters that have no self-pity. I think self-pity is not a good human trait. So I think there’s something very compelling about somebody with an impossible dream who has no self-pity, and just has this belief. Because I think we all want to believe.”
On receiving the award, Close thanked everyone at the Maine Film Center, and congratulated them for what they are creating right here in Maine. The film festival also screened Close’s films “Low Down,” directed by Jeff Preiss, Stephen Frears’ “Dangerous Liaisons,” and Robert Altman’s “Cookie’s Fortune.”
“I just want to say that this is a Mid-Life Achievement Award,” Close said. “Which means, that I’m still going to be working at 134 years old.”
Close’s next film, Marvel Comics’ “Guardians of the Galaxy” directed by James Gunn, hits theaters Aug. 1.