June 2015 By Philip Berk
A little known fact about Cate Blanchett who plays Cinderella’s wicked step mother in the new Disney release.
Her father was American.
How did that happen?
“He was in the navy, and his ship broke down in the Antarctic. It was being repaired in Melbourne. My mother was a teacher. They didn’t have enough men at a dance, so she went down to the port.”
“It was. From what I’ve been told, they danced all night, he was there for two weeks, they wrote for three years, and then he came out, and they got married.”
Unfortunately he died when she was ten.
Is she still in touch with her American side of the family? Surprisingly her answer is, “No, my father was an only child so we never really, he didn’t really, no.” (she falters) “No relatives really. My brother kept in contact with a cousin we visited when he was ten, but no, we grew up very much with my mother’s family in Australia.”
When she won her first Golden Globe for Elizabeth 17 years ago she credited her husband with teaching her the meaning of love.
Her own courtship — her husband is theatre director and playwright Andrew Upton — was almost as romantic as her mother’s, although not quite love at first sight.
“We were friends, although we didn’t like each other at all. But then we got together through friends, and one night he kissed me, and that was sort of it. I think he asked me to marry him about six weeks after that kiss.”
At her press conference for Cinderella she confirms reports that she her husband (and their three sons) will be moving to Los Angeles. The two of them have always lived and worked in Sydney where her he ran the Sydney Theatre Company.
Has living in Sydney and working all over he world taken a toll for her?
“People take enormous risks when they fall deeply in love. And to be an actor and to have been as nomadic as I have been, you have to sacrifice. We haven’t lived in the States before so I think that might be an exciting thing to do.”
What she didn’t reveal at the press conference was that she and her husband have just adopted a baby girl while in Los Angeles. The baby, a couple of weeks old, has been named Edith Vivian Patricia.
Did she always aspire to being an actress?
“I think theatre has always been my great love, although I planned to study economics at the university but majored in art history instead. Then someone who hated me suggested I go to drama school. And it was during a production of Elektra in my third year that I lost all sense of time and space and realized theatre was a magical place for me.”
Some twenty years later she’s gone from self confident unknown to arguably the best actress of her generation.
A worthy successor to Bette Davis, I suggest.
“I love watching Bette Davis. I think she’s extraordinary. I watched All About Eve again not long ago, and I watched Elizabeth and Essex before I played Elizabeth both times. I find her fantastic. She’s fearless. She doesn’t ask you to like her. She’s funny. She’s savage. She’s unique. She’s one of my favorites.”
Does it surprise her that when she was her age her career was essentially over?
“That was a different time,” she responds.
Her next movie Carol is the diametrical opposite of Cinderella.
It is based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, a love story notorious in its time for its lesbian content and happy ending. The director is Todd Haynes, who made Far from Heaven and I’m Not There
Will it be typically Todd Haynes?
“Every film Todd makes is a Todd Haynes film. He constantly astounds me with his invention. It’s so fantastic to work with him again.”
Will it be R Rated?
“It’s a very sensual film, incredibly sensual.”
Rooney Mara is her costar
Her earlier encounter with Todd earned her a second Golden Globe for playing Bob Dylan.
“When Todd approached me about playing that role I just burst out laughing. ‘What are you talking about?’ But how can you not take a meeting with somebody as audacious and nutty as Todd. I was worried about not having enough time to prepare — I literally walked off the set of Elizabeth The Golden Age straight into the Dylan film — but because the roles were so divergent, that helped.”
When not seen on screen in a new movie, she’s quite visible as a model for Georgio Armani.
Does it embarrass her to be called the most glamorous great actress in the long history of film.
“Not at all. I think that’s lovely. Thank you very much. You’ve made my day,” she replies.
Her three sons named Dashiell, Roman, and Ignatius are 13,10, and 6 resp.
What do you do to make sure they have a normal childhood?
“I don’t know what a normal childhood is. I think childhood is a deeply abnormal thing. I think all children have a fantasy life, and we live a kind of circus existence, but like all working parents you try and work that out by keeping things stable. My children have the good fortune of seeing the hard work that goes into making a movie. They see what the crews do, and they see the artistry that goes on behind the scenes. And that probably normalizes the more shiny side of what I do.”
Besides acting and being a caring mother, does she have any hobbies?
“Unfortunately, I have no hobbies. None. I keep saying I am going to develop or cultivate some. I suppose my work is my hobby. I am a bit of a goldfish; I sort of swim around the bowl and forget where I have been. But I think the residue of experience exists somewhere. I don’t talk that much, but I am very curious. I listen in everyday life. I love going to the supermarket and watching other people, or when children are playing in the park, watching people. Although I should add I do respond to visuals; so any time we have a little bit of extra money tucked away, we collect paintings and sculptures. I love living with those things. I am very visually sensitive. My taste is very eclectic.”
I used to say, wherever Cate Blanchett goes, awards follow.
Now it’s more like, wherever she goes, movies follow.
In the past few years she done an astonishing number of films including the Hobbit series, collaborations with George Clooney and Terence Malick.
Why the compulsion to work so much?
“It’s not a compulsion, they were just roles I couldn’t pass up.”
Does she feel pressured by agents and managers to accept roles?
“If there’s pressure, I’m not listening. The whole thing about an actor being controlled by other people, I don’t know anyone who is. I think I’m an adult. I make my own decisions. I have been brought up with a healthy sense of self respect. An actor has to have a moral backbone and a moral fibre. So you just throw yourself passionately into every project and hope it comes out for the best.”
Does she discuss her roles with her husband?
“Yeah, I pick his brains all the time. I find his writing incredibly inspiring, and often in discussions with him I’m able to unlock things in the text. Like if there’s a line which I can’t understand how it would work, he will say it’s here for this reason; so it’s fantastic that he has such a strong understanding of structure. I find it fantastic just to talk to him.”
The only time I ever caught her bragging was when she once let slip that she had received an unsolicited letter from Ingmar Bergman.
“I almost fell off my chair that he even knew who I was. When things like that happen, you can’t quite believe it,” she said.