Marie-Claire Germany, March edition

Cate the Great

This is her year : Cate Blanchett has three big films coming out. Marie-Claire reporter Nicole von Bredow met an enthusiastic young mother, who openly talks about her private life.

Because of her, I slept badly for two nights. Because Cate Blanchett is as capricious as a queen. She doesn’t give interviews, she allows audiences in. I met the actress three times already, and each time I was presented with a different side of her personality. Once she seemed severe, once attentive and careful. But on our last encounter, Cate totally gave me the bus-off. Because of two questions. About her private life and about fashion. No, she won’t talk about those things. He who dares to infringe these interdictions will be met with a scornful smile, or frosty silence.

Thus, on our fourth encounter, I am prepared for the worst. That’s where she rushes to me in the London Dorchester hotel, greets me like a friend, hugs me. Babbles laughingly about her breast: “It’s at least four times bigger than before”. After all, she’s still nursing her son Dashiell John, born in December.
We drop in two sofas. Laughing. Cate is wearing no make-up except for a touch of lip gloss. The colour of her eyes? At least as hard to define as her. Depending on the atmosphere and lighting, their turn turquoise, or shine with a blue or grey-blue tinge. Cate is wearing tight black pants, a see-through chiffon-top and black satin shoes.

“They’re Gucci”. “Totally comfortable in spite of the high heels, otherwise I wouldn’t be wearing them”. While she fingers the satin-ribbon that circles her ankle, she adds, “I bought them because they remind me of ballet. I love ballet.”

What was that again – no fashion statement? Even Queen Cate suddenly seems to remember her own decree: “It totally annoys me that actors and actresses should be rated differently. With the men, one talks of skills. With the women, only beauty and styling count. In Hollywood, the wrong dress can even endanger your career.” A faux pas that the fashion- conscious actress will not let happen. The fashion police acknowledges her style and elegance whenever she makes a public appearance.

Instinct and taste also govern her choice of roles.

Her fame started in 1998 with Renaissance monarch “Elizabeth”. She then convincingly portrayed wealthy Erbin Meredith in the Highsmith adaptation of “The talented Mr. Ripley. In the “Gift”, her interpretation of a widowed mother of three who becomes a psychic reader to make a living was full of sensitivity. And recently, in “The Lord of the Rings”, she was Galadriel, etherial queen of elves.

In the coming weeks one will see her in two bestsellers adaptations. “The shipping news”, based on Annie Proulx, tells about eccentric characters in Newfoundland. In “Charlotte Gray”, adapted from the novel by Sebastian Faulk, Cate Blanchett embodies the Scottish heroin, who falls in love with a British pilot in 1942. When he fails to come back from a combat order in France, Charlotte decides to go and look for her lover beyond the enemy lines.

Cate Blanchett has long been a lover of Faulk’s book. She was moved to tears when reading it, because “even in apparently hopeless situations, Charlotte never loses faith”. When one knows of Cate’s own walk of life, one understands how personal that statement is. Cate was ten when her safe childhood world collapsed. A relative went to fetch the girl, her elder brothers and her small sister from a film show in their Melbourne home-town. At forty, Blanchett’s father had died of a heart attack. The mother had to raise the family on her own. When recalling those hard times, the actress quotes a line from the English writer William Thackeray: “The best that I can wish you, my child, is a little unhappiness”. Or in other words, what does not kill you makes you stronger.

“What my father taught me about life?”, she asks softly, immediately answering herself: “Carpe diem – enjoy the moment. Because life can be very short. That’s why I know how to cherish simple things”. In her London home in intellectual Hampstead she plods the garden, bakes bread, cooks, sleeps a lot.

She misses Australia, her home-country, a little. Sometime, she intends to go back. The laid-back way of life of her fellow Australians is more her type than that of the stiff Bristish. “I really don’t like to generalize. But we Australians actually are pragmatic, fearless and unfrightened”, she says. The Aussie-gene also came in handy when she had to deal with the hardships of the film industry. “Since I was raised at the arse of the world, I don’t take myself too seriously. And, given that Australians are so much out of the way, they have to achieve much more to reach the top“. Something her colleagues can confirm. Cate is considered to be an extremely concentrated worker, who knows exactly what she wants. “In front of the camera, I want to explore my limits. Above all, I want to try out complex characters. Fame doesn’t mean that much to me, only a good script does”.

That’s why she immediately agreed when Tom Tykwer offered her the front part in “Heaven”. The script of the story about this young teacher confronted with drugs was written by acclaimed Polish film director Krysztof Kieslowski, who died in 1996. Cate Blanchett still raves on about her collaboration with Tykwer : “I believe we are soul mates. He works in the same obsessive way I do. And Tom did a brilliant job out of a tricky task. He managed to preserve Kieslowski’s legacy without giving up his own self in the process.”

“Heaven” was filmed in Bottrope. Not exactly the appropriate place for a world-famous star. However, Cate was very excited: “I was totally delighted, because Pina Bausch’s dance theatre in Wuppertal was only a stone’s throw away.” Eventually, nothing came out of the visit”. “I wanted to see a performance – and guess where Pina Bausch was? In Australia. The one time in my life I come to Wuppertal, and the woman is in my native country”.

But Cate Blanchett knows how to handle disappointments in a philosophical way. “When something doesn’t work out, it’s often for reasons that show only in retrospect. In this I have a strong faith in God. I think that specific events and encounters in one’s walk of life are predetermined. Destiny can only accomplish itself when one is relaxed and composed.”
That’s how things must have happened in 1997, on the set of “The Wedding Party (Thank God he met Lizzie)”. That’s where she met her future husband, Australian scriptwriter Andrew Upton. “I really was very lucky, because it didn’t work out so well at first. But Andrew is a very wise man. He is my backbone, he gives me security.” For a few moments, it seems as if Cate Blanchett were lifting the protective armour from her private circle. Suddenly, the queen comes to her senses, quickly drops a few farewell words and walks away on her high heels.