Glenn Close as Cruella De Ville in 101 Dalmatians
Glenn Close as Cruella De Ville in 101 DalmatiansWalt Disney Pictures

Actor Glenn Close has revealed that she spent much of her childhood trapped in a radical religious movement that was a right-wing, homophobic cult.

Her father Dr William Taliaferro Close, who was the personal doctor to the Congolese dicatator Mobutu Sese Seko, joined a religious sect called Moral Re-Armament (MRA) when his daughter was seven-years-old.

Close said it dominated her life for 15 years. The Fatal Attraction star said that for many years she "wouldn't trust any of my instincts because [my beliefs] had all been dictated to me".

"You basically weren't allowed to do anything, or you were made to feel guilty about any unnatural desires," said the actor. "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."

The actor's Harvard-educated father was one of Africa's top physicians and played a leading role in combatting the first Ebola outbreak in Congo, which was then Zaire in 1976. He coordinated and distributed supplies to combat the virus when it hit.

MRA's origins

MRA started as an anti-war movement for moral and spiritual renewal founded by Frank Buchman in 1938. Close described him as "this wizened old man with little glasses and a hooked nose, in a wheelchair".

Buchman famously once said that he was grateful for Adolf Hitler. In an interview with the New York World-Telegram, published in 1936, he said: "I thank Heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defense against the anti-Christ of Communism."

The religious group was also virulently anti-gay. A 1954 Moral Re-Armament tract that was written by Peter Howard and Dr. Paul Campbell tells readers how to spot homosexuals:

"There are many who wear suede shoes who are not homosexual, but in Europe and America the majority of homosexuals do. They favor green as a color in clothes and decorations. Men are given to an excessive display and use of the handkerchief.

"They tend to let the hair grow long, use scent and are frequently affected in speech, mincing in gait and feminine in mannerisms. They are often very gifted in the arts. They tend to exhibitionism. They can be cruel and vindictive, for sadism usually has a homosexual root. They are often given to moods."

For two years, the Damages actor lived at the group's headquarters in Caux Switzerland with her brother and two sisters.

"They had a big hotel called Mountain House, which I think is in one of [F Scott] Fitzgerald's novels," Close told the Hollywood Reporter.

"[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] and we didn't see our father for a whole year."

Escaping the cult

Close managed to cut ties from the religious cult at the age of 22, but says she was profoundly affected by her experiences.

"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."

The actor refused to say how she managed to leave the MRA. "I'm not going to go into all of that," she said. "You can't in an interview."