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Woman Masquerades as 19th Century Dublin Man in 'Albert Nobbs'

Mia Wasikowska, left, and Glenn Close in
Mia Wasikowska, left, and Glenn Close in "Albert Nobbs"

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  • Silverman interview with Glenn Close on "Albert Nobbs"

Alan Silverman

Glenn Close could earn an Oscar nomination - the sixth of her career - for portraying a woman passing for a man in 19th century Dublin. The actress also co-wrote Albert Nobbs.



COOK: "Good morning Dr. Halloran."
DOCTOR: "Good morning, Maria."
COOK: "Good morning Mr. Nobbs."


It's the morning routine in the kitchen of Morrison's Hotel, a fine Dublin establishment where slender, ruddy-faced Albert Nobbs has worked for almost two decades.

But that "kind little man" has a secret: he is a she, masquerading as a man in order to find work in the tough Irish economy of the 1800's. Glenn Close first played "Albert Nobbs" in the 1982 stage adaptation of a short story by Irish author George Moore.



It's the morning routine in the kitchen of Morrison's Hotel, a fine Dublin establishment where slender, ruddy-faced Albert Nobbs has worked for almost two decades.

But that "kind little man" has a secret: he is a she, masquerading as a man in order to find work in the tough Irish economy of the 1800's. Glenn Close first played "Albert Nobbs" in the 1982 stage adaptation of a short story by Irish author George Moore.

Glenn Close as
Glenn Close as "Albert Nobbs" (Photo - Patrick Redmond)

"It was, first of all, a very affecting character to play - very difficult, very challenging, very satisfying," confides Close. " Also, I was amazed at how powerful the story was and how it affected the audience."

Close won an Obie Award for that off-Broadway performance and then spent almost 30 years trying to get backing for a film version.

"I didn't go into their offices looking like Albert Nobbs, so it's very hard for people, especially Hollywood people, to think of me in that character," notes Close. "Also, you can say that there's humor, but it's hard for them to get it. A lot of the humor is totally in attitude and performance. It was a very tricky, different kind of story. Anything that far 'out of the box' makes people nervous because it's away from any sort of formula.

"Albert took on her disguise totally as a survival tactic," she adds, "because she was abused and had no name, no money, no job. Then, having gone through that deeply traumatic experience, she chooses to be invisible in a profession where you're supposed to be invisible."

Aaron Johnson and Glenn Close in
Aaron Johnson and Glenn Close in "Albert Nobbs" (Photo - Patrick Redmond)

Albert's life changes when she meets another woman in the same predicament: a house painter named Hubert, played by Janet McTeer:

HUBERT: "You're a woman."
ALBERT: "You won't tell on me."
HUBERT: "What's your name?"
ALBERT: "Albert."
HUBERT: "Your real name."
ALBERT: "Albert."


Albert Nobbs is directed by Rodrigo Garcia. The Colombian-born filmmaker, whose father is the author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, believes the film, while true to its period, explores themes that are relevant today.

"I was interested in it because of those things that you do to fit in. It doesn't have to be 19th century, you don't have to be a woman. Sometimes we choose a version of us that will take us further and be more acceptable or popular," explains Garcia.

Albert Nobbs was shot on location in Ireland. The cast includes stage and screen veterans Brenda Fricker and Brendan Gleeson along with rising young star Mia Wasikowska.

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