Cate the Great
By Cleo Glyde
Photo Credit: Richard Bailey
Yet it's a smaller stage that really excites her now: Blanchett and her husband, Australian playwright Andrew Upton, are set to take over as co-artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company.
"When the idea came up, I thought, wow, that is something to do with your life," she says. "It's in the company charter that it will be run by an artist, not a bureaucrat. Of course, now we've got to go about the hard slog of enacting all our visions and ideas!" which include turning the theater "green," that is, making it the first theater company in the world to run on solar energy and rainwater.
Detractors would like to think that what chiefly recommends Blanchett for this job is her fame. "Some people are intrigued, excited, amazed, outraged. Good!" she says. "The theater is where I came from that's the great irony. At the beginning [of my movie career], I felt a little outside filmmaking, and finding pleasure in it took me quite a while."
The STC's current artistic director, Robyn Nevin herself a great actress has referred to Blanchett and Upton as "true theater creatures, each wonderfully gifted." While other Aussie actresses, such as Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts, spent their early years in purgatory doing bottom-feeder movies, Blanchett's craft was honed onstage playing Ophelia in Hamlet. In 1997, Bruce Beresford fought to cast her in Paradise Road, her feature-film debut, as a nurse who is tortured in a WWII prison camp. The female lead in Oscar and Lucinda followed, as did Elizabeth, which made her an international star.
I ask Blanchett if she was aware at the time that her life was going to change forever. "I just don't see myself as the heroine in my own narrative," she says. "It was all kind of business-as-usual for me. I thought, This is fine, thank you very much. One moment led to the next."
Although Blanchett's profile could be mistaken for patrician and aloof, it is belied by speech patterns still peppered with Aussie expressions like "give it a go" and "good on you," or the slang she taught her Babel costar Brad Pitt for trousers that ride up "hungry bum." And when I ask her if the empathy that allows her to inhabit a wide range of characters ever spills over into real life, she says with a sultry laugh, "Oh, look, I'd like to think so, but some people just give you the shits! Obviously, curiosity is an enormous component of why we're actors. I discovered early on that some performers live their life in order to act, so all their relationships are simply an experience that they can feed back into their work. Which I find vampiric. Of course, there is a theatrical quality to your 20s and late teens, and I'm glad to have got all that crap out of the way at drama school, behind closed doors!"