Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Glenn "Norma" Close

My passion for the movie musical is a large and consuming love but not an unconditional one. Some musicals shouldn't be made into movies at all. MTV recently dug the topic of the Sunset Blvd movie (you guessed it: that's one of them) out of its shallow grave in an interview with Glenn Close, who's currently in the spotlight again for her TV role in Damages for which she'll be gunning for the 2008 Emmy. And speaking of awards: if Glenn ever wants to get back on the Oscar track, Norma Desmond is probably not the way to go.

Glenn Close, 1985. Photo by Gilles Laraine

The backstory: Andrew Lloyd Webber, once a sure fire big deal on the musical theater stage, adapted the justly legendary 1950 noir Sunset Boulevard in the 90s. The stage production lost money due to repetitive legal battles and star salaries involving various divas signed to play ur diva Norma Desmond. The show was still considered a minor hit, undoubtedly selling a large quantity of tickets on name recognition and one bulls eye proposition: bank on musical theater fans loving a diva. Close won the TONY for Best Actress in the role

It shouldn't be made into a movie. The problems are threefold.
  1. It’s not a strong musical. "With One Look" "A Perfect Year" and "It's As If We Never Said Goodbye" ...these could be called highlights within the context of the show but they're rather middling efforts in the larger world of the musical genre. They wouldn't make for thrilling set pieces, would they?
  2. Billy Wilder’s movie is justly legendary. It’s a 100% bonafide classic. Leave it alone. There are many great stage musicals that have never been films. Hollywood producers ought to be looking at those properties.
  3. Glenn Close needs to find a new role. Remember in the 80s when Fatal Attraction came as a shock. It's tough to imagine now but she didn’t always play evil or cold goddesses. Her characters did have spine but they weren't always relentlessly dominant brittle and larger-than-life forces. MTV quotes her as saying that she’s ready for the big screen demands of the iconic role that is Norma Desmond. “Oh, man. So ready” she says. I’m sure that she is. She has been rehearsing for it forever. At this point I fear she's over rehearsed. Could there be any spontaneity or surprise in such a performance?
It's this last bit that worries me most. What Glenn Close needs to revitalize her film career --what she needs if she's ever going to win an Oscar (a topic we've discussed before) is an about face role. She needs to take an audience by surprise (think Streep's slick and intimidating glam in The Devil Wears Prada or Judi Dench's brittle lesbian in Notes on a Scandal: both showed off new or underused facets of their actresses). When was the last time Close played a warm character? Maybe she ought to be looking for a strong earth mother role, something you might expect to see Susan Sarandon doing. That would put the audience and award bodies on notice.

This fine actress has done the gorgon thing for so long I’m worried that her skills at projecting an interior life will be totally calcified. If Close continues to take these roles, all that might remain is a cool and unyielding surface... a Medusa who turned herself to stone.
*

For further reading on related topics, click the labels below. Also over @ Zoom In I'm doing a theme week on other pre-production films. Check it out.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I saw "Doubt" at the Kennedy Center in DC last year....most of the time thinking she (or possibly a de-glammed Candace Bergen)would be my first choice over Meryl Streep. "Doubt" would be perfect for her. Too bad it's going to Meryl, she gets everything. Is "Sunset Blvd" a definite? I saw Glenn Close in LA in it - she was over over over the top + not much of a singer. The make-up had her looking like a raccoon....maybe they'll tone it down for the film. They didn't have Gloria Swanson looking so ridiculous. I really hope they don't make this - I agree with you - don't do it. And if they did make it - I'd much rather see Liza Minnelli in a comeback.

Anonymous said...

Eh, I want Glenn Close and only Glenn Close to do the "Sunset Boulevard" movie musical and finally gun for that Oscar. No Streisand, and no more Meryl for christsakes. It could easily get to the point where all of these roles Meryl's doing in succession could lead to overexposure and lack of believability in the roles. If Close really believes that she can pull this off well on film (and why wouldn't she), then let her have it and be done with it.

