Cate Blanchett is in a bit of a rush. Just days before
departing for England to star in her first international movie,
she has barely enough time to pack, catch her breath and
hurriedly chat about a career that most actresses can only dream
of. "It's a been a bit wild, hasn't it", the former
NIDA graduate admits. Now she's about to play a character
initially developed as a vehicle for Nicole Kidman - royalty's
most famous virgin, Queen Elizabeth I. "I must warn you,
it's not going to be a conventional historical biography. We're
taking bits and pieces of her life," says Blanchett,
unafraid and matter of fact, it seems, Blanchett shows little
signs of the strain that she would understandably feel. Elizabeth
"The film has SUCH a
good heart, and such a powerful effect, particularly on women
of a certain generation" on Paradise Road
"It's all very nice, but you've kind of got to put your
head down and keep working." Despite her new-found fame,
this really down-to-earth actress finds it easy to put it all in
perspective. "It helps when you have a supportive
husband." It's ironic that she met her husband [of less than
a year] on the set of the recent hit comedy, Thank God He Met
Lizzie. Ironic, because this new Aussie comedy/drama explored the
ups and downs of courtship and marriage. "I had such a ball
making that film." Blanchett says that part of her
attraction to Thank God He Met Lizzie, was that she was
"challenged by the difficulty of defining who Lizzie is. I
also loved the subversion of the script and the story."
Since graduating from Sydney's prestigious National Institute of
Dramatic Arts, Blanchett concentrated mainly on theatre, but now
it's her film career that has taken off in leaps and bounds,
along with the media spotlight.
Another film which would have had a similar effect on
audiences, was Paradise Road, a film savagely maligned by
American critics, but which is about to enjoy a resurgence on
video next month with a special Director's Cut. Blanchett, who
gave an astonishing performance as an Australian nurse, couldn't
understand the film's international reaction. "The film has
SUCH a good heart, and such a powerful effect, particularly on
women of a certain generation. But as far as the American critics
were concerned, there seemed to be a bit of an agenda
"There are certainly
fantastic female characters out there, but not just that,
there are also fantastic stories out there as well"
With actresses complaining about the dearth of decent roles,
Blanchett doesn't seem to be doing badly. The strong material is
coming in nicely, thank you very much. "Having just accepted
Elizabeth I, I have to say that it hasn't been difficult finding
strong women to play. There are certainly fantastic female
characters out there, but not just that, there are also fantastic
stories out there as well, and I think more and more, women
aren't put into films simply because they're women's movies, but
because there are exciting stories being written and told about
women as well." Blanchett wants to take "a more
pro-active role in that, as well as waiting for things to come
along, seeking them out and putting them into development, using
your track record to help you go further."
Blanchett recently returned home for more media scrutiny as
Oscar and Lucinda, in which she stars opposite Ralph Fiennes.
Based on the acclaimed novel by Peter Carey, the film is set in
mid-1800's England. Oscar (Ralph Fiennes) is a young Anglican
priest, a misfit and an outcast, but with the soul of an angel.
As a boy, even though from a strict Pentecostal family, he felt
God told him through a sign to leave his father and his faith and
join the Church of England. Lucinda (Cate Blanchett) is a young
Australian heiress who has an almost desperate desire to liberate
her sex from the confines of the male-dominated culture of the
Australia of that time.
"I can't believe how
lucky I am to have done that. Gillian [Armstrong] is such an
amazing film maker, and Ralph is incredible."
She buys a glass factory and has a dream of building a church
made almost entirely of glass, and then transporting it to the
Australian outback. Oscar and Lucinda meet on a ship going to
Australia; once there, they are for different reasons ostracized
from society, and join forces. Oscar and Lucinda are both
passionate gamblers, and Lucinda bets Oscar her entire
inheritance that he cannot transport the glass church to the
Outback safely. Oscar accepts her wager, and this leads to the
events that change both their lives forever.
It's a film about which she has much enthusiasm. "I can't
believe how lucky I am to have done that. Gillian [Armstrong] is
such an amazing film maker, and Ralph is incredible. It could be
an Oscar for Oscar, I think. It was a gift to work on, and the
whole experience was as good as it can get. It's a very moving
story, and one that hopefully will strike people as distinctive
from anything I've done before."
Despite the offers pouring in, don't expect Cate to be leaving
our shores permanently for wilder cinematic pastures just yet.
"I think the Australian film industry is a vital one, and
always has been. People keep saying there's a Renaissance but
it's been ongoing for years. If you look back, there have been
gems which will follow us in the years to come."