A very interesting interview with Cate + images from yesterday (November 30) where she promoted Pirelli’s Calendar.
Cate Blanchett is the last person you’d ever associate with the Pirelli calendar, that annual collection of titillating celebrity nudes. The likes of Iman, Gisele, Helena Christensen, Alek Wek and Kate Moss have all posed, in artful black and white and various states of undress, for the Italian tyre-company’s soft-porn institution.
But Blanchett has agreed to launch – but not appear in – the 43rd calendar, not least because it looks nothing like its 42 predecessors.
For the first time, the Pirelli Calendar has moved away from its typical coterie of young glamorous models in favour of a diverse range of women and ones who’ve made a notable contibution to public life. This year’s “calendar girls” include singer-songwriter Patti Smith, author Fran Lebowitz and artist Yoko Ono. But what’s even more ground-breaking is the fact that the women are wearing clothes.
Blanchett was inspired to act as an ambassador for the calendar by her friend Annie Leibovitz, this year’s chosen celebrity photographer.
“What I find fascinating about this calendar is you think of Pirelli as being a certain type of female iconography into which a lot of these women who are being represented [this year] don’t necessarily fit.
The variety of age, race and body shapes appearing in the calendar is impressive. Just two of the women posing for the 2016 calendar are nude, of their volition – Williams, and comedian Amy Schumer – and neither are playing into the calendar’s traditional male gaze. Instead, Blanchett says their nudity is “ironic”, and deliberately subverts Pirelli’s stereotypical idea of what sexy is.
“It’s really harnessing the female gaze,” she explains, sitting across from me in a black trouser suit, her legs spread wide like a man.
“There are a lot of women who would perhaps aspire to the traditional form of what Pirelli has previously said is sexy. But what I find interesting about this is that it’s the diversity and the uniqueness of all the women that’s sexy. The lack of pretension in the images is what I find sexy.”
The photos are all natural – they have not been airbrushed and show the women’s flaws in a way that Pirelli’s former calendars never did. “I personally subscribe to the more Japanese view of beauty which is that something can’t be truly beautiful unless it has a flaw.,” says Blanchett. “It’s the flaw that points the perfection and the perfection that points the flaw.”
It’s why Blanchett is generally against airbrushing in magazines: “If you’re being airbrushed to take away the very reason why you were on the cover on the first place, it seems a bit pointless. You’re there because you’re you supposedly and if they’re trying to make you look like someone else, it’s like, why didn’t you just shoot someone else? It seems counter-productive.
“But sometimes it’s because people don’t know how to light, and you’re not in that situation with Annie Leibovitz.”
It seems timely that 2016 is the year that Pirelli has chosen to ditch nudity. Playboy recently decided to end full-frontal nudity in its pages, two of the bestselling ‘lads mags’ FHM and Zoo, famous for their pornographic images of women, have folded and Hollywood actresses such as Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke have spoken out against excessive nudity on screen.
Is Pirelli just trying to ride a wave?
“It’s very interesting Pirelli has done this this year,” agrees 46-year-old Blanchett. “But it’s not a trend. Hopefully it’s just a move in a more interesting direction.”
The move away from nudity is something she can personally identify with. She tells me she’s had to turn down roles in her own career because they required levels of nudity she was uncomfortable with and that, despite her A-list status, she is constantly trying to define her own career boundaries.
“I’ve said no to [some nude roles],” she says. “At the time you think, maybe I missed out on something. In a way you never say no, but it’s claiming the space where you can say no. Or more importantly, you say why? Why are we naked here? Why is this thing being blown up here? If there’s a really good reason for it, you think OK that’s important. But if there’s no good reason for it, then don’t do it.”
She isn’t against nudity in general: “I think some of the greatest works of art are nude. But it’s when it’s gratuitous or exploitative. I think we pretend we don’t know when it’s crossing a line but we do know when it is.”
In today’s society, that line isn’t always clear – whether it’s for Hollywood actresses, Pirelli models or teenage girls on Instagram. “It’s got a lot to do with intimacy, hasn’t it?” agrees Blanchett. “The lines are quite blurred about the prizing of intimacy or privacy.
“It’s a very different landscape to when I was emerging. I think there’s always pressure where people feel they have to do certain things in order to get somewhere. But you have to ask yourself, is this going to get me anywhere? Does it feel right or icky?”
This is the formula she uses to choose her roles, and recently, it’s worked. Her performance as a lesbian housewife in Carol with Rooney Mara was widely praised. The only criticism was that it fell into the Hollywood trap of using straight actors to play lesbian gay bisexual trans (LGBT) roles.
But Blanchett rejects the idea that actors have to have the same sexual orientation as their characters: “I played a mother before I’d been a mother. I’ve played people with mental illness without actually having to be mentally ill. Your role as an actor is to imagine yourself into someone else’s reality.
“When you work with directors who ask you to enter a reality that you haven’t necessarily lived, it expands your sense of what it means to be human. When you work with really great photographers like Annie they create this world and you’re part of it.”
Now all that remains to be seen is whether Pirelli sticks with the clothing-optional approach for its 2017 calendar – or if the temptation to go back to nudes proves too great.