Educated at William and Mary College.
Playing Gertrude to Mel Gibson’s Hamlet (90, Franco Zeffirelli) may define Glenn Closes dilemma: men are permitted to play younger, so actresses have to move up a generation—and down a class, for Close is an experienced stage actress who has played in Love for Love, The Real Thing, and Death and the Maiden. She is only nine years older than Mel Gibson.
This is a strange movie career, full of English- like mums or brave girls (she does rather resemble Virginia McKenna): The World According to Gary.t (82, George Roy Hill); The Big Chill (83, Lawrence Kasdan); The Stone Boy (84, Chris Cain); and The Natural (84, Barry Levinson). She dubbed Andie McDowell in Greystoke (84, Hugh Hudson), failed at comedy in Maxie (85, Paul Aaron), and did a competent lawyer in love amid the hokum of Jagged Edge (85, Richard Marquand).
Then she won one of the plum roles of the eighties, Alex in Fatal Attraction (87, Adrian Lyne). Her hair went wild, she lost control, and she was better than the film or its final resolution deserved. Indeed, she transcended the box-office melodrama and showed us how deranging such a passion might be.
She was meticulous in Dangerous Liaisons (88, Stephen Frears), but could not find human depth in that very cold play and novel. She was routine again in Immediate Family (89, Jonathan Kaplan), and a voice-over as well as a would-be supine Sunny von Bulowin Reversal of Fortune (90, Barbet Schroeder). For TV, she made Sarah, Plain and Tall (91, Glenn Jordan). Dubbed herself this time (by Kiri Te Kanewa), she played the opera singer in Meeting Venus (91, Istvan Szabo). In 1993, she had a great success as Norma Desmond in the Los Angeles production of Sunset Boulevard, so much so that she beat out Patti Lupone for the same part on Broadway. She acted in The House of the Spirits (93, Bille August) and The Paper (94, Ron Howard).
She was a scabrous brothel-keeper in Mary Reilly (96, Frears), before sbe found a role to match that of Norma Desmond (and not so far from it)—Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians (96, Stephen Herek) and 102 Dalmatians (00, Kevin Lima). That was her theatrical side. In a plainer mood, with little or no makeup, she did Serving in Silence: The Margaretlxe Cammenneyer Story (95, Jeff Bleckner) for television and Paradise Road (97, Bruce Beresford), as a prisoner of the Japanese. She has also been seen in Mars Attacks! (96, Tim Burton); as the vice president in Air Force One (97, Wolfgang Petersen); In the Gloaming (97, Christopher Reeve); In 6- Out (97, Frank Oz); Cookie’s Fortune (99, Robert Altman); a voice on Tarzan (99, Lima); Things You Can Tell Just by Lookingat Her (01, Rodrigo Garcia).
Married 1st Cabot Wade (divorced). Married 2nd James Marlas in 1984 (divorced).