Cate Blanchett is one of Australia’s leading exports; the actress who made the
historic Elizabeth, Queen of England, a real, human figure in a role that many believe
should have won her an Oscar, is a genuine world star. And after having finished working
in Heaven, Cate went on to shoot two more films, back to back. She’s hot, as they
say. (Cate Blanchett was made Ambassador for the Australian Film Institute recently
[April 5, 2001].)
In mid 2001, Cate Blanchett begins filming The Shipping News, adapated from Ann
Rice’s international best seller. But first, in March & April 2001, Cate is
shooting the adaptation of the much acclaimed novel, Charlotte Gray. She took a Sunday
morning break to talk about her latest film to release in Australia, The Gift, in which
she plays a young widowed mother with psychic gifts, co-starring with Greg Kinnear, Katie
Holmes and Giovanni Ribisi – with who she also worked on Heaven, directed by Tom
Tykwer (Run Lola Run).
How do you form a character like the on in The Gift, that is outside your own
I wish I could answer your question…I don’t really have a process, which is
quite scary, so every film I start I have to find my way through it. And even though
it’s a psychological thriller, and Sam Raimi’s background is sort of
‘horror with heart’, I felt it was really important to me, given the genre, to
find the centre of the character, which is the guilt she feels surviving her
Were there any reference points of people, who you used to formulate the inner workings
of the character?
I met a psychic in Savannah, quite an extraordinary person who was intensely private and
my understanding of psychics – never having been to one – was that they were
very public. Almost showman type figures. I also met [screenplay writer] Billy Bob’s
[Thornton] mother, which was an interesting reference point for me, knowing Billy
Bob’s history and that she didn’t want anyone to know that’s what she did,
because once people know you have that psychic ability, you open a whole can of worms and
it’s very exposing for them – if that makes any sense…
It does…I wonder if it has any parallels for you in fame? Once you acquire fame
you become a target for attention and people want things from you – like people want
things from a psychic?
Oh I didn’t think about that at the time…but I think that is interesting.
Because I think you do have to maintain a mystery – not between you and the public
but between you and what you channel as an actor. And if you become too conscious it can
be a hinderance because I think there is a spiritual…shaman side to being an actor as
well as a very technical, specific side. And if people know too much, it gets in between
the screen and the audience. I like that distance.
I want to ask you about the joys of success and the price of fame…because you have
achieved what a lot of actors set out to achieve, namely choice and do good work.
Having been an actor for a while, it’s very easy externally to connect the dots.
Whereas I’ve just been making it dot by dot by dot . . . and all of a sudden,
externally I seem to have a career path. But it’s not something I consciously set out
to do. It’s just what felt the right thing to do at the time...
I understand that, but you are in a position to pick the fruits of success by having
choice; am I right in that?
Ah…yes, I’m certainly offered a lot more things than I was a few years ago
– but at the same time, after Elizabeth, I was asked to do a lot of things that
replicated what I had already done – you know, some for a lot of money. And then you
have to have a lot strength to say why am I doing this, why am I an actor?
And how did you answer those questions…those offers?
In the face of a lot of money you have to find a lot of inner strength [laughs]. But in
the end they’re not hard decisions to make. You know – I’m not a banker,
I’m an actor.
What are some of the hard decisions? I am sure there are some.
The more secure your position becomes, the more important it is to keep taking risks and
to embrace the right to fail. For me it’s important to keep challenging myself and to
keep taking on things I don’t necessarily know how to do. It’s incredibly public
so you don’t want to fall flat on your face – but you do have to take that risk.
I always find it disappointing when good actors reach certain levels and you think, why
are they taking the soft option?
Now – when as you put it, internally there wasn’t a career path but
externally there seemed to be one – is there a path you have build; do you have to
become more business oriented the more successful you become?
I think you natrually acquire some business acumen – but it doesn’t drive my
decisions. The more public you become the more people have opinions on what you should do.
You still love acting? And it’s still what you want to do for the rest of your
life? Or do you want to perhaps move behind the camera in any shape of form?
Not necessarily behind the camera; I’m always hoping I’ll grow out of this type
of work. I’m hoping I’ll tire of it and do something sensible.[laughs]
Published April 19, 2001