Glenn Close calls the shots on her new series

by Gail Shister

The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)

23 July 2007

"Subliminally, people still think women in power are considered aberrant," Close says. "It's been that way for centuries. I want Patty to be a good leader. I don't want her to lead by fear or screaming."

Sixty may be the new 40, but Glenn Close doesn’t buy the math.

“I have this image that, one day, my body will start melting and there’s nothing I can do about it,” she says with a quick laugh. “You can’t fight gravity forever.”

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Cast: Glenn Close, Rose Byrne, Ted Danson, Tate Donovan, Anastasia Griffith
Regular airtime: Tuesdays, 10pm EST

US: 24 Jul 2007

Review [24.Jul.2007]

Close doesn’t have much to fight these days. She’s in a happy new marriage, she just competed in her first triathlon, and she has a new FX series that launches Tuesday.

“Damages” stars Close as hardened, high-stakes litigator Patty Hewes, a New Yorker for whom ambition is like oxygen. Close costarred on FX’s “The Shield” for one season in 2005 as a tough police captain.

“I don’t think there’s another actor on the planet who would be better for the role,” gushes FX president John Landgraf. “She’s the best of her generation at this.”

Cast against type, sitcom veteran Ted Danson, 59, plays an archly corrupt zillionaire CEO, target of a class-action suit by Hewes’ clients. His case will run through the season’s 13 episodes.

As befits her status as a five-time Oscar nominee, Close is doing “Damages” on her own terms.

“Damages” is shot entirely in New York. She’s a New Yorker. She only did one season on “The Shield” because it’s produced in L.A.

She has a contractually mandated 2 ½-week production break until July 30. For her, the issue was a deal-breaker.

She wants time with her only child, Annie, 19, who is home from college for the summer. “We have an unusual relationship,” Close says. “We like each other’s company.”

Having devoted decades to her profession, “I’m less apt to sacrifice stuff than I was in the beginning,” she says. “Networks like FX have more flexibility. It wasn’t an outrageous request.”

True fact. Denis Leary, star of FX’s “Rescue Me,” takes two two-week holidays with his family per production cycle, according to Landgraf. For “Damages’” subsequent seasons, dates will be moved up so it wraps by May, he says.

The show is a natural fit for the network.

Landgraf labels Close’s Patty Hewes “the absolute equal” of any of the male leads on FX shows. That’s saying something, given the testosterone count of that mondo-butch club. (Just consider Vic Mackey of “The Shield.”)

“A badass is a badass,” Landgraf says. “The character is made of steel. She has a deeply complex backstory and complicated family life. Ultimately, she’s absolutely indefatigable, relentless.”

Close describes Hewes as “a very smart woman who made it in a man’s world. It comes at a cost. She’s not been a good mother, and she knows it.” Her son, her only child, is about to be booted from his private school.

In early scripts, Hewes was on her first husband, a situation Close deemed “absolutely, totally impossible” because her character wouldn’t have put enough time into the marriage for it to survive.

The result: Michael Nouri plays her second husband, Phil Grey, a rarely home international financier. (For the record, biotech entrepreneur David Shaw, 56, is Close’s third spouse.)

After long runs on “Becker” and “Cheers,” Danson says playing bad guy Arthur Frobisher is a rush.

“It’s fun in life not to have to play by the rules. It’s fun to be rock `n’ roll. My billionaire feels very justified in doing anything he needs to do to save the personal wealth he built from nothing.”

To Danson, Hewes’s smarts and manipulation skills make her “almost likable. It’s a gray area. Good people have a touch of evil. Bad people have a touch of humanity.”

Hewes’ humanity is often camouflaged by dismissiveness and contempt. But she’s not evil, in Close’s view. She’s a woman with power, which many continue to equate with the b-word.

“Subliminally, people still think women in power are considered aberrant,” Close says. “It’s been that way for centuries. I want Patty to be a good leader. I don’t want her to lead by fear or screaming.

“She appreciates people who do a good job. She absolutely gives people chances, if that’s her turn of mind. She’s working harder than anyone else.”

Close isn’t exactly a slugabed herself.

The current top two on her “outrageous” To Do list: Read 20 books, including Alan Rabinowitz’ “Life in the Valley of Death”; and write and produce a movie script. (Is that all?)

“I’m challenged by everything in my life now,” she says. “I’m challenged by having this marriage I’m really committed to. I’m interested to see what tweaks my daughter’s imagination or ignites her passion.”

Inspired by her hub, Close competed in the Iron Bear mini-triathlon in Maine in May. “I’m basically very strong. My whole thing was just to finish.” She did. Last.

Close isn’t pushing for movie roles, perhaps with the exception of the long-rumored remake of “Sunset Boulevard.” (She won her third Tony playing Norma Desmond in the musical Broadway version.)

She’s not pushing for a long theater run, either. Mostly, she wants to stay close to home.

“I don’t have huge piles of scripts and people clamoring for me. ... I feel I get fantastic roles.

“Also, at this point, if you’re knocking down gates and camping outside people’s doors, you’ve got to deliver, too.”

No problem on that score. Big screen or small, Close makes Federal Express look unreliable.

//Mixed media