Why Does the Academy Keep Denying Glenn Close An Oscar?

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Best Actress nominee for 'The Wife' Glenn Close arrives for the 91st Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, on February 24, 2019.  (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Remember the collective sigh of relief that greeted Leonardo DiCaprio's Best Actor Academy Award? Before 2016's Oscars had even started, everyone knew that of course Leo would walk away with a gold statue that year. After all, it had been 22 years since his first nomination and the sixth time he'd been up for one.

So consider the predicament of living cinematic legend, Glenn Close, who has been nominated for an Academy Award seven times over a span of 37 years. (Thirty-freakin'-seven! Some of you have been alive for less!) 2019 really felt that it would finally be her year, thanks to her blistering portrait of Joan Castleman in The Wife, a woman coming to terms with a creative life sacrificed for the benefit of her husband. It wasn't just a perfect performance, it was perfect timing too. (A movie about a woman getting sidelined by a more famous man has #TimesUp written all over it.)

W Magazine's newsletter declared Close's Oscar chances this year as "one of the surest bets of the night," while The New Yorker pointed out:

"The release of The Wife has come with chatter that Close may finally win an Oscar, after being nominated six times. There are several reasons for the Oscar talk, one being that publicists are working hard at it. (The “It’s her turn” narrative is time-tested.) But there’s also a sense that Close, like Joan Castleman, hasn’t been given her proper due."

It wasn't just a matter of PR. The critics adored Close's performance  across the board. “One of the richest, most riveting and complicated performances of her career,” raved The Hollywood Reporter. "The veteran actress is a marvel of twisty understatement here, delivering emotions that conceal as much as they reveal, and offering onion-like layers that invite repeat viewings," reported Variety.


Though both Glenn Close and Olivia Colman won Best Actress statues at this year's Golden Globes (Close in the "Drama" category, Colman in the "Musical or Comedy" one), Close losing the Oscar was still so unexpected, even Colman brought it up in her (ridiculously charming) acceptance speech. "Glenn Close, you’ve been my idol for so long," she said. "This is not how I wanted to it to be, and I think you’re amazing.”

Close was first nominated in 1982 for playing Robin Williams' mother in The World According to Garpwhich was especially award-worthy, given the fact that she was only four years older than him. The following year, she got a nom for The Big Chill, but lost out to Linda Hunt. In '84, she was up for her role in The Natural but lost to Peggy Ashcroft. In '87, despite Close's portrayal of the now-iconic Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction, it was Cher who took home the Oscar for Moonstruck. In '88, her unforgettable role in Dangerous Liaisons lost out to Jodie Foster in the groundbreaking The Accused. Then, in 2012, Close didn't win for Albert Nobbs because it was the same year Meryl Streep did her astounding Margaret Thatcher impersonation in The Iron Lady.

Glenn Close has never lost an award to an actress that was anything less than stellar. But she also, quite transparently, is not getting the one accolade she is most deserving of either—and it's starting to feel a little conspiratorial. The only other actor to remain entirely Academy Award-less after seven nominations is Richard Burton.

As we all know, the Academy Awards has thrown Hollywood unexpected curveballs from the very beginning. Like when Judy Garland in A Star is Born lost out to Grace Kelly in (does anyone remember this movie?) The Country Girl. In 1975, Jack Nicholson in Chinatown and Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II were defeated by Art Carney in Harry and Tonto. (I had to Google it.) And who could forget the controversy around Marisa Tomei winning Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny in 1993?

In 1997, the favorite to win Best Supporting Actress was Lauren Bacall. She lost to Juliette Binoche who had starred in The English Patient. Later, in her autobiography, By Myself and Then Some, Bacall wrote: "The truth is, I wanted to win. No matter how you try to rationalize it, to be nominated is fine—chosen by your peers, etc—but it's better to win." Bacall believed the reason for the loss was simple. "It was the year of The English Patient, a Miramax release, and Harvey Weinstein was known for being a master at pushing his movies... Harvey Weinstein had done it again. I felt so badly for my children. They were so upset for me... I felt very alone."

Asked about her own potential to win, back when The Wife first came out, Close told ET: "It would be nice after 42 years! But, you know, I'm very sanguine about it. If it happens, great. It's not going to change my passion for what I do. But to be recognized with your peers is a very... It's pretty great." Her disappointment last night must have been too.

It's not the end of the world when very successful, lauded thespians don't get to go home with the statue they wanted. And of course, the Academy has far bigger issues to fix. (In 2018, after another #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign, the Academy invited almost a thousand new members in a push to introduce more diversity into its voting pool.) But Close had all of the most obvious elements necessary for a win this year, and it's hard to imagine her being able to conjure a storm this perfect again.


In 2003, after eight Oscar nominations and zero wins, the inimitable Peter O'Toole finally got himself an Academy Award—an honorary one. "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot!" he joyfully declared. "I have my very own Oscar now to be with me 'til death us do part." The Academy might want to consider giving one of those to Glenn Close one of these years. She's done more than enough to deserve one.