Glenn Close’s sex-change makeup procedure for ‘Albert Nobbs’

A make-up artist works on transforming Glenn Close into Albert Nobbs for her new movie.

roadside attractions

A make-up artist works on transforming Glenn Close into Albert Nobbs for her new movie.

Not only has it been 30 years since Glenn Close first played Albert Nobbs on stage, this time she had the added pressure of knowing her performance would be scrutinized by cameras. To accomplish a transformation that would hold up in high definition, the film’s makeup and costuming teams spent more than two hours each day sculpting, primping, polishing, and binding the actress.

roadside attractions

Veteran makeup artist Matthew Mungle (special-effects guru for television’s “CSI’’ and a slew of movies) says he used a variety of products and potions on Close - among them: a silicone nose tip, gelatin earlobes, ear plumpers (worn behind the ears to keep them pushed out), dental plumpers, skin tint to even her complexion, and a short wig made by Close’s longtime hair stylist, Martial Corneville. Nothing was done to her eyelashes, Close reports; if they appear paler than usual it’s because Ireland was “[expletive] cold.’’


Costume designer Pierre-Yves Gayraud says a flat chest was achieved by first bandaging Close’s breasts, then binding them in a long corset that also covered her hips. Her waist and shoulders were padded. The actress wore shoes that were five sizes too big, and weighted, to achieve a heavier, more masculine walk.

Close had a clear idea of the look she wanted to achieve. Years ago she stumbled on a photograph in a copy of National Geographic magazine - the image, which she still carries, is of an Albanian woman living as a man (they’re called “sworn virgins’’) in order to provide her family with an heir. “It’s extraordinary,’’ she says. “Her ears, her eyebrows, her hairline . . . She has a receding hairline.’’

Such a transformation does not come easy. But it’s also not as foreign as one might think. Close remembers returning to the set of “Damages’’ a few days after wrapping the “Albert Nobbs’’ shoot. “To get back into those high heels and suits . . . I thought, ‘Oh, it’s so easy to be a man.’ ’’

Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.
You're reading  1 of 5 free articles.
Get UNLIMITED access for only 99¢ per week Subscribe Now >
You're reading1 of 5 free articles.Keep scrolling to see more articles recomended for you Subscribe now
We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles.
Continue reading by subscribing to for just 99¢.
 Already a member? Log in Home
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of
Marketing image of