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Glenn Close will talk roles and interests, plus answer your questions, at Austin show

John T. Davis

If Glenn Close racks up any more awards, she’s gonna need a bigger mantle over the fireplace. The 65-year-old Connecticut-born actress has notched Emmys (three of ‘em, thank you), Tonys, an Obie, a couple of Golden Globes and even three Grammys. The one prize that has so far escaped her is the Oscar, but after six nominations, she’s due. Audiences know her best through memorable screen roles in “The Big Chill,” “Fatal Attraction,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” “The Natural” and “Air Force One,” among many others. Most recently, she received acclaim for her role as the powerful, morally compromised and frankly terrifying lawyer Patty Hewes in “Damages,” which just ended a five-year television run.

In her off-screen life, she is the founder of Bring Change 2 Mind, an organization that seeks to overcome the stigma and misconceptions that surround mental illness (her sister and her nephew both live with mental illness). Close, making her first visit to Austin, will host a one-woman show at the Paramount Theatre to talk about her life and career. She spoke with the Statesman just before Thanksgiving.

What can folks in Austinlookforward to from an evening with Glenn Close?

Glenn Close: A little bit of everything. I’m thinking of calling it “Are You Who We Think You Are?” because that’s what people say to me a lot of times. I’ll talk a little bit about where I come from, who I am, some of the roles I’ve tackled and what is interesting to me now. Taking questions is my favorite part.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?

That I’m 5’11” (laughs) … A lot of people get kind of intimidated because they think I’m like some of the stronger characters that I’ve played. They think of Alex Forrest (in “Fatal Attraction”) or Patty Hewes or the Marquise in “Dangerous Liaisons.” So they might be coming with preconceived ideas.

Regarding your role as Patty Hewes in ‘Damages’: Is it more fun to play unscrupulous characters than lily-white roles?

I think it’s really fun and challenging to play characters who live in the gray areas of life. I think it’s easy to play pure mean and it’s easy to play pure good, but what I think people really are is a mixture of both. A character like Patty Hewes is intriguing because you never know quite how she’s going to behave. She lives in a very, very gray area.

You called that the role of your life. Why?

I don’t know if I still feel that (but) I think she’s one of the most interesting, challenging roles I’ll ever take, and I love that character. But I think why I feel so strongly about her is it’s rare at that time, I think there’s more people on television in command, playing characters in control, but it’s rare to have a woman play a part like that, and certainly a woman my age.

She always keeps people off balance (by) the fact that you never know whether she’s telling you the truth or not. It’s really fun and very challenging. You can’t be undecided about those aspects of the character; you have to know where you’re coming from. It’s fun to play a character like that — a person leaps and bounds ahead of anybody around her.

You’ve always bounced between TV, stage and movies. Can you speak to the satisfactions of each?

Even though I haven’t done anything onstage for a number of years, that’s where I really feel you can flex your muscles and are in control of your craft. … It’s interaction between you, your fellow actors and a live audience, and that’s very exciting. You can be on this wavelength with an audience that is similar to being a singer in a rock concert; it can be a real high.

In film and television, I basically try to portray characters that people can relate to. And that doesn’t change for those mediums. The placement of energy is different between stage and film, but television and film only differ for me in the length of the process — film takes much longer than television. But in TV, if you’re doing a series, that’s a very long schedule.

Your movie roles have tended to be portraits, even intimate. Have you ever wanted to do a big popcorn ‘Transformers’-style summertime movie?

Oh, I think it would be a ball, it would be great (laughs) … Look at Judy Dench who has that great recurring role in the James Bond movies. That looks really fun. That would be ideal.

Why is your work with Bring Change 2 Mind important to you?

My sister and I and my nephew, too, we try to speak together as much as possible. People’s personal stories are very, very powerful. Our goal is to make stigma a thing of the past, and the way you can change people’s behaviors and prejudices about mental illness is for them to hear personal stories and meet people living with mental illness. And you can communicate that recovery is possible and they can have full and productive lives. We have a ways to go.

You were a pioneer in segueing from movies to television. Now it seems like all the interesting stuff is happening on TV.

With independent films and cable TV, the line between feature film and television, particularly cable, is almost negligible now. Writers who want to have power over their creative vision are going more and more to cable. Our writers on “Damages” were as good as any film writers I ever met.

I think long-form drama on television are a real art form. If you see our first episode (of “Damages”) and our last episode, the journey those two characters went on over five years is like a great novel. As an actor, to be able to develop a character over time is a huge luxury. And you build up real history with the people around you. What (co-star) Rose Byrne and I went through together was great storytelling.

Do you see yourself as a pioneer in other regards?

I think in certain areas I have been. I think speaking out about mental illness and having a sister and a nephew living with mental illness that have the courage to speak out is pioneering in a certain way.

I think when don’t ask, don’t tell was the law of the land, I did a show called “Serving In Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story” (1995) where I played the highest-ranking officer in the Army to admit she was a lesbian, and I think that in some ways pioneered that issue at a time when a lot of people were having to hide who they were.

What’s coming up?

I’m doing a film with Nick Nolte called “Always On My Mind,” and I’m very excited about it. He plays an iconic rock star, and I’m his wife. … It’s very well written, and I’ve never played a role like that before. It starts filming in February.

Six Oscar nominations, but no cigar? A big deal?

You can’t let it bother you too much, because that’s incredibly self-destructive (laughs). But it would be a wonderful thing to, you know, to get some day. But I have to say I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, because that’s not the way I’ve ever operated. If it ever comes, it will be very, very exciting. And if it doesn’t, that will be OK, too.

What don’t people down here know about you?

My grandmother was from Texas. She was from Galveston, she was in the Galveston Flood (the great hurricane of 1900). After that, they moved to Houston and she came up to New York during the First World War thinking she could drive an ambulance in Europe. But you had to buy the ambulance before you could drive it. So she stayed in New York and worked in a bank, and she was quite a woman. So I always felt like I had real authentic ties to Texas.

An Evening With Glenn Close