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BTL Screening Series hosts Albert Nobbs Panel Discussion


Glenn Close transformed into 19th century Albert Nobbs.

BTL Screening Series hosted a screening of Glenn Close’s independently produced film, Albert Nobbs, on Saturday at the Harmony Gold Theater in Hollywood. 250 professionals of various affiliations attended the screening eager to experience the film and to enjoy the discourse of the Q&A session that was to follow the film.

As attendees poured into the lobby of the theater, they had the opportunity to admire a costume, generously provided by Roadside Attractions, which was worn by Close in the film. The all-black waiter uniform was accompanied by the defining accessories of the title character.

The film is based on the short story, “Albert Nobbs,” by nineteenth century Irish author George Moore. It features Close as a woman who has spent the last 30 years disguising herself as a man in order to work and survive in 19th century Ireland. Calling herself Albert Nobbs, the character’s own history is lost to her, and her sense of identity is steeped in fear and deception. The façade of Albert has become all she knows as she attempts to make a life for herself.

The Q&A after the film featured a panel of the film’s creators: writer, producer, lyricist, and lead actress, Glenn Close, make-up artist Matthew Mungle, and composer Brian Byrne, all joined by director, Rodrigo Garcia.

Much of the discussion centered around Close’s personal quest to bring this story to the big screen, a goal accomplished after Close first became acquainted with the character nearly 30 years ago.

“I wanted to be sure I connected with it and understood it, and saw it the way she saw it,” Garcia said, when asked how he reacted to the script after Close first approached him to direct the film.”

The first question asked by a member of the audience was when the soundtrack would be available, which was answered with the revelation that Below the Line audience members were going to receive a CD, provided by Roadside Attractions, and featuring the film’s score and the song performed by Sinead O’Connor with original lyrics written by Close. The full original soundtrack will be available Dec. 13.

Discussion during the Q&A began with a brief background on how the film came to be and some of what it took to bring it to fruition. Close became aware of the story of Albert Nobbs in 1982 when she played the character in Simone Benmussa’s theatrical interpretation of the short story, a performance for which Close received an Obie Award.

The panel also discussed Close’s exquisite transformation into Albert Nobbs, a feat accomplished by the work of make-up artist Matthew Mungle. Using techniques including dental plumpers, face casting and adjusting facial features such as the tip of the nose and extending the ear lobes, Mungle was able to mold Close’s distinguished features into those of Albert Nobbs. “One day during filming, I looked up at myself and it just wasn’t me anymore,” Close said. “Tears came to my eyes and I thought, ‘this is a creature I haven’t seen before.’”

Byrne recalled a moment when he was in the parking lot near his car and saw an “odd, tall-looking bloke,” walk past him, later realizing it was Close’s co-star Janet McTeer, in make-up and costume.

Byrne and Garcia together shared how they attempted to err on the side of simplicity when it came to the music used in the film.

Over the years, Close acquired a script treatment from Hungarian director Istvan Szabo, and was able to complete the script for this film with the help of Man Booker prize-winning novelist John Banville and Gabriella Prekop.

For more on the BTL Screening Series, visit

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