With six prior nods, for “The World According to Garp” (1982), “The Big Chill” (1983), “The Natural” (1984), “Fatal Attraction” (1987), “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988) and “Albert Nobbs” (2011), the 71-year-old is the most nominated living actor to have never won an Oscar. (Richard Burton also received seven nominations and Peter O'Toole holds the record at eight nominations without a win.)
Close jumped on the phone with The Times from Bozeman, Mont., to reflect on her newfound Oscar nomination record, sharing the screen with her daughter and portraying a woman with ambition.
Were you tuned into the announcement live?
This sounds absolutely ridiculous, but I had my family over for dinner and I thought, last night as I was going to bed, “Oh my God, I think I'm getting a cold.” So I turned off my phone to get some sleep; [the nominations announcement] just wasn’t on my mind. I was woken up by my brother who had come across town — he was at the truck stop with his buddies — and got a key from my sister next door and walked into my bedroom and woke me up. [Laughs] I couldn't believe it! Oh my God, it was so funny. But it was kind of a perfect way to find out, I have to say. I'm having a celebratory pancake with my brother downtown, at a great little cafe called [Main Street] Overeasy.
It’s wonderful that this nomination is for a film you share with your daughter, Annie Starke, who played the younger version of Joan.
Yes! Those flashbacks, she really laid down that character. I was so proud of her. She did such a beautiful job.
Your performance has been punctuated by your Golden Globes speech, in which you reflected on your late mother. Why do you think both have resonated with viewers?
I want to say I'll never make a better speech because it was so totally spontaneous. I think maybe because it was personal that it gave it extra meaning, and it's something I think about my mother, and my grandmother, all the time. It just brought it perhaps to a different level, rather than like a political statement, it's personal. My mom inspired all of us and at the same time, I think she basically was unfulfilled. A lot of times, women were expected to fulfill themselves either through their children or their husbands.
I’m off on a tangent, but I was just thinking that we, in our society, have not yet figured out how to deal with successful women. First of all, women certainly didn't have a chance in my mother's generation, it wasn't in our culture. Yes, there have always been extraordinary women who have been out of the norm who have succeeded, but a lot of times, they're labeled. I played Patty Hewes [on “Damages”], who was a lawyer and is as tough as any guy, and she was labeled as a “bitch.” Although, sometimes, she was bitchy! But it's an interesting time in our culture where hopefully we'll embrace new norms. I think it'll just make us richer.
This is your seventh Oscar nomination without a win. How does that feel?
I can't tell you how thrilling it is. It's kind of wonderful to have my career behind me — well, not behind me, it's still going on! — but it's starting to mean something. And to be in the room and recognized for work still, that means a lot to me. The irony of my life is the older I get, the more I figure things out. It's not just me. I think I'm at a time where I feel as alive and creative as I've ever felt.
Does the win matter, then?
I don't know. In this highly competitive profession, to be singled out as one of five is amazing. How the winner gets chosen, that’s a whole other deal, but I don't feel I have to validate myself. I don't want to come off as not caring. But I guess, in the eyes of the world, to have a prize in your hand can mean something. And [the category] is so varied. How do you say who's going to win, out of that? There's no losers in that group.
How will you celebrate later today?
There was a snowfall last night, so it's very beautiful up here right now. I'm going to go back to my house and take my dog for a walk. And I leave tomorrow to visit people on the way to Sundance, so I'll do some laundry.