"That's when I was cast as Albert on stage in New York," says Close. "So I've known him for a long time."
Throughout the first half of her award-laden career — winning acclaim for films like Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, and Sarah, Plain and Tall — Close never forgot her triumphant stage turn as Albert. And starting around 1997, she began pitching the idea of a film based on the story.
The ads for Albert Nobbs make no secret of its central premise: "Albert" is actually a woman, who, from the time she was young, has been living her life disguised as a man in order to work as a hotel waiter in Victorian era Dublin.
"She's a very unusual character," says Close. "She's not what she seems.
"Everybody has a story. There's a story that people perceive outwardly for each of us, and there's the story that is our story, the one that we're aware of looking at from the inside out."
Of course, 30 years ago Close played Albert as a young woman. Now in her mid-60s, she brings a whole new perspective to the role. Albert has now lived virtually an entire lifetime pretending to be someone she is not — who has created for herself an entity that hovers somewhere between the sexes, working and living in close quarters with others, yet in a very real sense profoundly alone.
After three decades, Close has become comfortable mixing the name "Albert" with the pronoun "she" — a trick that kept tripping me up during our conversation. It's just one indication of how deeply she probed the character's psyche while preparing for the screen version.