John T said...

Remaking Sunset Boulevard (even in musical form) is just wrong. This movie is perfect as the original; no other film has given such a forceful, blistering portrayal of the way that Hollywood chews and spits out its stars. If people want to see it on the big screen again, bring back the original to theaters (hey, I'll be in line for tickets), don't remake it.

As for Close, I do hope that she eventually has one more shot at Oscar (personally, I hope she has several more shots, but as was pointed out in an earlier thread, Oscar nods are not easy to come by)-this is a woman who deserves to be a bride, not a bridesmaid, at least one in her Academy career.

Josh said...

I think I actually have a little faith in this. I'm not the biggest Glenn Close fan but this sounds pretty interesting!

Josh said...

I do think that actors doing roles just to get Oscars is wrong, but I think that Glenn Close is smarter than that. I hope...

Deborah said...

Glenn Close was luminous as the warm earth mother type in The Big Chill, but get real, those roles never get nominations, unless she gets cancer or something.

Unknown said...

Um, what Glenn Close needs is a BIOPIC. Duh. Did Meryl or Judi win for their "about face" roles? No. Helen Mirren won for playing Queen Elizabeth.

John T said...

I agree with Adam that Close needs a biopic, but what? Catherine de Medici? A historically accurate version of the Macbeth story? Simone de Beauvoir?

Edward Copeland said...

Of course, I knew going in to the musical Sunset Blvd. that it would be a hard sell to me, who counts the original in my all-time top 10 and who isn't an ALW fan. I didn't get to see Close, but I saw Betty Buckley, but I hated the musical. It reminded me of when The Simpsons did "Oh, Streetcar!" with lyrics that just took lines from the movies and made them seem almost laughable. There is such a vicious cycle at work: Turn movie into musical then turn musical into movie. How much of a lack of creativity can two mediums withstand? I've never seen Nine, but the score is OK, but why would anyone think that a movie version will be a hit?

NATHANIEL R said...

well with NINE it's also a problem because it's basically Fellini's 8 1/2 once it's back on the screen and the original is also not something that needs improvement.

Unknown said...

Yes, Adam, and, of course, Judi won for playing Queen Elizabeth, too, not a straggly lesbian.

To get Glenn back in the hunt, perhaps she could play an aging queen (not me, the royal kind of queen...doesn't matter which one), who goes on a journey to her childhood home where she has a torrid affair with Billy Bob Thornton and kills a rapist or two. Then she gives a piano key to Billy Bob and drowns herself. A prosthesis would help.

NATHANIEL R said...

my point is [AHEM] once you've been out of the loop the smartest thing is a reinvention, not a retread

NicksFlickPicks said...

But the point is also to keep knocking your typecasted parts out of the park (i.e., Toni Collette in Evening), so that someone eventually wants to see you excel at something else, rather than completely overdoing and fucking up your typecasted part (i.e., Glenn Close in Evening), so that even your former fans start to wonder if they've been overestimating you all along.

Anonymous said...

This is the reason why I wanted Glenn Close to get the lead in "Doubt", b/c I knew the chorus of moaners would come out with "but this shouldn't be made! it shouldn't be made!" once the "Sunset Boulevard" talk started again. I think she would have been perfect as Sister Aloysius. I'm sure Meryl will be expertly fabulous as usual, but I want to see some others in these baity projects sometimes. But whatever. I hope that Glenn Close gets her Norma Desmond at least. I can't wait to see her tackle this role.

Anonymous said...

Well, couldn't disagree more about it being weak; it's easily my favourite ALW [insert your own 'oxymoron' joke here], and I think one of his very strongest scores.

I think it COULD be a terrific film, but it could equally (and so easily) be a mediocre film, so I'd certainly have to file it under 'worried' whilst it was in production (as with Sweeney). Frankly, I should direct, so that I wouldn't have to panic!

