Gotham December 2001/January 2002
Making Out Like a Bandit
Australian stunner Cate Blanchett has tackled such
far-flung roles as a virgin queen, southern small-town
psychic, and housewife on the run, winning over the
hearts of critics and audiences alike. This holiday sees
the release of the much-anticipated first installment of
The Lord of the Rings, in which Blanchett co-stars as
Lady Galadriel, Queen of the Elves, opposite such heavy
hitters as Sir Ian McKellen and Liv Tyler. Shep Moragn
catches up with the actress who talks frankly about her
upcoming roles, her fast-approach motherhood, her shorn
hair, and yes, the quandary of diaper services.
If there's an antidote to typecasting, Cate Blanchett
has it -- in spades. What sets her apart? Chalk it up to
her uncanny ability to disappear into a stunningly
diverse range of roles from a Tudor-era British queen to
an American housewife running away from a bad marriage
with a pair of bank robbers.
Now, the very pregnant actress has taken a breather at
home in London, awaiting the birth of her first child
with her husband, screenwriter Andrew Upton. But while
she's on the sidelines, Blanchett will be seen
everywhere on the big screen. She's' Queen of the Elves
in Lord of the Rings, the two-timing ex-wife Petal Bear
in The Shipping news, and heroic World War II volunteer
in Charlotte Gray, and a teacher jailed in Italy after
her plot to bomb a drug dealer goes horribly wrong in
The 32-year-old Australian has been dazzling critics and
audiences with her chameleon-lie skills ever since she
heated up the screen with Ralph Fiennes in Oscar and
Lucinda. Then cam Elizabeth, which brought her critical
acclaim, an Academy Award nomination for best actress,
and an avalanche of offers.
In Charlotte Gray (based on the best-selling novel by
Sebastian Faulks) Blanchett reunited with fellow Aussie,
acclaimed director Gillian Armstrong (Oscar and
Lucinda). Blanchett plays the title character, a
Scottish woman working in Britain during World War II.
When her boyfriend, an RAF pilot, is classified as
missing in action she volunteers for a secret mission
behind enemy lines in France. Under cover, she helps the
French resistance and falls in love with a local leader
played by Billy Crudup.
On an early fall night in London, Blanchett opens up to
Gotham. She3 has just shared a dinner with her husband,
which they cooked together (she confides that he's the
more adventurous cook). She settles back in their
two-floor apartment, and the conversation flows...
Gotham: Let's talk about dancing. You and your husband
learned together, didn't you?
CB: When we were dating we decided that we wanted to
dance, so we went to the Fred Astaire Studio. The
instructor told us that the tango was our dance. We've
got a couple of friends who are wonderful tango dancers,
so we dip into it occasionally with them.
G: Is dancing on hold until after the birth?
CB: Oh, no, we are going to go around next week,
actually. It is probably easier fro Andrew now that I'm
pregnant. He's got more to grip.
G: So how are you holding up?
CB: I've been spending a lot of sleepless nights in
preparation for more sleepless nights. Being pregnant,
expecting a baby, is an enormous thing really. I don't
think one can even fathom the change. But just like
everything else I take it a step at a time. I keep
telling myself that I shouldn't panic.
G: After working non-stop on film locations around the
world, you're suddenly sitting quietly in a London flat.
Aren't you getting antsy?
CB: I thought I would. I told a friend yesterday that I
thought it would take me months to wind down, and it
actually took me about two-and-a half minutes. It was
very easy. I was about ready to stop anyways.
G: Do you have a little "when I'm pregnant" list of
things you'd like to accomplish?
CB: Yes, and the list remains as long as my leg. The
only thing I've really done is call the people that I
didn't speak to last year. That was at the top of my
list. But finishing my university degree, speed-reading
courses? No, I don't think so. Now, I'm concentrating on
which nappy [diaper] service to get. That's the sort of
thing that you actually end up doing.
G: Do you have a closet full of trendy maternity
CB: I have some but I don't know about trendy. Actually,
I have sort of the popped the elastic on the top of all
my pants. Those are my mainstays.
G: do you have a list of names yet?
CB: That is such a responsibility naming someone. We're
still working on that. I'll have tog et back to you.
G: Let's see, you named your Jack Russell Terrier "Egg."
