But the 73-year-old acting legend and 27-year-old “Saturday Night Live” star hit it off so quickly during a conversation for Variety’s Actors on Actors movies issue, it felt like they were made for each other. They’d crammed in advance — Close said she woke up nervous that morning “because you just seem so cool” — having seen each other’s movies.
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The entire interview turned out to be one of the best in Variety’s series. Davidson sat through two viewings of Ron Howard’s “Hillbilly Elegy” on Netflix, where Close plays Mamaw, the bespectacled matriarch of the Vance family, who deals with drug addiction and abuse. “I thought it was spot-on just from people that I know,” Davidson says.
Close complimented Davidson back, by telling him that he was “incredible” in “The King of Staten Island,” the Universal Pictures comedy directed by Judd Apatow, loosely based on his own life. Close then told a story about accompanying her friend Robin Williams to a stand-up set in the 1980s, where she learned how hard it was to win over an audience in the room. “I find standup comedy one of the most terrifying propositions I could think of,” Close says. “It’s an act of courage in my eyes.”
Here are the seven most surprising moments from our interview.
1. Even though he’s allergic to dogs, Davidson is now quarantined with his new poodle.
The conversation starts off with Davidson speaking to Close from his basement in Long Island. Close is video chatting from Montana, where she lives with her Havanese dog Pip. She notices that Davidson has his own four-legged friend in the room.
“Is that a dog?” she asks him.
“Yeah, I’m allergic to all dogs, but except for a poodle,” Davidson says. “And we got a little poodle, and it shits all over the house. I’ve never been able to have a dog, and it’s been the greatest experience ever.”
2. Close wrote a letter to director Ron Howard, asking him to consider casting her for Mamaw in “Hillbilly Elegy.”
Although she’s one of the most accomplished actors in Hollywood, Close said that she learned how to fight for her roles — in part because she didn’t start acting in movies until she was in her mid-30s (her first film was 1982’s “The World According to Garp.”) When she found out that Howard was working on an adaptation of the 2016 “Hillbilly Elegy” book, she wrote him a letter, expressing her interest in the role of Mamaw.
It worked — that’s how he got the idea to cast her.
“I’ve always been pretty proactive with stuff like that,” Close says. “When I started out, I was really bad at auditioning. I would be worse at it now because you’re supposed to memorize the lines and put yourself on video. I mean, I wouldn’t even have a career if I’d had to do that back then.”
3. Davidson thought Close was British.
As they talk about their upbringings, Close tells Davidson that she grew up in Connecticut, “one of the most boring states in the universe.”
“I saw that,” Davidson says. “You’re so elegant and wonderful, I always thought you were British. And then I looked it up, and I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness. She’s from an hour-and-a-half away.’”
4. After seven years on “Saturday Night Live,” Davidson prefers doing Weekend Update over character skits.
“That’s my favorite thing to do,” Davidson says. “The worst is sometimes you’re only in one thing, and you’ll be dressed up like a clock, or I had to dress up as Count Chocula, which is a cereal mascot. You’re stuck in the outfit for four hours in your dressing room, just looking at yourself in the mirror.”
5. Close kept all her costumes from playing Cruella de Vil in “101” and “102 Dalmatians.”
Davidson tells Close that one of his favorite performances of hers growing up was in the 1996 live-action “101 Dalmatians” and its 2000 sequel “102 Dalmatians,” where she played the puppy-hating villain Cruella De Vil.
“There’s just so many questions,” Davidson says. “Cruella is amazing.”
“I asked to get some of the original dialogue from the animated feature because she said, ‘Chloroform them! Drown them!'” Close says. “It’s really horrible stuff. I realized the meaner she was, the better she was. I loved that character
Close reveals that she kept all her costumes, although Disney tried to renege on a deal they’d made with her. “I got in my contract that I got to keep all my costumes that I wore in the movie,” Close says. “Then when they found out how expensive they were, they were unhappy that it was in my contract. They wanted to make another copy, another set, for me. I said no.”
6. Close was heartbroken with the ending for “Fatal Attraction.”
One of the biggest hits of Close’s career was 1987’s “Fatal Attraction,” where she played the rabbit-boiling mistress Alex Forrest in Adrian Lyne’s thriller that grossed $320 million at the worldwide box office. But Close had a difficult time when the studio, Paramount Pictures, changed the ending. In the original script, Alex dies by suicide. But in the finished version of the film, Alex is killed in a bathtub — drowned by her lover Dan (Michael Douglas), whom she tries to stab with a butcher knife.
“I was on a totally different level with that character,” Close says. “I wasn’t playing an evil person. I was playing a person in distress who had no help — and I loved her. And when they came back and we had to change the ending and made her into basically a psychopath with a knife in her hand, it was profoundly difficult for me to do that.”
“But I learned a very important lesson is how important catharsis is for an audience,” Close adds. “They had been so deeply upset by her that the only way they could feel that the world would come back to any semblance of order was if she was totally wiped away, even though in the original ending she killed herself. Somehow it wasn’t enough of a punishment. It was a fascinating, painful thing to learn.”
7. Don’t worry — Close will be OK if she never wins an Oscar.
With seven nominations, Close is long overdue to win an Oscar for acting. And Davidson is ready to campaign for her. “What can we do to get you an Oscar?” Davidson asks. “We have to get the internet to help, because you deserve seven!”
“Is it better to be wheeled out in a wheelchair and get the lifetime achievement award?” Close asks. “You don’t have to make a speech. It’s beyond me. I don’t know what to say about that. I just have to keep doing what’s good. You’re fulfilled by your work, and that’s the process to me. It’s what feeds my soul, but it really is nice when other people like it. It might be cool to never get one. I wouldn’t mind being wheeled out when I’m old and drooling, and I have a gray wig to cover my bald head.”
For our full interview with Davidson and Close, click here.
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