By People Staff
Updated December 28, 1987 12:00 PM

She’s the anti heroine of the year, Hollywood’s lecherous/treacherous redefinition of unsafe sex. Her name is Glenn Close, and you must have been riding a sea turtle to Tahiti if you don’t know that she plays the lethally misleading lady of Fatal Attraction, the super shocker about a married man (Michael Douglas) who takes a night off to tomcat and catches a man-eating tigress by the tail. The movie has grossed more than $100 million and done almost as much for monogamy as the fear of AIDS.

For Glenn Close Fatal Attraction has done wonders. In a performance of slamming energy and emotional precision, she has burst out of her straitlaced facial corset and emerged as an actress with the kind of visceral heat that can generate a box office meltdown. Don’t bet against her in the 1987 Oscar race.

Close is 40—a late bloomer who barely survived an early frost. Born rich, she spent her young days romping around the family’s 250-acre estate on Connecticut’s Gold Coast. When she was 7, the idyll dissolved. Her father, a surgeon, joined a Salvationist society called Moral Rearmament and flew the family off to the Belgian Congo (now Zaïre) to set up jungle clinics. Glennie, her brother and two sisters were sent to Swiss boarding schools, and she later went to Rosemary Hall in Greenwich, Conn.

After graduation Close co-founded a Moral Rearmament singing troupe and in 1969, at 22, she married guitarist Cabot Wade. A year later, sick of “being manipulated and used,” she quit the society to study drama at Virginia’s College of William and Mary. In 1974 she landed in New York with a divorce, a Phi Beta Kappa key and a hefty handicap: She was already 27. Yet Close was soon prancing across a Broadway stage as the heroine of Love for Love. Eight roles later Barnum won her a Tony nomination, and Hollywood beckoned. She was 34 when she snagged her first film part: Robin Williams’ mother in 1982’s The World According to Garp.

Close won an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for that effort and two more for The Big Chill and The Natural. But despite a lively private life—for three years she shared digs with actor Len (Sweeney Todd) Cariou—Close found herself typecast as the Earth Mother of the ’80s: solid as a rock and just about as exciting. She tried hard to strut her sexy stuff. On Broadway she played the wandering wife of Jeremy Irons in The Real Thing. Onscreen she was cast as Jeff Bridges’ love-blinded lawyer in The Jagged Edge and as the flea-brained flapper in a double-dumb movie called Maxie. But moviemakers were less than impressed.

Close had to fight for the role in Fatal Attraction. Producer Stanley Jaffe thought she was too old and too cold, but in one 30-second reading (“There was such sensuality!”) she won the part. Working with a trainer, she lost 15 pounds and came on-camera looking lean and mean but wondering if she could communicate mania as intensely as she radiated lust.

It wasn’t easy. Even though three psychiatrists had helped Close to diagnose her character’s compulsions, sometimes the demons just wouldn’t dance. Then, says director Adrian Lyne, “she would cry and she would scream at me. The script was s—-! She was s—-! The rage would turn into tears, and then she would be extraordinary. Like she had shaken off the layers.”

In building the role, Close sorted out her personal experiences. Her 1984 marriage (recently ended) to second husband James Marlas, a venture capitalist, taught her something of what goes wrong between men and women. “Too many women define themselves in terms of a man. Look at me. In my marriages I was like an amoeba.” Part of the problem, Close says, is that “men blossom under the nurturing of a good woman, while women don’t often get that benefit from a man. I think of men and women as two different species. Katharine Hepburn said they should live next door and visit each other once in a while. Not a bad idea.”

Following her own advice Close is now living alone in Greenwich Village—not far from her lover, producer John (Leg Work) Starke, 37. Like her character in Fatal Attraction, she is pregnant with their child. Fortunately the parallel ends there. Both parents say they want the baby (due this spring)—and each other. But the expectant mother says not to expect a wedding. Sorry, John. Cigar, but no Close.