You aren't planning something that off-beat for the baby
CB: Well, what should I call a dog, Boo Boo? Egg is just
a dog. He was the runt of the litter, and he's white so
he looks like a little egg. Ironically , the vet we take
him to has cats that are called Egg and Milk. I think
maybe it's an English thing.
G: Now Egg is going to have to contend with a new face
in the house.
CB: My husband said the dog is going to be number four.
He's a big number four. In fact he's not called Egg
anymore, he's called number four.
G: Will your husband be there, do you think, for the
delivery, or have you not discussed it yet?
CB: Oh yes, absolutely, he will be there. I don't envy
him. I mean, if I had to watch Andrew in the amount of
pain I'll probably be experiencing, I don't know what
G: What's the secret to the obviously very happy
relationship you share with Andrew?
CB: We don't' take ourselves too seriously. I just love
him. It is quite simple actually. I think when things
are good, they are very simple. He is just incredibly
gifted and a generous human being, and I'm blessed. I'm
going to start to cry if I talk about this much more.
G: Does it take somebody who is very secure in
themselves to have a wife who is so successful and gest
so much worldwide attention?
CB: Oh absolutely. Andrew is the strongest person I
know. He's got his own life and he does his own thing.
It's fantastic to be with someone whose mind is so
incredible and who is able to speak with you about your
work in a sort of complex way without the fluff -
although, he understand s the fluff side of the
business, too. Andrew was the fist person I could
actually talk to about my acting because it's very
private for me. But soon we'll probably be talking about
G: Even though you're off movie sets for awhile, we're
going to be seeing something of a Cate Blanchett film
festival in the next few months including the much
anticipated Lord of the Rings where you get to play a
CB: Yes, but a slightly more abstract one since
Galadriel happens to be Queen of the Elves. It's a lot
easeir to research an elf queen than the Queen of
G: It's no secret that they gave ou pointy ears. Did you
feel like you were in Star Trek?
CB: No, they're beautiful ears. I feel in love with them
and the special effects workshop had them bronzed and
I've actually put them on my mantle piece. They're
G: They might seem a little odd but not as strange as
your collection of glove molds. How did that begin?
CB: My sister bought a really quirky ceramic frog once,
and she had it in her room. One of her friends saw it
and got her another frog. All of a sudden people said,
"oh my God, she collects frogs," and they started giving
them to her. It's a little big like that with me and the
hands. I found this fantastic ceramic glove mold which I
brought home. then people just started to give them to
me. My husband brought one back from Australia that he
got from his father who is a doctor. I think it must be
plastic, and you can pull the hand apart and see all the
workings, so that's my pride and joy. I do find hands
G: Let's talk about that all important subject, hair. ou
gave it all up for your role in Heaven, which will be
released early next year.
CB: Yes, I had my head completely shaved on camera. I
found that as the days approached to the moment, the
tension became ridiculous. It was actually my idea to do
it as part of a scene and that meant no re-takes. I was
so relieved when it was over. You know when you see a
field of wheat and it's being caressed by the wind?
That's what my head felt like. It was just fantastic. I
wouldn't do it again tomorrow, but the fist of of couple
of months is great. Then, you start looking like a
tennis ball, and that is not expected.
G:Was it liberating?
CB: Its liek when you're a teenager and just want to go,
"Fuck it, I'm going to shave my head." Actually I shaved
the back of my head when I was like 15 and it was great.
G: Was that your punk phase?
CB: Oh, I don't know. I wish it were more punk. It was
probably a little bit more Cydni Lauper. But I found it
liberating in the sense that I thought I was back to
neutral and I could go anywhere from there.
G: You took on a very challenging lead role in Charlotte
Gray playing an ordinary woman who find extraordinary
potential in herself. Charlotte Gray is a woman who goes
on a voyage of self discovery, wouldn't you say?
CB: Yes Charlotte loses herself to find herself. She's
an idealist, absolutely, and she is searching for some
value to her life. She finds it by volunteering to go
behind enemy lines.
G: Do you ever test yourself, wonder if confronted
within the same set of circumstances you would have been
up to what Charlotte did?
