Glenn Close Struggled to Break Free From a Cult: "You Basically Weren't Allowed to Do Anything"

Glenn Close opened up about her childhood experience in a cult and her struggle to break free: "I had these dreams, and they started with betrayal," the actress said. Credit: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

Now she's soaring. Long before she was revered as one of Hollywood's most resilient stars, Glenn Close spent her childhood years trapped in a religious cult. The actress reflected on her experience in the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter, revealing she was in the cult from age 7, until breaking free at age 22.

"[For years], I wouldn’t trust any of my instincts because [my beliefs] had all been dictated to me," Close, 67, confessed. When the Connecticut native was 7 years old, her father Dr. William Taliaferro Close (once a personal physician to Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko) joined a radical religious group called the Moral Re-Armament (MRA).

"You basically weren't allowed to do anything, or you were made to feel guilty about any unnatural desire," she recalled of her childhood in the MRA. "If you talk to anybody who was in a group that basically dictates how you're supposed to live and what you're supposed to say and how you're supposed to feel, from the time you're 7 till the time you're 22, it has a profound impact on you. It's something you have to [consciously overcome] because all of your trigger points are [wrong]."

For years, Close lived at the cult's Swiss headquarters with her brother and two sisters. "They had a big hotel, a very glamorous, exclusive hotel called Mountain House, which I think is in one of Fitzgerald's novels," Close told THR. "[They] made it into one of their world headquarters, and we stayed there for two years. When the mutiny broke out [Congolese soldiers rebelled in 1960, shortly after the country declared independence from Belgium], we didn't see our father for a whole year."

At age 15, Close returned to Connecticut, but the experience haunted her, even after she enrolled at the College of William & Mary at age 22. "I would have dreams because I didn't go to any psychiatrist or anything," Close said. "I had these dreams, and they started with betrayal, a sense of betrayal, and then they developed into me being able to look at these people and say, 'You're wrong. You're wrong.' And then the final incarnation of those dreams was my being able to calmly get up and walk away. And then I didn't have them anymore."

Close refused to tell the mag how she managed to break free. "I'm not going to go into all of that," Close insisted. "You can't in an interview."

The three-time Tony winner said the group — which changed its name to Initiatives of Change in 2001 — never tried to lure her back. "They knew that was it," she recalled. "I had nothing to do with them from that point. And I wouldn't have anything to do with them."

The actress admitted in the interview that she ultimately forgave her father. "I always thought, the way life works, the burden of forgiveness is on the child," she reflected. "That’s the way it goes. Forgiveness is probably the most revolutionary concept there is right now in our world. Because without forgiveness, you just perpetuate what has been before. You [have to] say, 'It's going to stop with me.'"