Below is the first image of Glenn Close from the set of her new film Albert Nobbs. Close looks incredible (and scary…hide your rabbits) as a 19th century Irish woman who cross-dresses in order to get ahead in Dublin society.
The film, directed by Rodrigo García (Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, Nine Lives) is an adaptation of the 1982 play “The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs” in which Close got her professional start in the titular role. I’ll be interested to see if the plot will be updated at all to accommodate the 28-year age difference in its lead. Also appearing in the film are Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors, your naughty dreams), who are both rather androgynous actors themselves. If they had asked me which pillow-lipped/crazy-eyed Irishman I would prefer to see, I would have picked that other one, but it takes all kinds.
I find it very interesting that Close got her start in a cross-dressing role, which can be a very tricky first impression to break out of. Actors have had varying degrees of success in disassociating from such a marked first impression, but I would argue that Close has been the most successful (please feel free to set me straight [!] if you disagree). To me, her most striking performances have been the ones where she has honed her rather unconventional, masculine beauty to a keen, potent, sexual point…which stabs (Dangerous Liaisons, Fatal Attraction and, in my opinion, as Patty Hewes in “Damages”).
Anyway, this talk of cross-dressing got me thinking about some great actors (both well-known and un) who have played with gender and drag (some comedic, some dramatic, some gut-wrenching). So here are a few instances of cross/trans/drag/queer. (Is that all the bases covered? No? Do holler out the ones I missed.) This list is absolutely not in ascending order of greatness according to my personal preference. (This list is totally in ascending order of greatness according to my personal preference.)
Barbra Streisand, “Yentl”
Jaye Davidson, “The Crying Game”
Dustin Hoffman, “Tootsie”
Guy Pearce and Hugo Weaving, “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”
Linda Hunt, “The Year of Living Dangerously”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Flawless”
John Cameron Mitchell, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, “Some Like It Hot”
I ran out of time and space and inclination, so honorable mentions go to B.D. Wong for “M. Butterfly”, Marlene Dietrich in Morroco and, of course, those master thespians Barry Watson, Michael Rosenbaum and Harland Williams for their heart-breaking work of staggering genius in Sorority Boys.