WATERVILLE — Cheryl McKenney, 64, had never attended the Maine International Film Festival; but when she learned six-time Academy Award nominee Glenn Close was to be honored this year, she bought a festival pass and planned to see all of her films.

“I absolutely love her,” McKenney said. “When I saw that she was going to be here, I was absolutely in heaven.”

McKenney was speaking Sunday just before watching Close perform in the 1988 Academy Award winning film “Dangerous Liaisons” at 3:30 p.m. at Railroad Square Cinema.

After the movie ended, Close appeared and answered questions from the audience.

McKenney, of Waterville, was thrilled; but the best part was meeting her favorite actress after the question-and-answer session. McKenney also handed Close a gift bag.

“I made her some vases,” said McKenney, a retired health worker. “They are decoupage lighthouses from Maine. I gave it to her, and she was very gracious and accepted it.”

Close was honored a couple of hours later at the Waterville Opera House with the film festival’s Mid-Life Achievement Award. Close, 67, was given the award for significant contributions to the art of cinema. She joins past honorees Ed Harris, Keith Carradine, Malcolm McDowell, Sissy Spacek, Jonathan Demme, Bud Cort, Jay Cocks, John Turturro, Peter Fonda, Thelma Schoonmaker, Lili Taylor, Arthur Penn, Terrence Malick, Jos Stelling and Walter Hill.

Close, who lives part of the year in Prouts Neck, part of Scarborough, accepted her award after the showing of her film “Albert Nobbs,” which she co-wrote, co-produced and starred in. She plays Nobbs, a woman who lives as a man in order to get a job in 19th-century Ireland.

Close was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of the beautiful but vicious Marquise de Merteuil in “Dangerous Liaisons,” which also stars John Malkovich, who plays her former lover.

The audience Sunday peppered Close with questions about her part in the film.

Close, a petite, soft-spoken, articulate woman, took her time answering questions, pausing thoughtfully between queries.

Peter Coulton, of Winthrop, asked whether she ever saw herself on screen and realized she was very good. Close said her goal always is to connect with audiences.

“What I hope for is an emotional continuum that my character will be emotionally cohesive and put together in a way in the editing room that the audience never gets disconnected,” she said. “I get very upset if I think something’s happened to kind of disconnect that, and I think the movie is not as effective.”

In the final scene of “Dangerous Liaisons,” Close’s character, learning of her former lover’s death, becomes overcome with grief, screaming and destroying everything in sight. It is an emotionally wrought scene in which Close’s character explodes. An audience member Sunday asked how many takes were needed to complete the scene and whether editors ever thought of cutting it.

“One take,” she said. “The funny thing is, I was so worked up that I actually wet my pants. I would have been incredibly upset if they cut that, because it shows how much she actually loved him.”

Close said that the character she played in the film was one of the greatest characters ever created. She had read the book on which the film was based, she said.

Filmed in several castles in France, the movie included scenes that sometimes were patched together, according to Close.

“Sometimes you saw us going up a stairway and when we stopped, it was a different location,” she said.

Audience members noted that Close’s character went through a roller coaster of emotions during the course of the film and wondered how she rehearsed for that type of raw emotion.

“You don’t, really,” she replied. “Rarely do you ever have any kind of decent rehearsal for a film. I felt very lucky because I had the book to have as my bible. You know the thoughts and the life of that character, and it’s very enriching to have that kind of in your mind and it kind of informs moments.”

Close said she had given birth to her daughter seven weeks before the filming.

“That’s why I have a nice chest,” she said, to laughter from the audience.

Close said she is very unlike the character who she played.

“I would be intimidated if I had to enter a room and talk to her,” she said.

While the character was devious, Close said she was able to sympathize with her, as the marquise had been treated badly by men in the past.

“I see my characters as sympathetic,” she said. “A good director allows you to be fiercely subjective around your character. To me, the only cruel character I played was Cruella De Ville (in “101 Dalmatians”).

Close said she is fascinated by human behavior and always asks, “why, why, why, why, why,” when portraying a character.

“At least the women I have played I loved very much and had great empathy for,” she said.

She always had wanted to be an actress, from the time she was a child, she said.

“I did, and I think it was kind of an evolution. I was very lucky to live on my grandfather’s farm in Connecticut, and we just had the run of the place. As kids will do, it’s all pretending.”

A shy child, she was in her head a lot, she said.

“I was good at pretending.”

Asked whether she takes her characters home at night, Close said she usually does not. And she did not do so during the filming of “Dangerous Liaisons.”

“I had a baby, so I’d come out of character when I walked off the set.”

Coulton, who attended the film with his wife, Sharon, said after the session that Close is an extraordinary actress.

“One of the things I love about her is how she communicates emotion,” he said.

McKenney, who gave Close the vases, said before the film that her talent and abilities make her more appealing than other, more glamorous actors.

“She’s deep,” McKenney said.

Before the film showing, John Meader, of Fairfield, said Close is a fine actor and he was excited to learn she would be receiving the festival’s prestigious award. Like McKenney, he said he also saw Close’s new film, “Low Down,” at the festival. It is about the life of jazz pianist Joe Albany, as seen through the life of his daughter, Amy.

“It was very different for her,” Meader said of Close, who plays the girl’s grandmother in the film. “She’s more of supporting actress in the film. It was very good. It’s a hard film in some ways because it’s about people living a hard life.”

Barbara Shea, of Waterville, said she attends every MIFF festival and was excited to think Close would be honored at the 17th annual event.

“One of the things I think is really cool is that we have somebody of that caliber coming to our little hamlet, our little spot on the map,” Shea said. “We’re not Sundance; we’re not L.A. This is wicked cool. It’s neat when they have anybody of that notoriety come.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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