Whether she’s the last living Tudor Monarch of England and Ireland, the Elven Lady of Light that rules Lothlorien, or some true-blue-hundy-percent-fair-dinkum Aussie royalty, all will bow to the queenly greatness that is Cate Blanchett. With such mastery over her craft, Blanchett’s has reached elite status in stage and screen, winning almost every acting award there is, and even breaking a few records in the process. Here are some wise words from Her Excellency, herself, as well as some fun facts that prove exactly why she continues to reign supreme as one of the most celebrated talents in the world.
BLANCHETT on WHAT IS AN ACTOR…
“It was only when I realised how actors have the power to move people that I decided to pursue acting as a career.”
“People assume actors are born liars, but I’d argue the actor’s job is to tell the truth. And I’ve realised I’m not a good liar.”
“It depends who you speak to, but (acting) can often be seen as an indulgent profession – but I think it’s a compassionate profession. And you do see the world, for a short period of time, often through an unlikable person’s perspective. A person that you wouldn’t necessarily have a relationship with and then say: ‘how do they see the world? How do they pit themselves against the world?’ And so it does EXPAND you as a person.”
“Someone might have a germ of talent, but 90 percent of it is discipline and how you practice it, what you do with it… Instinct won’t carry you through the entire journey. It’s what you do in the moments between inspiration.”
Though it is hard to believe, Blanchett hadn’t originally planned on pursuing acting as a career and out of High School she studied Art History at the University of Melbourne. Although at 18, on vacation in Cairo, a fellow guest in her hotel gave Blanchett the opportunity to be an extra in an Egyptian boxing movie called ‘Kaboria’, in which she appeared in three scenes. After returning to Australia, Blanchett dropped out of her current studies and moved to Sydney to attend the National Institute of Dramatic Art, from which she graduated in 1992.
Her talent was instantly recognised and she was quickly cast in the Sydney Theatre Company’s rendition of David Mamet’s ‘Oleanna’, alongside Geoffrey Rush. Apparently, Blanchett’s initial instinct was to turn it down because she thought it was “a misogynistic piece of crap”, but has since described it as a turning point in her career. She recounted a particular incident when the director made her cry from a particularly heated critique, but then eventually he resumed their rehearsal with some tough love advice for the young actress – “He said: ‘it is not about you, it is about the work. I don’t care what your politics are, it’s about the audience’. And of course, he was right. And so suddenly I wasn’t putting my opinion, my perspective on the work – I just allowed the work to speak for itself, and as a result, it was absolutely thrilling to perform, but the audience had the experience. So that notion that (acting) is not for me but a generous act was instilled in me right there.”
BLANCHETT on HER ACTING PROCESS…
“If you know why someone is doing what they’re doing, why they’re behaving the way they are, then that’s your job to reveal that, and often that’s situational. The storytelling does that, and then some of it’s your job as an actor to make that subtext come to life.”
“You can research until you’re blue in the face, as I like to do (as much as my children will allow me), but it’s not really until you get to the DOING – sometimes it will come off the script, most of the time it does… A lot of the clues and points of interest do come from the script. But I think THE WORK and the people you’re around reveal what you need to do and how you need to do it.”
“You’re never in a static point. Just as our identity is not a static thing, your relationship to your work is not a static thing. And I think what keeps propelling me forward is going into the unknown. I’m always picking apart the bits that I’m not happy with, and thinking, ‘I don’t want to do that again’ – and it’s not necessarily the outcome, it can have to do with the process, even in works that have been well received by the public. That’s what keeps propelling me forward, otherwise I think I’d stop doing it all together.”
“I don’t like to reduce a role to fit me. The challenge to me is to expand to it. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s the challenge of it.”
“I love strange choices. I’m always interested in people who depart from what is expected of them and go into new territory.”
