Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce and Christian Slater on ‘The Wife’ and the #MeToo Era
Marriage is almost always a complex journey, and it has been an especially complicated experience for Joan Castleman (Glenn Close), the title character of “The Wife.” As the spouse of a famed novelist, Joseph Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), Joan has to deal with not only his numerous affairs, but also darker secrets kept only between them. After learning that her husband will be receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, Joan finds herself sorting through some conflicting feelings.
“I think we fit right in,” replied Close when asked how she felt about the film, which is based on Meg Wolitzer’s 2004 novel, being released in the era of #MeToo.
“It’s not like this is a new issue,” said Pryce of the theme of unhealthy male-female relationships. “You go back to Shakespeare, you go back to ‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ in which I play Petruchio, and I’ve also directed it.”
“You go back to ‘My Fair Lady,” added Close.
“It’s coincidence, more than anything,” Continued Pryce. “We’ve completed it 18 months ago, and [the novel’s] been around 14 years. If any film that deals with a social issue or a political issue is made well enough, it becomes relevant to the time in which you see it. You can see ‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ and it’s still relevant now, that male-female relationship. When I directed it, I tried to skew the ending so it would be a learning curve to men who watch it… These things have been around forever, we’re just very slow learning.”
It’s not easy to discuss the plot of “The Wife” without giving too much away, but suffice to say, Joan is on the verge of reaching a breaking point during her time in Stockholm, where she travels with Joe and their son, David (Max Irons), to see Joe receive his Nobel Prize. This woman is a far cry from the lovestruck English major (Starke, Close’s own daughter, plays the younger Joan) shown in flashbacks, who falls in love with the dashing Professor Castleman when he is still married to his first wife. After the novelty of starting a new life together wears off, the pair are faced with some harsh realities that plague them throughout their union.
“I think one of the things that intrigued me was, for example, why she never left him,” said Close of Joan. “I think [her reason for staying] evolves.”
As both Joan and Joe are such strong, distinct characters, one has to wonder if they looked to any real-life figures, either writers or famous wives for inspiration.
“For me, it isn’t a film about writers, and it isn’t a film about winning the Nobel Prize,” answered Pryce, who has been with his wife, actress Kate Fahy, for 46 years. “It’s about a marriage, and the trials and tribulations, the joys, the sorrows, and the crises. I didn’t look beyond my 71 years of living on this planet. I’ve a had long marriage, a long relationship, and I’m not saying it’s anything like [the Castlemans], but you go through all these things, and there are moments of forgiveness, moments of sympathy, and I think this tells that story. For me, it is a love story, and it’s happily a love story, eventually, about [an older couple].”
Slater plays Nathaniel Bone, a persistent reporter who becomes more than a mere annoyance after it is revealed that he did some serious digging into the Castlemans’ lives, possibly uncovering an explosive secret.
“For me, it was you guys [reporters], safe to say,” Slater said with a laugh when asked to whom he looked to while preparing to play Nathaniel..
This being a film about a marriage, it seemed appropriate to ask the actors what they learned from their characters and their thoughts on the who institution.
“The importance of truth,” answered Starke, who herself is a newlywed. “As hard and difficult and brutal as it may be.”
“It’s challenging, for my wife,” jested Slater, who has been married to wife Brittany Lopez for five years. “I really take my hat off to her. Relationships are really complex. Like this movie shows, there’s so many things that go into it. So many negotiations, so many compromises, that you all of a sudden you are years and decades into it, and you look back in retrospect and think, ‘Oh my gosh, how did I get here?’ And also, ‘How does the time fly by so quickly?’”
Starke spoke about playing the younger version of her mother.
“The premise of playing a young version of my mom certainly gave me pause in the beginning, but it was the character and the people affiliated with the project that made me just fall deeply head-over-heels in love with it. I have such a deep love and respect for the character Joan, that she was my first and foremost mission, both of our missions, and it was a really wonderful experience to collaborate on something so special with the person I love and respect the most in this world.”
Added Close, “We have exactly the same walk. We’re both pigeon-toed. We have the most unglamorous walk in the world… So many people [who view the film] don’t realize that Annie’s my daughter, and I just love that.”
“The Wife” opens Aug. 17 in New York and Los Angeles, expanding to more cities Aug. 24.