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McTeer 'mans up' for role in 'Albert Nobbs'

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- No film stands to benefit more from its three newly-minted Oscar nominations than "Albert Nobbs," which goes into wide release this weekend.

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And no actress stands to see her profile rise more than Janet McTeer, the acclaimed British stage actress who nabbed a best supporting actress nomination opposite best actress nominee Glenn Close.

"This is a mad, giddy thing," McTeer says. "This has been such a passion project for Glenn, for the pair of us -- and the makeup team that made us look like men. We've all been jumping around sofas, giggling over our good fortune."

She may have been honored as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her stage work back home, but McTeer is best known to American audiences for a few indie films ("Tumbleweeds") and the occasional turn in a costume drama imported by PBS ("Sense and Sensibility").

The new $8 million film is an adaptation of a 1918 George Moore story about a poor woman (Close) who lives as a man in late 19th century Dublin just so she can wait tables and make enough to live on. Close has held "Albert Nobbs" as a passion project since the '80s, when she played the title character on stage.

Close "talked me into doing it, and we made it on a wing and a prayer, with hardly any money," McTeer says. "This Oscar hullabaloo could not come at a better time!"

McTeer plays Hubert, a woman who has lived as a man for so long that she's married another woman and built her whole life around her change in clothing, hairstyle and vocal timbre. She is a fearless role model to fearful, secretive Albert.

"I took it on because I love the character and I love the messages," McTeer says. "This movie says 'Don't judge,' and to modern women, it says 'We've come a long way. And we've got a long way to go.' And if your personality can manage a nice balance between male and female, that's a pretty good thing."

"Albert Nobbs" has been in limited release for a few weeks, and reviews haven't been uniformly laudatory. But the actresses have earned great notices, with New York Magazine's David Edelstein singling out McTeer as "marvelous ... lightly ironic ... the movie's beacon of potency."

McTeer may be a long shot in the best supporting actress category, with Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain, co-stars of "The Help," earning most of the pre-Oscar plaudits. But if nothing else, the actress got to wear the pants in a movie, for once.

"The trick to playing a man is how you inhabit the space. You put your weight on your heels and express an awful lot of confidence and a big sense of humor."

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