“None are easy,” she says. “Glenn has said that her definition of an independent film is one that almost didn’t get made.”
Close was so excited about the project she helped adapt the screenplay and also served as a producer.
The original play was based on a novella, which Lynn says was a bit “avant garde,” so the trick was to make the film more cinematic and “show more.”
In the film, no one has any idea Nobbs is a woman, and the idea of being free and who she is has never been a possibility for the character. As a lesbian, Curtis completely related to the story.
“Julie and I talked and realized that this character would mean different things to different people,” she says. “My way in is that I struggled myself before coming out. I deeply related to that hiding. This is so much here about the loss of identity and looking to find yourself and who you like and respect.”
“Nobbs doesn’t know who she is. She was abused as a youth and wonders if she is gay or straight; she is in search. She wonders ‘What am I?’ A lot of people refer to Albert as she. Our hope is that Albert Nobbs is a universal character. That scene on the beach [where Albert leaves the buttoned-down confines of her workplace temporarily] — the character is just Albert,” Curtis says.
According to Lynn, who is straight, “Albert Nobbs” is a meditation on loneliness.
“Nobbs has been so lonely, so focused on the work,” she says. “Her eyes are downcast. Hubert lifts her spirits; she begins to see the world and see that she need not be lonely. Everyone at some point has that kind of experience.”
‘Something is resonating’
Curtis, who co-chaired the Respect Awards for GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) for the past four years, describes reaction to the film as strong from gay and straight audiences alike.
“Based on the screenings we’ve had, something is resonating quite seriously — that feeling of isolation, hiding, locking your door,” she says. “A lot of those things, we relate to.”
The idea of cross-dressing was common during the time and still happens, says Lynn.
“One of the things that [director Rodrigo Garcia] said is that we don’t need to fool the audience,” she says. “We need people to believe it in the context of the film. Many people, even today, all over the world dress as men not to be abused, to fight in wars, and for economic reasons.”
The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and had a one-week Oscar qualifying run last year before opening around the country next week. It garnered three Golden Globe nominations, though no wins when the awards were presented Jan. 15: Close was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, McTeer was nominate for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, and “Lay Your Head Down,” for which Close wrote the lyrics, was nominated for Best Original Song.
When Oscar nominations are announced Jan. 24, Close is expected to be a Best Actress nominee and McTeer is a possibility as Best Supporting Actress. Curtis and Lynn are obviously hopeful both are cited.
“I don’t know another actor who could do what Glenn has done,” Curtis says. “When she first played the character she said it pushed buttons for everyone — men and women, gay and straight, young and old — and that was something she had never experienced. She really wanted to play this again.”
“It takes someone very intuitive and intelligent like Glenn to submerge yourself into Nobbs, who has had her development arrested at a young age,” she says.
As for McTeer, Lynn says she is “at times the window into the movie, in such a centered, funny demeanor.”
Top photo: Glenn Close portrays the title character in ‘Albert Nobbs,’ a woman who lives as a man for a career as a waiter in 19th century Dublin. (Publicity photo)