So many actresses in their early prime seem in arrested adolescence. Their coquetry and little-girl voices suggest they’re campaigning for prom queen, not great film roles. Cate Blanchett is gloriously different. She’s a grownup, radiating an aristocracy that has no fancy airs, just a warm, alert intelligence. Beauty helps, and height (she’s 5 ft. 8 1?2 in.), but what’s crucial is that regal poise. Onscreen her magic can ennoble those in her orbit (when she’s a virgin queen in Elizabeth or the Lady of L√≥rien in The Lord of the Rings). Sometimes it dashes them on the rocks of malice (as in Veronica Guerin and Notes on a Scandal). Either way, as an icon or a threat, the Blanchett woman is a prize worth fighting, scheming, dying for. [More]