Five Films and 18 Months Later, Glenn Close Comes Up for Air

She currently appears as Cruella DeVil in '101 Dalmatians'

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

When five-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close looks back on the past 18 months of her career, she releases a deep sigh. Since her final curtain call last year on Broadway as Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard," she has made five films.

"There is a price to pay for all this work," Close says. "To me the price is being away from home."

Even though her work has taken her from London to Australia, she manages to include her family. Her six-year-old daughter, Annie, went to London with her for the filming of "101 Dalmatians." Close played Cruella DeVil, an evil clothing manufacturer who has accomplices steal dalmatians so she can make a coat.

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"She didn't like me playing Cruella DeVil, for the garish costumes weren't to her liking. She did adore the Dalmatian puppies. At home, we have three dogs, two cats, six fish, three mice, a horse, and a pony, so I guess you could say we are animal lovers."

Close's home is in upstate New York, where her daughter goes to public school. "I get a twinge, when I hear her little friends talking about their parents, and then they add Annie's mother is a movie star. To Annie, I just go to work. In school, she's hearing comments like, 'I saw your mommy on TV, and she talked about you.' "

There are compensations. The actress talked with the Disney people, and they are having a showing of "101 Dalmatians" at Annie's school. "I hope they understand that Cruella DeVil is just acting."

Close admits "101 Dalmations" was exhausting. "It was a stunt woman flying out of the window into a vat of molasses. She flew in, but I stayed there. I wallowed in that slimy stuff for a week."

Though Close has a petite frame, she wanted Cruella to have a dominant presence. She wore 4-1/2-inch heels, a long corset, heavy, broad-shouldered costumes, and a wig dyed half white and half black.

"I knew I had the right amount of evil when I did the scene with the puppies," Close says. "She only had one line, 'Ah, here are the pups.' " She delivered it with such demonic pleasure that Purdy, the mother Dalmatian, put her tail between her legs and ran off the set.

CLOSE'S other recent movie projects include "Paradise Road," in which she portrays a real-life heroine in a Japanese POW camp during World War II.

"I fell in love with this woman, who today is in her 80s. What impressed me was her day-to-day courage."

Close also did a cameo for Tim Burton in "Mars Attack." "Could I resist playing the first lady when Jack Nicholson is the president of the US? It only took a few days, but it was hilarious."

Next year, in a film tentatively titled "Air Force One," Close will play the first lady, with Harrison Ford as the president. This time it's more reality-based, and she's going to do research at the White House. She'll also star in HBO's "In the Gloaming," scheduled to premire in late April 1997. The film marks Christopher Reeve's directorial debut.

Close admits that of all her roles, it was hardest to leave Norma Desmond behind. "Personally, it was a challenge, and it was wonderfully cathartic. I was able to form a connection, a really exciting connection with the audience. That's the most satisfying feeling an actress can have."

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