Through tears, Close noted her mother's similarities with her character in the film, who sets aside her own writing career to help her husband win a Nobel Prize in literature. "I'm thinking of my mom, who really sublimated herself to my father her whole life," the 71-year-old Close said in an emotional speech, "and in her 80s, she said to me: 'I feel like I haven't accomplished anything,' and it was so not right."
Close will now have to wait and see whether she'll get her seventh Academy Award nomination, and whether she'll finally win one. Backstage, Close said her mother had an artistic mind but married when she was 18, never went to college and started having children very early. While she raised the family, her husband became a successful surgeon.
"She always said, 'I made a vow and I'm going to stay in this,' but I can't say that it was fulfilling for her for all the potential she had," Close said. "I hold her in my heart. I'm very moved to get this award for this particularly story for her sake."
Close said during her speech that the marginalization of women the film illustrates was evident in the fact that it floundered so long before reaching the screen. "It was called 'The Wife,' I think that's why it took 14 years to get made," Close said to laughs from members of the audience, who then gave her a standing ovation after she pointed out that women may be nurturers, but "we have to find personal fulfillment."
"We have to follow our dreams. We have to say 'I can do that and I should be allowed to do that,'" she said. Close did just that. When she was little, she noted that she felt just as strongly about acting as Muhammad Ali did about boxing.
"I was destined to be an actress. I saw the early Disney films and Hayley Mills and I said, 'I can do that,'" Close said. "It will have been 45 years in September that I am a working actress and I cannot imagine a more wonderful life."
Close, who previously won two Globes for television acting roles, appeared genuinely shocked when her name was called. She edged out the other actresses in the category, Lady Gaga ("A Star is Born"), Nicole Kidman ("Destroyer"), Melissa McCarthy ("Can You Ever Forgive Me") and Rosamund Pike ("A Private War").
Where Close's speech drew tears from the audience, the other speech for best actress in a leading role had them howling at the honesty and blunt language. Olivia Colman, who won for best actress in a movie musical or comedy for her role as a weepy Queen Anne in "The Favourite," said she'd like to tell everyone how much the film means to her but she was too excited to remember.
"I had a (expletive) blast," she said. "I went on a private jet and I ate constantly throughout the film. It was brilliant." Colman, 44, said "thank you for the sandwiches" and thanked "my bitches," referring to her co-stars Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, who were nominated and lost for best supporting actress.
Also nominated in Colman's category were Emily Blunt ("Mary Poppins Returns"), Elsie Fisher ("Eighth Grade"), Charlize Theron ("Tully"), and Constance Wu ("Crazy Rich Asians.") The best supporting actress award to Regina King for her role in "If Beale Street Could Talk."
Like Close, the 47-year-old King used her speech to draw attention to the all-too-often back seats women take in Hollywood and beyond. She urged employers across the country to hire more women and pledged that anything she produces in the next two years will be made by 50 percent women.
"Time's up times two," King said.