WATERVILLE — Actress Glenn Close has received lots of prestigious awards during her illustrious career, but never a moose statuette dressed in a black suit, its antlers growing through the Victorian bowler hat on its head.

Close, versatile star of stage, screen and television, received the Mid-Life Achievement Award Sunday night at the 17th annual Maine International Film Festival.

The award is given to someone who has made significant contributions to independent film.

Crafted in the likeness of a Maine moose by festival Director Shannon Haines’ mother, Laurel McLeod, the moose statuette was a hit with Close.

“This is the best award I’ve ever received,” she said, to loud applause from a packed Waterville Opera House. “I’m not kidding. This is better than the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) award. Oh, my gosh, this is fantastic. I adore this.”

Close, 67, and a six-time Academy Award nominee, bubbled with enthusiasm.

“Oh, thank you — wow,” she said.

She was given the award by Haines and festival program director Ken Eisen following a showing of “Albert Nobbs,” a 2011 film Close starred in, co-wrote and co-produced. Close plays Nobbs, a woman in 19th century Ireland who dresses as a man in order to be able to work.

The moose statuette with its head made of papier-mache includes a miniature towel draped over Nobbs’ arm and a tiny Victorian table, complete with lace tablecloth, champagne and ice, as Nobbs is a waiter in the movie.

“I did the base faux marble — I painted it to look like marble,” McLeod, 61, of Winslow, said.

McLeod said she was surprised and thrilled by Close’s reaction to the moose award.

“I talked to her afterward,” McLeod recalled Monday. “I said, ‘This is possibly the best reaction I’ve ever had.’ She laughed and she just thought it was awesome.”

McLeod has made about a dozen such moose awards for previous Mid-Life Achievement Award winners, including Peter Fonda, Ed Harris and Keith Carradine.

In earlier years of the festival, McLeod would buy a stuffed or toy moose and decorate it for an award, but it got to the point where she couldn’t find a moose she wanted and her daughter, Shannon, asked if she would make them herself, McLeod said.

“The thing I remember is that they gave Sissy Spacek a stuffed animal moose and Shannon wasn’t the festival director yet — I think she was volunteer coordinator,” McLeod said. “After that, Shannon was like, ‘I don’t suppose you’d like to give this a shot?’ I said, yeah, I’d love to; it’s right up my alley.’ ”

Last year, Keith Carradine got a McLeod-crafted award featuring a moose playing a guitar, to coincide with the festival’s screening of Carradine’s film, “Nashville.”

Another winner, Peter Fonda, got a moose on a motorcycle, reflecting his performance in “Easy Rider.”

“It was funny,” McLeod said. “Peter Fonda said to me, ‘I can’t wait to take this home and show my friend, Jack Nicholson.’ ”

McLeod devised a moose with a typewriter for writer-producer Jonathan Demme’s award.

“He sent me a nice email saying ‘thank you.’ I did a moose with a typewriter and a waste basket with crumpled up paper, like he had writer’s block.”

McLeod, who predominantly is a painter, also made the large papier-mache carrot outside Barrels Community Market on Main Street and the artist’s easel outside Common Street Arts downtown. She said she loves creating the moose awards.

“It’s kind of astounding, really, the comments I’ve had from the people who get them. I think they like the personal touch and the tongue-in-cheek humor we use here at the Maine film festival.”

Close joins other past award recipients including Bud Cort, John Turturro, Ed Harris, Lili Taylor, Jay Cocks, Jos Stelling, Malcolm McDowell, Thelma Schoonmaker, Arthur Penn, Terrence Malick and Walter Hill.

PRAISE FOR FESTIVAL

The star of movies including, “The Big Chill,” “Fatal Attraction,” “Low Down,” and “101 Dalmatians,” Close spent about an hour with film enthusiasts Sunday night at the awards ceremony, answering questions about “Albert Nobbs” and her acting career, which also has netted her Emmy and Tony awards.

But first, Close thanked the Maine Film Center, which hosts the festival, and of which Haines is executive director.

“Congratulations for what you are creating here,” Close said.

The prolific actress said her definition of an independent film is one that almost does not get made.

“I don’t think that there is a better definition,” she said.

“Albert Nobbs” was nominated for three Academy awards, including best actress in a leading role, best supporting actress and best achievement in makeup. The movie netted three Golden Globe nominations for best actress and supporting actress, as well as best original song, which Close co-wrote. While the film was 14 years in the making, it took 32 days to shoot, Close said. The character of Nobbs was what drew her to the part, she said.

“She’s certainly not what she seems, and I’m fascinated by what’s behind the mask,” Close said. “I think we all are experts at walking through life showing about one percent of what’s underneath. I just found her a heartbreaking character. I love characters that have a dream.”

The movie, filmed in a Dublin hotel, was produced with a lot of dedication and hard work from actors who came on board and put their all into it, according to Close.

“It started having a life of its own, and we ended up with an extraordinary group of actors,” she said.

Janet McTeer, who was nominated for the Academy’s best supporting actress, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Brenda Fricker and Pauline Collins co-star in the film.

“Janet is a great actress,” Close said, the audience applauding immediately after the mention of McTeer’s name.

She said McTeer was playing Mary Stuart on Broadway when Close saw her performance and thought she thought she was perfect for the part in “Nobbs.” Close went backstage, told McTeer she had a film for her and sent her the script. McTeer took the part, as did Taylor-Johnson.

Filming in Dublin was always Close’s dream because the story is Irish, but the location was not certain from the outset, she said.

“We looked at East Germany, certainly Budapest, everywhere — Montreal. I mean, it ultimately came down to what is right for the film and also, Ireland has very, very good tax breaks, so it became possible. It was wonderful that it actually worked out there.”

Close’s character required a significant makeup job, including enlarging her ears and adding a nose tip made of gel.

“There came a point where I looked up and it really wasn’t me anymore, and I started crying,” Close recalled. “I couldn’t believe it.”

She worked on the film in the editing room.

“The whole editing process is something that I love,” she said.

She prompted laughter several times during the question-and-answer session. When someone asked her if she had ever worked with directors who were difficult, she said she would not name names.

“Two I didn’t enjoy — ah, three — all for different reasons,” she said.

One director, she said, systematically cut off the audience from the emotional journey of the movie.

“I learned a lot from that,” she said. “It was a miserable experience for me. I learned that the most powerful aspect of any art is … to give your audience a real emotional journey so at the end you feel like you have been through something you can emotionally identify with.”

Another director was just a bad director, she said.

“He didn’t know how to block a scene, and so we just directed ourselves and made him think it was his idea.”

The audience erupted in laughter.

Close attended a reception at Amici’s Cucina restaurant downtown after the ceremony.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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