A plastic faced Glenn Close swivels her hips mechanically in The Stepford Wives or cackles maniacally as Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmations, just two memorable images from a startlingly versatile film career. Last night at Stage 37, she was not celebrating the commercial moments, but rather her work in smaller, independent films like Robert Altman's Cookie's Fortune. Presenting the Vanguard Leadership Award to her at a gathering of filmmakers, actors, and distributors at the Sundance Institutes' Celebration, Jeremy Irons who made three films with her and traveled from England to be there, said, when he heard he would co-star with "Glenny" in The Real Thing in 1982, he thought she was a man, an idea that was almost prescient given her passion project where she, as Albert Nobbs, plays a woman who passes as one.
Close and Irons went on to star in House of the Spirits and Reversal of Fortune together, but his favorite Close role was in The Big Chill. Taking the stage, she said she owed one to Jeremy for making this journey for her, and to several others who funded Albert Nobbs, 14 years in development, earning her one of her six Academy Award nominations. Then in front of everyone, including Lee Daniels, Tommy Tune, David Hyde Pierce, Emmy Rossum, Keri Russell, Sophie Nelisse, Chris Terrio, and Bob Balaban (on crutches after an encounter with an insect) -he will star with Close in Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance on Broadway this fall -- she dropped to her knees, praying that her investors would recoup their money.
Yes it was a comic moment, but it also encapsulates the risky aspects of making independent film, emphasized too by Damien Chazelle awarded the Vanguard Prize for his "fresh talent and vision," who uttered a phrase filmmakers never want to hear about their work: "execution dependent project" or, loosely translated, we'll consider this when you're finished making it. Maybe.
A native of Princeton, New Jersey, Chazelle thanked his sister Anna in his speech. She told me after the presentation, I acted in all the movies he made as a kid, playing a lot of corpses. Now that his movie Whiplash, about a jazz drummer, was such a success at Sundance and at Cannes, people take his calls. His new "Singing in the Rain"-type musical is in the works, Chazelle told me, and it is funded.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.