“Actresses can get outrageously precious about the way they look. That’s not what life’s about. If you starve yourself to the point where your brain cells shrivel, you will never do good work. And if you’re overly conscious of your arms flapping in the wind, how can you look the other actor in the eye to respond to them?”
“I’m not interested in playing characters who see the world through my prism; I think the journey of understanding any character is to see how they tick and how they differ from you.”
“As an actor, I endeavour to find the reason in the unreasonable. Because no one thinks they are being unreasonable or unrealistic or demanding or behaving madly. We all see ourselves as being justified.”
Cate Blanchett is no stranger to accolades for her work, and it should come as no surprise that her among her countless wins and nominations, she has even set new industry records. She came into global prominence playing young Queen Elizabeth I in the critically acclaimed 1998 film ‘Elizabeth’ for which she won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, and was nominated for the Best Actress. Her reprisal of the role in 2007’s ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ earned her a second Academy Award nomination, making her one of only six actresses in Oscar history to ever be nominated twice for playing the same role. In 2005, Blanchett portrayed Katherine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Aviator’ and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, which also made Cate the only actor to EVER to win an Oscar for portraying another Oscar winner.
In 2013, Blanchett played the lead role in Woody Allen’s ‘Blue Jasmine’, and joined the exclusive company of only nine other actresses in history to win the Best Actress Oscar, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild Award, and the Golden Globe for the same role. However, Blanchett’s brilliant performance in the film took the record to new heights and she now holds the title for the largest number of the ‘Best Actress’ award sweep for the one role – with a whopping 42 WINS. “To those who voted for me, thank you,” Blanchett said. “And to those who didn’t, better luck next year!”
BLANCHETT on THEATRE vs FILM…
“I feel like I’ve been marinated in Australian theatre.”
“I love theatre – it’s where I started – and I’ve directed a play myself. I’m not sure if I want to direct a film, but certainly, as an actress, I’m always thinking, ‘Surely this must be my last film’.”
“You know, when you see yourself on a big screen, I tend to watch from behind my hands. There is absolutely the regret. You always get that at the end of every project. That’s what’s great about theatre: at least every night you get the chance to go out and re-offend. I’m endlessly disappointed, which is what propels me into the next project, probably, not to repair the damage but to kind of hopefully keep developing. Otherwise, there’s no reason to keep doing it, is there?”
“What I love about the theatre is that you know who you’re acting for: your audience. And the thing I find really hard in film is, you don’t. The audience is invisible. And we’re sitting there, hoping there’s other people out there.”
“What happens a lot in film, though not so much in the theatre, is that you get stroked and sort of massaged, like a little guinea pig.”
“I find that the skills and the muscularity required to be on stage, you need to keep those up – I do, personally, in order to maintain your ability to perform on screen. You don’t want to always be working in the one medium.”
“You have to surrender less when you see a film than when you go and see something live.”
“When you’re onstage, you’re acutely aware of the reaction of a particular group of people, because it’s like a wave.”
Blanchett began acting professionally on the Australian stage, and while her career stretched quickly and spectacularly onto the silver screen as well, she never forgot her theatrical roots. In 2008, she and her husband, Andrew Upton, became artistic directors and co-CEO’s of the Sydney Theatre Company. “It was such a gift to have that long stretch of time…” she said in an interview when asked if her return to the stage benefited her cinema performances. “You exercise entirely different muscles… having to reach the back row, up there. But then on a set you understand the pictorial plane in a much more visceral way because of that time spent on stage. And certainly, I don’t think I could have attacked ‘Blue Jasmine’ in the way that I did, if I hadn’t played Blanch DuBois for that length of time. Not that (Woody Allen and I) ever, EVER, discussed ‘Streetcar (Named Desire)’… But there was something about living with that set of concerns that was a part of my DNA. Because there is a residue of each character that stays with you.”
BLANCHETT on PLAYING MEN…
“I always dressed as a man when I was at school. I loved wearing a tie and a shirt, and I was always wearing suits. Annie Lennox was my hero. I was always playing men in high school.”
