A great interview with Cate about her upcoming movie Carol!
Cate Blanchett doesn’t complain about a lack of great roles for women. With yet another rave-reviewed movie about to hit our screens, she says: “Every time there are complex roles played by actresses someone says, ‘Is this a breakthrough?’ or, ‘Does this mean there’s going to be more of the same?’”
The two-time Oscar winner sighs.
“I think there’s a swathe of great roles for women and certainly a swathe of wonderful female performers.”
Count Cate among them. The 46 year old is so good in the new movie Carol – a drama about two women falling in love in the 1950s – that she’s sure to bag another Oscar nomination.
“When you fall in love, it’s as if no one else has experienced what you’re experiencing,” says Cate about her character. “It’s dangerous, you’re out of control, it’s akin to panic and your heart literally beats faster.”
Cate, who has been married to playwright and screenwriter Andrew Upton since 1997, adds: “Chemistry ignites you and you feel out of control.
You lose the sense of the boundaries of your own skin. That’s when you truly connect with someone.” She smiles. “Well, at least that’s true in my experience.”
In the melodrama (based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel) she’s a troubled seductress, trapped in a conventional marriage but yearning for the young shop girl (Rooney Mara) she’s fallen in love with.
Carol is repressed by society but the woman who plays her has strong views that she’s not afraid to express. About social media, for instance: “It’s pathetic – the whole thing about people worrying about what other people are going to think. I cannot for the life of me work out why adults are participating in it.”
Then there’s cosmetic surgery, which many actresses of her generation have embraced. Not Cate. “I look at people sort of entombing themselves and all you see is their little pinholes of terror.
And you think, ‘Just live your life. Death is not going to be any easier just because your face can’t move.’ I look at a face and see the work before I see the person. I don’t think people look better when they do it – they just look different.”
The same goes for resisting nips and tucks in other places. “When you’ve had children, your body changes. There’s history to it. I like the evolution of that history and I’m fortunate to be with somebody who agrees.”
Cate and Andrew, who first met on a TV show, have four children: sons Dashiell, 14, Roman, 11, and Ignatius, seven, and an adopted daughter named Edith. The family lived in Brighton for a while then moved back to Australia when the couple became joint directors of the Sydney Theatre Company. Cate stepped down in 2012 to concentrate on acting and when Andrew’s tenure is up at the end of the year, they will be relocating to America.
The couple are looking forward to growing old together, which is why The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, with its themes of ageing, albeit it in reverse for the central c
“If you age with somebody, you go through so many roles,” she says. “You’re lovers, friends, enemies, colleagues, strangers, you’re brother and sister. That’s what intimacy is if you’re with your soul mate.” Classing marriage as “a risk”, she adds: “It’s a great and glorious risk as long as you embark on the adventure in the same spirit.”
Catherine Blanchett was born in Melbourne to June, a teacher and property developer, and Robert, an American advertising executive who died of a heart attack when she was just 10. She was something of a rebellious teenager, flirting with punk and goth fashions and shaving her head, but she also did some acting at college.
“It was fun,” she recalls, “but I don’t think it crossed my mind that I could do it for a living.” Having seen her mother raising three children by herself, she wanted a more secure life and opted to study economics and fine arts. But the lure of acting was too strong and, after taking a year off to travel, she moved to Sydney to study at the National Institute of Dramatic Art.
The business has been good to her. After graduation, she worked in theatre and TV before breaking into film. Although she still loves theatre work, it’s her many movie roles that have made her an international star.
She’s had diverse roles in films such as Elizabeth, The Aviator (for which she won a best supporting actress Oscar), Blue Jasmine (a second Oscar, this time for best actress) and the Lord Of The Rings franchise.
She’s as comfortable in Middle-earth as she is in Manhattan and as brilliant in period dramas such as Carol as she is in contemporary dramas like Babel, prompting one journalist to ask her what she thought made her such a great actress. Her response? “Oh God, I am utterly the wrong person to answer that question. I have no idea. Hopefully a rich set of life experiences I’m able to draw on.”
That said, she won’t just play variations of herself. “I’m not interested in imposing my own value system on to a character.
It’s like having conversations continually with like-minded people. You get a very skewed perception of the way the world works.”
With a level head on her shoulders and what seems like a fulfilling life indeed, Cate has certainly had a very different set of experiences from the neurotic mess in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. She’d been waiting for Woody’s call, saying: “I had given up hope that he was ever going to ask me to be in one of his films, so I was thrilled when I heard he was interested.”
The Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe were hers for the taking, although it wasn’t an easy ride. “The trickiest thing for me was calibrating her outbursts because she’s not only fuelled by a cocktail of Xanax and alcohol, she’s also fuelled by a cocktail of panic, rage and guilt, and all of that is encased in this fragility of a woman who has been betrayed.”
Cate’s children were on location with her, so she was able to shake off the character at the end of a day’s filming. Becoming a mother has probably had more of an impact on her working life than adding Oscars to the mantelpiece. “Children certainly teach one about compromise.
They’re not interested whether you’re playing Lady Macbeth or Jasmine or Hamlet. They just want their dinner and for you to do their homework with them.”
Nevertheless, she’s proud of her awards and rave reviews. “When you have made a film you feel has merit and it’s found an audience and is critically well received, that’s a pretty pleasurable place to be.” She laughs. “You don’t want it to end up gathering dust at the bottom of someone’s DVD collection.”
That’s unlikely to happen with Carol, which has “instant classic” written all over it. Highsmith wrote the novel, with its then-risqué subject matter, under a pseudonym. “If this film had been made five or 10 years ago, it would have been perceived as being more political,” Cate believes.
“I think the landscape of the conversation around same-sex relationships has advanced, though not necessarily all around the world, so the universality of the love story comes to the fore rather than any sort of political agenda.”
She feels it resonates for today’s audience. “It’s about finding the timeless nature of it – the deeply human, eternal side of falling in love. That doesn’t change whether you’re wearing a corset or a G-string.”