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The Wife's Glenn Close shows Stephen Colbert that words are for wimps in a silent acting showcase

Glenn Close
Screenshot: The Late Show

Hollywood legend and recent Golden Globe winner Glenn Close would have been a great silent film star. With that peerlessly expressive face and formidable bearing, Close could have smoldered, reigned, and freaked audiences out with just a look. Honestly, getting to speak on screen while boiling a bunny just seems like an unfair advantage. Plus, having played former silent film star Norma Desmond in the (admittedly, far-from-silent) stage production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation of Sunset Boulevard gave her the chance to strut her stuff. But, on Friday’s Late Show, host Stephen Colbert put the now seven-time Oscar nominee to the true acting test—wordlessly and desperately waiting for the Academy Awards night bathroom while hearing the announcement that the Best Actress award is about to be handed out.

The 71-year-old Close, who admitted to Colbert that she is, indeed, hoping to break her near 40-year, 0-for-6 Oscar slump with a win for The Wife, told Colbert that much of her role in that film involves expressing the inner life of a smart and talented woman whose life spent supporting her vain and successful novelist husband has left her habitually overlooked. Citing the shocking revelation that her own mother confessed (in her 80s) that she felt she hadn’t “achieved anything” in a life deferred to her successful husband, Close told Colbert that her similarly dutiful title character drew from that same, all-too-common, female heartbreak.


But Close, showing that she could have played silent comedy as well, eagerly took up Colbert’s challenge to let that inner life shine in a funny (if a little Fallon-esque) game of master thespian charades he called “Up Close With Glenn Close.” Holding cue cards with different scenarios, each took turns essaying a number of wordless roles. Close had that bathroom line to contend with, along with a scene finding out that her airplane seatmate can really, really relate to Close’s Fatal Attraction character. (Close closed with a fine little panicked wave for the flight attendant.) Meanwhile, Colbert—with his Second City skills in full flower—made a funny meal out of restraint, biting his lip (and seemingly the entire inside of his face) when someone at a party misquotes Colbert’s beloved Lord Of The Rings. It’s no Oscar, but Colbert did receive a coveted “Pretty fucking good” from Close for that one.

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.