“I think the height of ridiculousness was when I was playing Elizabeth in ‘The Golden Age’ while preparing to start shooting ‘I’m Not There’. I literally finished filming Elizabethan grandeur on Friday, flew to Montreal, and started being Bob Dylan on Monday.
Proving to be something of a changeling of an actor, Blanchett has many times actually played a member of the opposite sex. In the 2007 biopic ‘I’m Not There’ she starred as a version of Bob Dylan, garnering nominations for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and became one of only three actresses ever to be nominated for an Oscar for portraying a man. She has confessed that stuffing a sock down her pants helped authenticate her masculine walk. It is unknown whether she carried this technique into the 2015 film ‘Manifesto’, where Cate played an incredible 13 different characters, several of which were men.
BLANCHETT on WOMEN IN FILM…
“People talk about the golden age of Hollywood because of how women were lit then. You could be Joan Crawford and Bette Davis and work well into your 50s, because you were lit and made into a goddess. Now, with everything being sort of gritty, women have this sense of their use-by date.”
“I think there is a long exploration in American drama of women in particular who, by force of circumstances or because they are predisposed to, choose fantasy over reality.”
“And perhaps, those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the centre are niche experience, they are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.”
“It’s not just women in film, 18-year-old girls feel pressure to do preventative injecting. I see someone’s face, someone’s body who has had children and I think, they’re the song lines of your experience, and why would you want to eradicate that? I look at people sort of entombing themselves and all you see is their little pin holes of terror… and you think, just live your life, death is not going to be any easier just because your face can’t move.”
“Passion is a quality I admire in a woman.”
“The more you can remove the obstacles between you and the world as a woman, the easier and simpler life becomes.”
If there is one clear social-political crusade Blanchett has embraced and taken on with her success, it is the fight for women’s rights. At the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Blanchett took the lead in a red-carpet protest. She walked arm-in-arm with actresses like Selma Hayek, Kristen Stewart and 79 other female industry professionals, all marching together in demand of equal pay for women and to put an end to sexual harassment in Hollywood. “We demand that our workplaces are diverse and equitable so they can best reflect the world in which we live,” said Blanchett in her Cannes Jury Member statement.
It wasn’t long before her work choices started to reflect her passion for change, particularly when Blanchett co-starred alongside some of today’s finest actresses in 2018’s ‘Ocean’s 8’. She did, however, address the pressure that comes with trying to attract people to a film with a female-led cast, admitting that if it were negatively received it would reinforce the false narrative that audiences didn’t want to see such a movie. Although, she needn’t have worried – in its opening weekend ‘Ocean’s 8’ topped the box office, earning it the highest debut numbers of all the films in the ‘Ocean’s’ franchise.
BLANCHETT on LIFE, WORK and FAME…
“I live my life parallel with my work, and they are both equally important. I’m always amazed how much people talk about celebrity and fame. I don’t understand the attraction.”
“When you’re a performer, of course, you want an audience, but it’s very, very different from courting fame.”
“It’s important to travel and move and have a continual set of experiences so you’ve got more to feedback into your work. For me, it’s a natural thing.”
“Mind the gap – it’s the difference between life as you dream it and life as it is.”
“I don’t understand a way to work other than bold-facedly running towards failure”
“If you know you are going to fail, then fail gloriously.”
With such a cavalcade of successes and accomplishments, Blanchett has not only established herself as an outstanding ambassador of the arts, a marvellous maestro in the acting world, but also an honourable and inspiring representative for her fellow Australians. So much so that in 2012 the Australian Government awarded Blanchett the Centenary Medal for “service to Australian society through acting”. Although, perhaps more indicative of her position as Australian royalty, in 2009, in honour of her notable contribution to her country’s entertainment and culture, Blanchett appeared in a series of commemorative postage stamps entitled: ‘Australian Legends’.