Terror Attraction ** Glenn Close is thrilled to recreate icon of evil for "102 Dalmatians" (2023)

It used to be that Glenn Close only scared the wits out of philandering husbands who caught her act as a woman scorned in "Fatal Attraction."

But with "101 Dalmatians," she became an icon of evil for a whole new generation of movie-goers. Playing Cruella De Vil allowed the actress to do such dastardly things as trying to turn a bunch of adorable little pooches into fur coats.

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"I can scare kids just by saying the word puppies," says Close with a chuckle. "Or I can just do the laugh. Cruella's laugh sends kids screaming."

Close, 53, isn't complaining about the attention. She gets a kick out of knowing her take on Cruella is spot-on. "At my age, to have little kids come running up to me, excited to meet me, is thrilling," she says.

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Close's reign of terror is likely to continue with "102 Dalmatians," the $90 million sequel to the 1996 film. This time around, Cruella is sprung from prison a changed woman. Calling herself Ella, she donates money to an animal shelter, bans fur from her wardrobe and even buys herself a pup named Fluffy.

But Cruella hasn't really changed her spots. No sooner does she hook up with a furrier named Jean Pierre Le Pelt (Gerard Depardieu) than she's back to her old tricks.

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For Close, the allure of a sequel was simple: "You don't get to play a character of this size very often in movies. You have to go to the theater, or you have to do a movie based on a Shakespeare play to encounter this kind of out-sized villain."

Does Close worry that the popularity of the "Dalmatian" movies will overshadow the rest of her career?

"I don't mind being identified with Cruella," she says with a shrug. "She's valid. I work as hard on her as I do on any other character I play. Let's face it, people are going to remember me for "Fatal Attraction' and Cruella. They're going to have the biggest impact, and that's fine with me."

Ironically, Close began her career in the movies playing impossibly sweet characters like Robin Williams' selfless mother in "The World According to Garp," Kevin Kline's understanding wife in "The Big Chill" and Robert Redford's girlfriend in "The Natural," a woman so pure she seemed to carry around her own halo.

With "Fatal Attraction," Close turned a corner -- and she hasn't looked back ever since. She has excelled at playing larger-than-life characters such as the scheming Marquise de Merteuil in "Dangerous Liaisons," the tough-as-nails vice president in "Air Force One" and faded silent-screen legend Norma Desmond in the Broadway production of "Sunset Boulevard."

"102 Dalmatians" marks Close's first big-budget Hollywood movie in three years. "Actors, no matter what level you're at, are still dependent on whether directors and producers want you for their movies," she says, by way of explaining her absence from the screen.

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"As a woman in her 50s, I have to be realistic. You're lucky if you get a choice at all. A couple of years ago, I realized that there will always be someone there to criticize your choices. You have to select projects from a personal, subjective point of view.

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"If I respond to the script, I'll do it regardless of how much money I'm going to make. I don't know how to make words come out of my mouth that I don't think are good. I'd much rather be at home."

Even more so than last time, "102 Dalmatians" required Close to be in top physical shape. She wears 16 extravagant costumes as opposed to the six outfits she wore in the first film.

"Audiences don't know how hard it is to be Cruella De Vil," says costume designer Anthony Powell, who also outfitted Close for "Sunset Boulevard."

"Glenn was corseted down to a 22-inch waist. Every day she wore 4-inch spike heels. She's the ultimate good sport and she's fearless as a lion"

When Close wore both the spike heels and a porcupine-quill hat, she couldn't be shuttled back to London's Shepperton studios in a car. "I had to literally kneel in a van that had all of the seats removed," she says. "Sometimes, I literally rode to work on all fours. It was ridiculous."

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The hat, in particular, proved to be a very dangerous accessory. "Once I was sitting with Gerard and I leaned in to make a point and punctured his chin," recalls the actress. "I looked up and he was bleeding. That hat could be lethal. People would say, "The hat is coming."'

The finale of the movie, in which Close is turned into a cupcake, took a grueling 3 1/2 weeks to shoot. For most of that time, the actress was covered head to toe in goo.

Notes director Kevin Lima, "I'd say to Glenn, "Let the stunt double do this shot,' but she'd go, "No, I have to do it. Cruella De Vil must go through this."'

There were a lot of special effects employed in the film, but when Close-as-Cruella got near the pooches, no acting was required. "The dogs were genuinely afraid of her when she was in Cruella regalia," says Lima, who worked with Close on the animated "Tarzan," for which she supplied a voice.

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"You'd put them together in the moment and let the natural thing happen. Fluffy the dog squirming in Glenn's arms was very true to life."

Offscreen, Close owns four dogs, including a papillon puppy named Little Petey, a Scottish Border terrier and two mutts.

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"I love dogs," says Close, who lives in Connecticut with her pooches and her 12-year-old daughter Annie, the offspring of her relationship with producer John Starcke. "I have been surrounded by animals all of my life."

Close might be very adept at playing outrageous characters, but in real life she is a surprisingly down-to-earth presence. Arriving early for an interview at Manhattan's Regency Hotel, she's clad in a nondescript gray Armani suit and low-heels.

Close insists she would fade into the wallpaper if she ever came face to face with some of the characters she's played. "Glenn Close would be scared of Cruella," says the actress. "For one thing, I'm not that witty. Thank God. I don't have to sit in a room with her. It would be so intimidating."

Unlike Cruella, Close is no clothes-horse. "I am the worst dresser in the world," she claims. "I want to go to a tailor and have them build me a uniform. Armani lends me clothes, which I wear when I do interviews. But in my real closet are four pairs of pants and four shirts. I'd wear jeans all the time, but I feel too fat in them. I have this big butt to contend with."

Still to come from Close are two TV projects -- "The Ballad of Lucy Whipple," a TV movie co-starring Jena Malone and Robert Pastorelli, and "South Pacific," in which she played Nellie Forbush to Rade Serbedzija's Emile de Becque. Pastorelli also co-stars in the musical production.

Pastorelli, who is best known for portraying Eldon the painter on "Murphy Brown," is rumored to be Close's boyfriend. There has even been talk of the two marrying shortly.

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Not so, says Close, with a roll of her eyes. "I don't know where this rumor started. I think somebody was bored. Somebody actually called up my poor father, pretending to be from Jeffrey Katzenberg's office. They said, "When's the wedding?' My dad was just dumbfounded.

"Look, Bobby is my great friend. There's no romance. We've done two projects together. He might come with me to the "102 Dalmatians' premiere and then the talk will start all over again. But I'm not going to not go out with him just so people won't talk about us."

For the record, Close is happily single at the moment. "I must terrify men," she says. "Since "Fatal Attraction,' I don't think anyone feels comfortable asking me for a date. Even now.

"That's why I hang out with people that I work with. I don't want to date a businessman. Put that in print. Why? They're civilians. I am of the alien nation. I'm only comfortable with my fellow aliens."

Amy Longsdorf is a Palmerton-based free-lance writer on film.

Entertainment Editor Len Righi

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