There have been a lot ofchanges in the ten years since (ilenn Close first read (‘hoderlos de Laclos‘s famous epistolary novel Les Liaisons Dtutgereuses. and was completely captivated by its amoral protagonist. the Marquise de Merteuil. In that
I time. Close has gone from being a
I respected theatre actress to a major Hollywood star. has become a mother. and has both been turned down for. and subsequently won. the part of the Marquise.
l Following critical plaudits for her I roles in films like The World
I .-I(‘(‘ort1tng To (iurp. The Big Chill. ' and The Natural. Close finally broke i the mega-box-office barrier in the l‘ courtroom drama Jagged Edge (a
sequel is on the cards). then shot to notoriety as Alex Forrest. the disturbed and ultimately homicidal jilted woman in Fatal Attraction. Despite her own reservations about the dreadful ending. the astonishing success of that film elevated her onto the Ilollywood ‘A' list. even ifshe swears that when people recognise her in the street. it‘s usually because they think she is Meryl Streep. ..
As is the way of Hollywood. screen success brought Close into the harsh glare of the tabloid world. the ‘downside of this business”. notably when she was widely accused of ‘stealing' the father ofher daughter.
Glenn Close has trodden an eventful path on the way to her coveted role of the Marquse de Merteuil in Les Liaisons Dangereuses. She tells Kenny Mathieson what the part means to her.
producer John Stark. from another woman. Close’s protest that none of this was remotely true has availed little: there is no juicy story in two people simply taking up on a previous relationship. and having a child.
Now. ten years on. Close finally gets to play the Marquise. albeit on screen. and not. as originally mooted. in the theatre. She was in line for the part when the successful West End production of Christopher Hampton‘s stage adaptation transferred to Broadway. but a series ofdecisions in which she played no part culminated in the proposed American cast being dropped in favour ofan imported British one. amid rumours that Close herself was not thought right for the part.
The remarkable critical success. and even more remarkable box-of f ice one. of Dangerous Liaisons. Stephen Frears‘ screen version adapted from Hampton‘s screenplay. has surely dispelled any lingering notions over her suitability. She has been nominated. as she was last year. for the Best Actress ()scar. This is her fifth nomination in either Best or Best Supporting categories. and although she has yet to win (this year may be no exception — the smart money is on Jodie Foster). she remains philosophical on the matter.
and professes herselfdelighted to have had the chance to play such a powerful character.
‘I am very proud to have been nominated. and I don‘t really care ifI don‘t win — I‘m very happy to be in that group. I think very carefully about anything I read. and I must have a kind of visceral response to it. which was certainly true of this book. I wanted to do the play. and I missed out on that. so when Stephen came to me and asked if I wanted to do the movie. it was one of those rare instances in life when you are given a second chance. and there was never any question in my mind that I wanted to do it.‘
It has been suggested that the Marquise is seen as an early feminist. fighting. in her own words. to ‘avenge her sex' in the only avenues open to her considerable political faculties. the social and sexual arena. In agreeing with that suggestion. Close nevertheless refutes the counter-suggestion that she is literally an evil character.
‘Well. I think she thinksofherself that way — she says that she was fifteen when she came out of the convent. and already realised that what people were hiding was more important than what they were revealing. I think she was very aware of the manipulation ofsociety and the position ofwomen in society, and she wanted to be a puppeteer rather than a puppet in order to buck that.
‘I think the book has remained timeless in that respect. because there is still a lot oftruth in that argument. ifyou are a woman trying to operate in a man‘s world. I think she does some very nasty things. and I wouldn‘t want to be like her. but there are reasons why she does them. In many ways. I think she is a product of her society. and if anything. that is where the evil lies.’
The schemes she hatches with the equally amoral Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovitch) are largely the trimmings to the central conflict between those two characters. The Vicomte may be the only man she has ever loved. but theirs must be a self-destructive passion. and the film
refuses to ﬂinch from the inevitability of the ending (it would not be the first time Hollywood has re-written great literature with the box-office lust for a happy ending in mind).
It is greatly to the credit ofall concerned that the characters themselves have remained the focal point. The sheer sumptuous visual appeal ofcostume dramas have a way of running off with the film. turning the actors into a series of mannequins for the dresses. Dangerous Liaisons is as beautifully dressed a period piece as you would wish to see. but after the initial establishing shots. Frears makes no real concessions to foregrounding that visual splendour. something Close admired.
‘Stephen definitely did that on purpose. because he wanted to keep the focus on the characters. A friend of mine in America saw the film and said to me that it was as ifthe film had existed in the eighteenth century — here he had all these wonderful costumes. and more or less ignored them! I think it worked very well. and all those very intimate close-ups he uses instead enabled me to convey things to the audience about the Marquise's real feelings. which she keeps very much hidden in social situations.
‘I must say. though. that I loved the elaborate costumes. They gave the actors a very vivid sense of the way people lived then — it was easy to understand why the ladies had those elaborate dressing rooms. and didn‘t actually get dressed until late afternoon. for example. They could only stand those corsets for so long! They were great for me. since I had given birth only seven weeks before I started shooting (which explained her temporarily enhanced and then highly fashionable cleavage). and without those corsets I couldn‘t do anything!‘
Dangerous Liaisons has been a considerable success for everyone concerned. but it was impossible not to notice that. while all the aristocratic and upper bourgeois characters were played by Americans— Close. Malkovitch. Michelle Pfeiffer. Swoozie Kurtz. Keanu Reeves. newcomer Uma Thurman - the servants and peasants (including Peter Capaldi as the Vicomte‘s scheming manservant) seemed to be largely. umm, Scottish. I asked Stephen Frears to explain himself.
‘Well. it‘s a very profound insight into Western society.‘ he laughed. ‘No, it was because you can afford to bring Americans over for the good parts. but not for the one-liners, and that was the solution I found. Funnily enough, I then read a history book which said that the French aristocracy didn’t consider themselves to be from the same race as the French peasantry, and in actual fact thev believed the peasantry to be Celts of some kind.‘
That’s his story. anyway. and he is sticking to it.
Dangerous Liaisons opens at Glasgow Cannons and Edinburgh Cannon on 10 March.
6 The List 10— 23 March 1989