On the morning of Oscar nominations, most actors wait nervously to hear their own name announced. But Janet McTeer, Best Supporting Actress nominee for Albert Nobbs, was hoping to hear another name first: Glenn Close, who stars as Nobbs and has spent 30 years trying to bring this unusual tale to the big screen. The British actress got her wish: Close was nominated for best actress, so the two can enjoy the moment together. She spoke with AwardsLine contributor Diane Haithman.
AWARDSLINE: You are also in the cast of Glenn Close’s FX series Damages. You must have breathed a sigh of relief when both of you made the cut for the Oscars.
McTEER: If she hadn’t been nominated I would have cut my wrists. Oh, yeah. That would have been horrible. I wouldn’t have wanted it either. I was watching the announcements on the sofa in the green room at the Today show, and I was just sort of holding my breath to see whether Glenn was nominated, and she was. Then I was very excited.
AWARDSLINE: I guess for a film like this, awards mean more than they do for, say, a hit film like The Help. Are the nominations alone enough to spur box office for Albert Nobbs?
McTEER: Absolutely. All it needs is for people to be made aware of it. They’ll say, “Ooh, gosh, if it’s got nominations, it must be really good.” We’ve already won.
AWARDSLINE: We talked to Close before the Oscar nominations, and she spoke about the challenge of promoting the film but still maintaining some elements of surprise, particularly in the case of your character.
McTEER: These days we’re on the Internet — you can’t keep things secret in a film anymore. Once you realize the secret’s out, you might as well go with it and not pretend that it’s not there.
AWARDSLINE: Glenn described the scene where you reveal yourself as a woman to Nobbs as the surprise appearance of your “incredible breasts.” It’s a very bold move, so opposite of the way the timid Mr. Nobbs would behave. Did you have any hesitation in doing that scene?
McTEER: No, not at all. I pushed for it to be as funny as we could make it, like smoking the cigarette, so that the whole thing was funny instead of, “Oh, my God!” — hitting you over the head with a hammer. And it wasn’t for cheap thrills. The audience has to understand Albert, the idea that Albert might be exposed by somebody, and how scary that was for him.
AWARDSLINE: You have said that in creating the character of Hubert you tried to appear as large as possible, to take up as much space as possible. Were there any costuming or camera tricks employed to play up the contrast of your stature and Glenn Close’s Albert?
McTEER: The thing is, she actually is just really little, and I’m really tall. I’m 6 foot and a half-inch and she’s 4-foot-1 — no, but she’s 5-foot-4 if she’s lucky. And she was wearing flat shoes, which she normally never does. But because she’s so powerful, you think of her as being bigger than she actually is. I also bought quite big boots, with quite big heels. And I used quite a lot of padding.
AWARDSLINE: In interviews, Glenn always seems to refer to Albert Nobbs as “he.” Do you refer to your character, Hubert, as he or she?
McTEER: He. Really. Yeah. I think Hubert just thinks of Hubert as Hubert. I mean, if she had a choice she would still live as a man, so I think Hubert thinks of herself as more male than female. What I wanted to create was somebody who was a little bit the best of both worlds, who had all the great qualities of manliness, you know, that freedom and the confidence and the Alpha maleness, but also the great qualities of femaleness, the nurturing and kindness.
AWARDSLINE: Your character is so much less tragic than poor Mr. Nobbs.
McTEER: My character isn’t tragic at all. He suffers a tragedy, but isn’t a tragic character by definition. I think Hubert is upbeat.
AWARDSLINE: Even though now we’ve seen you at the Golden Globes and other awards shows, people will surely be more curious to see you in your evening gown than they will the other actresses. The “who are you wearing” thing will be elevated to a whole new level.
McTEER: Yeah, because the difference will be extraordinary.
AWARDSLINE: Have you written a speech?
McTEER: I haven’t even found a dress. Just let me get over this week.
(McTeer photo: Getty Images)