CB: Oh, Absolutely. She's very self-possessed, and
refuses to let her spirit be defeated by the war. I
don't know about you, but I've had many many days since
September 11 where I am in absently Despair. You think"
What can you do?" charlotte says in the film, "I want to
do something. I've got to get out there. I want to be
brave." She wants to combat her feelings of
powerlessness. Now, a few decades later, I find myself
dealing with the same dilemma.
G: There's a lot of very demanding physical action in
Charlotte Gray. Were you up to it?
CB: I think so, even though I'd just found out i was
pregnant, which is something i kept to myself during
filming. They put us through a really nasty obstacle
course to get ready. And it was freezing, bloody cold. I
spent a lot of time on a bicycle. Every day it seemed
I'd go to the set and I was back on the damn bicycle. I
did manage to avoid the parachuting scene. I think I'd
do almost anything for work, but i don't know if I would
jump out of a plane. Fortunately, It wasn't asked of me.
I'm in practically every frame in the film really, so
they were paranoid that something might happen to me.
G: Your leading man, who plays a French resistance
leader, is Billy Crudup. He has that sex symbol image.
Did he live up to his billing?
CB: He'll be furious if he hears you call hima sex
symbol. Gillian Armstrong told him one night that a take
he had done was sexy, and he almost threw up. I think
Billy is just interested in doing the work. I don't
think he's intereste in the labels people attach to him.
He resists that.
G: How do you feel when people call you sexy, befcause
CB: You are the first one today. It hasn't happened very
muchin the last even-and-a-half montsh. I mean, it's
embarrassing when peopel describe you. I am m uch more
outwrd looking, trying not to focus too mch on myself.
But I don't mind being called sexy, expecially right
G: You were both sexy and evil in The shipping News
playing Petal Bear, the two-timing ex-wife of Kevin
Spacey. How would you describe that role, which is small
CB: Delicious is the word. I thought, "How can there be
so much evil in a character who's around in the story
for such a short time?" It was something I hadn't played
before, and I thought it would be really great fun. And
it was. I just wanted to test the waters in a different
area. I thin once you reach a certain level you can lose
your drive to experiment. It's not that I'm at any
particularly high level, but maybe I'm perceived in a
way that could sort of push me to end up not doing
something that I love, but what you are sort of expected
to do. I just thought, "No, I really want to try this
out, even if I fall flat on my face."
G: A lot of actors say, "Let me play a a villain. It's
twice as much fun."
CB: I say let me play anything different, whether it be
a villain or an elephant. But I mean, it was great
coming off of Charlotte Gray to play Petal Bear because
Charlotte was obviously far more complex.
G: Given the mood of the world right now do you think we
may be looking for more films like Charlotte Gray?
CB: Definitely. I think that a lot of those smash 'em up
films that have been pulled have left room for perhaps
more thoughtful pictures to come in and actually get a
bit more attention. I thin a lot of those films are very
life affirming, and I think that Charlotte Gray is one
of them. I think telling stories is part of the healing
process. Look at the way since that terrible day people
have needed to say where they were and what they were
doing and who they know. And I think that's what telling
stories on-screen and on-stage does as well. I hop art
has a place in people's consciousness at the moment,
because I think it's a place where new ideas are born.
G: Does being pregnant take on some extra meaning in
such an uncertain time?
CB: I think it has been very comforting to know I'm
going to have a child. It's the ultimate expression of
hope, because you have to be hopeful. This child won't
know what life was like before. This is the world now.
it forces you to be positive and optimistic and often
G: After the tragedy was there ever a moment when you
wondered if it was the right time to have a baby?
CB: I think above everything there is not a right time
to have children. You can sort of prepare yourself as
best as you can but there's a new being that's going to
affect the rhythm of your life. You just have to b e
open to it. I'm also not worried about how it's going to
affect my career. I'm not a fearful person. There's more
to life than acting, love it as I do.
G: You've played such a stunning range of characters
with an ability to disappear into each one of them. Do
they stay with you?
CB: I've been lucky to be involved with very diverse
projects where different thinks have been asked of me,
so I think that in a lot of ways I don't get item to
become sentimental about a role. I'm sort of moving on
to the next thing. And in a lot of was it makes it
really easy to let go. I find the more I do, the easier
it is to let go of the experience. You know, people talk
about Elizabeth, and I just think, "My God, It's so long
ago." So much has happened to me in that time. And now
I'm beginning a whole new chapter."