HQ 2001

Films Photos Articles Quotes Fun Links

HQ 2001
Sunday Times 2001
Bazaar 2001
InStyle 2001
Gotham 2001
People 2001                                                

HQ April 2001


Queen B
Russian dancer, Elfin Queen, it doesn't take a psychic to know that 2001 will be big for the ever-unpredictable Cate Blanchett.

By Mark White

Even People who believe that psychics can tell the future are split into two camps: those who are happy to let it unfold in its own sweet time, and those who can't resist taking a peek at the last page of the book. Cate Blanchett is one of the former. She likes surprises, but not only that, she likes surprising. Her three films to be released in 2001 all show very different characters connected by an old-fashioned sense of nobility and truth and goodness; the flirtatious Russian dancer in The Man Who Cried, queen of the Elves in Lord of the Rings, and her current movie, The Gift. Here she plays a young widow, struggling to bring up three small boys, who has the shining and uses it to make ends meet.

The title is ironic, but then so is psychic ability; for all the naysayers who scoff that all you'd do is predict the Lotto results, why would anyone want to sit down with a stranger and know that their hopes and dreams were nothing more than nightmares and death? Blanchett's character Annie bears her gift with sadness. She hasn't come to terms with the death of her husband, and listening to other people is a lot better than listening to herself, but even then it's still no good. She meets a cocky young woman and sees her future, firm flesh rotting in the depths of a quiet river. Annie understands that even with the gift, all she can do is reassure.

At one point someone remarks that if she's so good then why didn't' she tell her dead husband he was going to die in an accident that day. She looks stricken, and another little part of her dies. She did know. She did tell him. God, as they say, only helps those who help themselves.

Blanchett burns bright in this odd, psychological-hokum horror story, directed by The Evil Dead director Sam Raimi. Many of the scenes were shot in one take, and it has a flat, video-style quality to it. While there's little depth to the screen or film, Raimi's cast flatters the finished product. Keanu Reeves shakes off his zen butterfly image to scare as a brutal redneck, Hilary Swank is his battered wife who can't muster the courage to leave him, but the film revolves around Blanchett. She's as much social worker as she is psychic, locking her private self away where no-one can see the pain. Above all, she's noble. What you see is what you get.

In interviews, Blanchett is down to earth, honest, funny and teasing. She has absolutely no side to her; what you see is what you get. And though it's a little bit of a cliché, she's very Australian in all the beast ways. It's only when it comes to the subject of her past life that she clams up. She also has a habit of asking questions back. It's very flattered, but you leave realizing that sure, maybe she was interested in where I'd bought my pants from, but didn't that take up a lot of time... for whatever reason, it's reduced the amount of time she has to spend talking about herself.

Blanchett's beloved father, an American naval officer who took up advertising, died while the family lived in Melbourne. She was 10 years old. After that, she became interested in horror films, she has said. She also once told a journalist that she was convinced her father had been kidnapped by "those scary CIA people."

"It's very difficult," says Blanchett of playing Annie, "for young men and women when their spouses die and they're left with children. I mean, their relationship with the children often becomes incredibly painful because they remind them of the family life the had with someone the y loved, it's incredibly painful." The parallels to her own life are too painful to point out further. She remembers being sat down at her father's work and one of his bosses speaking to her. "This is gonna be a very, very hard time for your mother," he told her. "You have to be very, very good." And, she remembers, "It kid of framed my whole relationship with my family?

In the very recent past, she's becomes Australia's best actress in a hotly contested field. She's a notoriously hard worker, always has been, always ready to try something new.

Blanchett graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Arts in 1992. The place had perfectly suited Blanchett's learning to the new. Its principal, John Clarke, used tot ell his students to put themselves out there: If you fail, fail gloriously. Take risks, and the rewards will come. "People are always saying," she recently told W magazine, "You've got to be sure you can do something.' Ugh! How boring is that? There's a lot of surprises and pleasure in the doing, and sometimes there's agony. That's just the process."

