When you’ve had a career as long and illustrious as Glenn Close has, it’s difficult to forge new territory after years spent playing some of the most dynamic leading ladies of her era. These days, judging by recent roles in films like What Happened to Monday, The Girl With All the Gifts, and the upcoming Agatha Christie adaptation Crooked House (on digital platforms now), Close gets her kicks from playing powerful women with a dark streak — some of whom may or may not find themselves in terrifying situations with devilish kids.
“I’ll never get another chance to be eaten by a band of children,” she gleefully tells EW of her supporting role in the zombie drama The Girl With All the Gifts, which, along with her youngster-murdering politician in the sci-fi thriller What Happened to Monday, precedes the narrative for Crooked House in fitting fashion. “I’m entering my ‘children phase.’ I get killed [by children] in one, and I kill in the other.”
Crooked House‘s central child, Josephine (Honor Kneafsey), finds herself wafting through the film’s titular abode in the shadow of greedy adults around her, as her elders largely squabble over the identity of the murderer of their fallen patriarch, Aristide. Most of them pay little mind to the girl: Her mother (Gillian Anderson) is an aging actress who wants Aristide’s inheritance to fund a crummy screenplay, while her step-grandmother (Christina Hendricks) finds herself preoccupied with accusations of matricide; it’s her stately Aunt Edith (Close), however, who takes a keen interest in the child — a palpable relationship that mystifies an investigator, Charles Hayward (Max Irons), digging into the deathly matter.
“She was, to me, the balancing factor in that family, even in the presence of [the murdered] Aristide. You kind of come to the conclusion that he was some horrible, narcissistic dictator who systematically ruined his [family]. She probably has her own secrets [too],” Close says of Edith, a diva of the screen if there ever was one, who makes her grand entrance cocking a shotgun — and an eyebrow — as she sizes up Charles upon their initial introduction in EW’s exclusive clip above. “I think she has a dark edge, but I thought of her as somebody who was trying to actually keep a light on in that very dark house.”
And Close takes no prisoners with her unbridled approach to Christie’s juicy material (and a wardrobe of fabulous costumes only a woman who just revived the role of Norma Desmond in the Sunset Boulevard musical could properly work).
“Playing a matriarch in an Agatha Christie story, what’s more delicious than that?” she muses. “I think [Edith is] witty! There’s something I call cosmic wit, and it seems to come more from Britain than America. There’s a kind of wit that is several rungs up. Sometimes it’s just an attitude, the slightly raised eyebrow that takes the piss out of something, and that I find to be fun.”
Christie laid a solid foundation for Close to draw inspiration from, as Crooked House was, according to a conversation Close had with the author’s grandson, her favorite of her published works, and one that publishers initially tried to retool after reading its shocking (and deliciously disturbing) conclusion. That turbulent history allowed Close to mine even more drama from an already beautifully written character.
“I love playing characters from a book, especially a good book, because it becomes my bible. Even though there are hints at Edith’s backstory here, you never really know it,” she says. “Any good story with interesting characters is like a feast for an actor. You make it up, you use your imagination, you fill out what hasn’t been written, because you have to have a reason for your behavior. It’s in that process that I revel. It’s like being a sleuth myself.”
She continues: “I have certain female characters in my life that effortlessly came into play, like my Aunt Sheila Moore, who was Anglo-Irish and raised racehorses in County Cork, Ireland. My two grandmothers and some of my aunts are in [Lady Edith] as well. They all had very straight backs, and they were, if not highly educated, well-finished [Laughs]… some of that’s just in my blood.”
As with many of Christie’s works, when Crooked House reaches its twisty conclusion, the age-old question of “Who done it?” becomes less important than the ever-evolving dynamic of the characters who posed it. Still, it’s a heavy finish that brims with camp, and Close is clearly having a ball giving Lady Edith her menacing quirks all the way to the end.
“Oh, I’m totally ok,” she assures with a laugh when asked if fans should be concerned about her latest string of gloomy roles. After sitting with the thought (and a few more questions), the (spoiler-heavy) truth about the unique challenge that came with the territory begins to seep out.
“I don’t ever want to go over old emotional and psychological territory. I wouldn’t know how to go over territory I’ve already explored; It doesn’t interest me at all. This story was intriguing, and I loved the ending,” she says, chuckling. “I’ll never get another chance to drive a child off a cliff.”
Crooked House is in theaters on Dec. 22 and available on digital platforms now. Watch EW’s exclusive clip from the film above.