My main concern would be the casting of Close. Her vocals were DIRE on the OBCR. Hollywood wouldn't allow Elaine Paige to get the gig, but they should. Failing that, Patti Lupone did a great job on the OLCR, and I believe Betty Buckley was magnificent on Broadway.

But if we have to go with a 'name above the title', I'd second Liza as being an infinitely better prospect than Close. In fact... she sorta is Norma!

Rob

Edward Copeland said...

I knew Nine was based on 8 1/2. I just don't understand why they would think it's even a profitable idea for a movie.

Anonymous said...

They're banking on Marshall's "Chicago" crowd to make this one a hit too. And to add to the musicals glut that we're in right now. That's why they think they can gather up a sizable audience for "Nine".

Glenn Dunks said...

We're having a musical "glut"?

Anyway. I think the main problem with a Sunset Boulevard musical FILM is that no matter how good it is it will always be compared to the original and the original is, without a doubt in anyone's mind, a masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

Close played a rather different role in Rose Troche's THE SAFETY OF OBJECTS, a not so lucky movie based upon A.H. Homes' short tales. She and Patricia Clarkson were awesome in the picture; unfortunately both perfs were quite forgotten during the awards season.

I don't know the musical, but since the role of Desmond is quite iconic and it was an awards bait elsewhere (Close also snagged a Tony for have played it in Broadway), I should have thought that it could have been the right occasion for Close to come back in Oscar tracks.

Nathaniel's considerations are good: the cult status of Wilder's film and the perception of a not original role by Close could damage her award chances. Anyway I hope she can have sooner her due. If not there's still the Emmy 2008...

Mirko S.

Anonymous said...

We're having a musical "glut"?

Yeah, that's what I said.

"Dreamgirls"
"Rent"
"The Producers"
"Phantom of the Opera"
"Hairspray"
"Chicago"

And upcoming:

"Sweeney Todd"
"Nine"
"Sunset Boulevard"

All of these films are coming along near each other in varying degrees of quality and success, and at some point, I think that audiences will tire of it.

NATHANIEL R said...

well sure at some point. audiences tire of everything eventually --film genres are so cyclical. But one would hope that the revival will last a good decade or two at least rather than just a few years.

I mean... Musicals haven't been regularly popular since the 60s but they had a good 30 year run didn't they? it's about time that they're back and stay awhile.

Anonymous said...

These aren't the sixties, and audiences don't adore musicals the way that audiences then did. To keep the genre fresh, they need to space things out a bit more, b/c sooner or later, fickle audience interest will fade.

Glenn Dunks said...

If it's a glut then there's a glut of action movies and a glut of animated films and a glut of oscar-bait titles and a glut of...

well, there's a glut of everything basically.

Anonymous said...

The difference being that no one will tire of a car chase movie or a Disney film like they will of an acquired taste musical.

NicksFlickPicks said...

How about Travolta as Norma?

Seriously, though: Do we know anything about who will direct Sunset Boulevard for the screen? If they stand firm on the musical as its own piece, without working too much from the movie template, I can see the movie working (and Close working in it). The story is rich and complicated enough to allow different angles and readings. But I wonder what director would have the balls to go in a totally different direction and also know how to stage a musical and have a specific vision for Glenn instead of letting her do whatever.

And are Hugh and Ewan still in talks to play Joe? Weak casting of that part will guarantee a failure. Granted, Basic Instinct 2 was God-awful, but audiences didn't even wait to find that out for themselves, nor did they need to. The casting of David Morrissey just screamed, "All the real actors knew that this one stunk." Seems like Hugh is their best hope.

NATHANIEL R said...

i beg to differ that no one will tire of car chase. been tired of them for decades! ;)

and audiences did get tired of disney films for quite awhile (70s & 80s) --all things: cyclical

NATHANIEL R said...

and wait Nick. You mean a director is supposed to have a vision for their ginormously famous movie stars rather than letting them loose ????!!! Heresy!

;)

Anonymous said...

I meant animated films in general. And film snobs aren't the same as general audiences -- they'll always go for action films in one form or another.