LOS ANGELES — Glenn Close has a Tony Award, Emmy Award, Golden Globe and six Oscar nominations, but her latest honor is among the most meaningful.
The 65-year-old actress will accept a special recognition at the second annual American Giving Awards, to air Saturday (8 p.m. EST) on NBC, for her work with Bring Change 2 Mind, a nonprofit organization that aims to end the stigma of mental illness.
Close was inspired to help launch the group in 2009 after experiencing the challenges presented by mental illness in her family.
She talked with The Associated Press about what’s next for the charity — and for her.
AP: What led you to establish Bring Change 2 Mind?
Close: Realizing that what I should have been giving all my nonprofit time to was right under my nose in my own family. My sister is bipolar and my nephew is schizoaffective. And because our family had really no knowledge of or vocabulary for mental illness. (My sister) Jessie was actually diagnosed after her son. I think if we had been more knowing as a family, a lot of real suffering could have been avoided. ... And I’ve always been as an actress very, very cognizant of the power of words and how frightening some words can be and how they lose their power if you just keep repeating them, and fling them out into the open. So that’s basically what we decided to do.
AP: What progress has been made since 2009?
Close: We’ve made great progress with our Facebook website community. I think we’re being more and more known for a place where you can go to find people who are dealing with the same thing you’re dealing with, where you can tell your story, where you can have communication, the potential of a fantastic community that can grow up around this. The Web is perfect for this kind of thing because the person’s first step might be to acknowledge, to take our pledge on Bring Change 2 Mind, to acknowledge that they need help and to be able to articulate that on a website rather than in person with anyone ... I think what we can do is get the message out.
AP: How are attitudes toward mental illness changing?
Close: That’s tricky because one really fascinating fact and the reason I stay really committed to this is stigma is still pretty entrenched. ... The most effective ways to change somebody’s prejudice and attitudes around mental illness is to meet someone who actually has it and to realize that they’re OK.
AP: How do cinematic depictions of mental illness affect perceptions?
Close: If they’re positive like ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ — which I thought was a wonderful movie — I think it’s very positive. It opens up the dialogue. It’s all good, as far as I’m concerned. The tradition has been to use mental illness as a plot device for violence, for just plain old craziness, because that’s very easy. I mean, I was Alex Forrest in ‘Fatal Attraction.’ ... The amazing thing was when I was researching that character, even the psychiatrists that I talked to never mentioned the possibility of a mental disorder. And that was also before my sister was diagnosed, so it wasn’t even in my radar screen. But now I think we are getting more medically literate about all that, and I think it’s fantastic that really good movies showing interesting people who are coping with life and happen to have a mental disorder is great because there’s one in four. It’s an astounding statistic. One in four people across this globe are affected in some way by mental illness.
AP: How does this award help the cause?
Close: It’s huge. You don’t see that many things about mental illness. ... That shows that mental illness is not a comfortable thing for people to talk about, and the fact that they are giving me this award and my family — my sister, two of her children and my daughter are going to come up with me — because I think the image of a family together surrounding and supporting their members who have mental illness, there’s no words for it. That’s where I’m so moved and honored by this recognition and excited, actually, that we can put that image on television.
AP: What’s next for you?
Close: I’m very excited. I’m going to be doing, starting in February, a movie with Nick Nolte. We play kind of a rock ‘n’ roll couple. He’s an iconic rock ‘n’ roll guy, singer-songwriter out of the Troubadour/Laurel Canyon tradition ... that whole incredible generation of singer-songwriters, and he’s of that ilk, and I’ve stuck with him through thick and thin, and I won’t tell you the plotline, but I was very, very moved by the story. I think it’s timely and really well written. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and it will have great music in it.
AP: What’s it called?
Close: ‘Always on My Mind.’