Published in the print version of New York Woman newspaper
Take Note of Cate Blanchett
by Christina M. Hinke
For New York Woman
Three spellbinding roles have come out at the tail end of 2006 for the luminous Cate Blanchett. In the noir-esque “The Good German” she takes inspiration from stars of the Golden Years in her role as Lena, the love interest of news correspondent Jake Geismar played by George Clooney.
This 21 st Century star knows how to channel the forthright leading ladies of classic film and of real-life rulers. She took home a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing ’40s femme icon Katherine Hepburn in “The Aviator” last year, and collected a nomination for the lead in “ Elizabeth” in 1997. With the usual Oscar buzz floating around this time of year, her name is buzzing freely for her nuanced performance as a tourist shot while traveling in Morocco in the dramatic film “ Babel”.
Most recently, the 37-year-old Australian actress’s riveting performance in “Notes on a Scandal” earned her a Golden Globe nomination. She stars opposite luminary Dame Judi Dench in Patrick Marber’s steely screen version of Zoe Heller’s novel of the same title. Blanchett plays the free-spirited Sheba Hart, a wife, mother of two teens, and young new art teacher whose life gets turned around when she begins an affair with one of her teenage students.
You’ve been very busy with your acting career this year. You once said that if you weren’t acting you would be getting behind wind technology. Donald Trump recently said in an article by The New York Times about the proposal of installing wind turbines to generate electricity on Long Island, near where his proposed three-story catering hall on Jones Beach would stand, that ''They are not a pretty thing to look at.'' What are your thoughts?
I wonder what they’re going to think when these twelve tipping points in the planet actually start to tip and their homes start getting submerged with water and the hurricanes become more frequent. Maybe they won’t think that’s very pretty either. Aesthetics doesn’t really come into it. I happen to find wind technology incredibly beautiful.
You have three profound roles this past year. Which role did you find the meatiest?
It’s like chalk and cheese really to try to compare my role in “ Babel” to “Notes on a Scandal” to “The Good German”. I was lying on a floor in a pool of blood for “ Babel,” whereas I got to do battle with Judi in ‘Notes’. Really, it is an extraordinary thing - and it’s not that I’m at all comparing myself to these actresses - but to see two great roles written like they were for, say, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. You really see these two women going after it with hammer and tongs. So I don’t know if I can compare the roles.
How did you become introduced to ‘Notes’?
I’m friends with Patrick Marber and he said in an off hand way, but then Patrick’s not at all off hand, so I realized he wanted me to know he was writing the screenplay. At first Judi wasn’t available and then she became available. I was so excited to be working with her.
As a mother of two boys, how did you come to terms with the fact that your character has a sexual affair with a 15-year-old boy?
It was the most difficult thing I ever had to do morally. I pride myself on not forming a judgment of character, you just present them warts and all. I was overwhelmed by my own moral judgment of her actions and really had to step back and liberate her from that judgment. The damage wrought by Sheba’s actions is not up for question. Unquestionably what she does is unspeakable. But it’s not a court case. It’s a dramatic work and blackly comic. You don’t want to make it too simplistic.
There are similarities here with the Mary Kay Letourneau case, the woman who had an affair with her 13-year-old student. Were you familiar with the case?
They did have sex in a car just after she was released from prison. There’s a certain level of exhibitionism and the desire to be caught. I thought of it absolutely in the fact that Sheba has sex in the summer house, in the bottom of her own garden, while her husband is upstairs moving around. There is a desire to self combust, to do something entirely destructive. To blow open her own life.
Do you have a line that you won’t cross in acting?
I’m not into gratuitous violence and gratuitous sex. I’m not interested in films that glorify holy war. I have to find the subject matter interesting. I didn’t think twice about playing this (‘Notes’). I think it’s absolutely ripe. It’s a fantastic mine field to dodge. If you don’t have flawed characters, I you don’t have a huge dilemma, then “Where’s the drama?” I think it’s an odd way to look at a film like this and say, “How could you play a role like that?” People go through this, as we know through stories in the media. It happens all the time.
Copyright 2007 Christina M. Hinke. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.