She picks, she's chosen, the roles keep coming; from the Lord of the Rings trilogy -- the first of which will premiere this coming December -- to Bandits, a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. Most actors would sell their grandmothers to be where she is, but it now seems Blanchett is coming home, to Sydney, to start a family.

Some people always know what they want to do, but not Blanchett. She was born in Melbourne on the 14 May, 1969, and went to school at the Methodist Ladies College, where she took full advantage of its theatre department. She has strong memories of dancing round the house with her mother, also of inventing video clips of her sister Genevieve (who's a notable set designer in her own right). The struggle between her artistic and practical side came soon after she took up a degree in economics and fine arts at Melbourne University.

The course didn't pan out as she expected. "When I got to university I sort of had to sit through three-and-a-half years of studying the cattle runs of 1860," she remembers. "It was so dry. And I really wanted to do International Relations which was fourth year. I was too impatient."

After 12 months she decided to take a year off and traveled through Europe. "In Australia," explains Blanchett, tongue ever-so-slightly in cheek, "we all take this trip, after high school and before university, when we become responsible and sleep with as many people as we can."

She went OS for seven months, had her heart broken in Italy, a really bad time in Turkey and ended up in Egypt. "I didn't know where I was going at all," she says. "I went alone. I just took off. You're so fearless at that age.

"When I think of the things I did! The back lanes that I ended up in at three in the morning... I was going to stay in England with a friend, but because I forgot to organize my papers they gave me just one week in the country. I was kicked out of England and I ended up in Egypt."

Which is where Cate Blanchett first appeared on celluloid. She had to be an American cheerleader in an Egyptian boxing movie. She remembers sitting on her bum, bored, for six hours, and eventually walking out because the d 9irector screamed at her.

Neither history nor Blanchett records the name of this film, but her teenage obsession had finally taken root. She returned to Melbourne, realized a lifetime of political economy was not for her, and auditioned for NIDA. She was amazed when she was accepted, and certainly wasn't going to drop out of this course, but equally she wasn't going to keep going in a career she might not have been any good at.

Creative but practical; Blanchett is split down the middle in many ways. "She's a contradictory personality," notes her friend Jonathan Kent, who directed her in David Hare's Plenty at London's Almeida theatre. "She has great command of her apparent candor while retaining a proper privacy, she's gregarious yet solitary, beset by doubt yet extraverted, witty yet melancholy... if cliché about Cate is that she's a chameleon, it's because all these things exist within her."

She chooses her roles accordingly. While she's almost stuck dumb with melancholy in The Gift, only moving when she has to, her next role is Russian dancer Lola in Sally Potter's The Man Who Cried flips that on its head. She befriends Christina Ricci, a silent, dark-haired Jewish refugee, and is a counterpoint in wise-cracking blondeness.

Here, Lola hides her insecurity and knowledge that her body's all she's got, and even that not for much longer, with a flurry of movement. She's tall, with red lips and nails, her mouth slashed wider than you think it could be. Everyone here is doing what they can to survive -- with her, it's sex. Struck by opera singer Dante Dominio (John Turturro), she decides she has to have him. She flatters him shamelessly, always looked up at him, sideways at him, flirting, touching, reassuring him he needs her as much as she needs him. She puts up with means long as she can; when Dominio oversteps the mark, she reaches beneath her mask of make-up and reconnects with the energy she lives on. Like in The Gift, Lola knows there could be an alternative, but she hasn't got one.

Fore Blanchett, it isn't a question of films or theatre. In an ideal world, it would be films and theatre. A good script and a good director comes first. She has a finely developed sense of detachment from her craft, and this enables her to treat it as a beautiful dream which may end at any moment.

"I never expect work to come to me," she said a few years back. "If my work is good, then it will generate more, and every job could possibly be the last. So I concentrated always on what was in front of me, while the people around me, my agent for example, was always saying, 'Cate you've got to plan a bit.' Hopefully this means my career will be slightly more eclectic. But it's not built out of an ambition to get there, I'll end up getting somewhere, I hope."