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INT: Cate Blanchett

Dec. 13, 2006by:

Any actress privileged enough to be cast with such incredibly talented, gorgeous, charming and sexy leading men all in one year should consider herself the luckiest woman alive! Then again Cate Blanchett is an extraordinary actress who can hold her own against the likes of A-list actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and now George Clooney. She is well poised and sophisticated with classical beauty and old world Hollywood glamour that is a rare find in this century.

Academy Award winner Blanchett stars opposite Clooney in the upcoming Soderbergh film, THE GOOD GERMAN, in which she portrays a jaded German woman who has survived the atrocities of WWII. Having witnessed such horrors, she has become an unbreakable, complex character who is burdened with many secrets and lies. Blanchett has previously gained critical acclaim for her performance in THE AVIATOR, ELIZABETH, VERONICA GUERIN and recently, BABEL . The versatile actress is truly captivating as she puts on a convincing German accent to take on the challenging role of Lena in THE GOOD GERMAN. Its no surprise that she is in such high demand.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Blanchett to talk about her numerous films in the making, juggling her schedule, George Clooney, and her perspective on filming THE GOOD GERMAN. Check out what she had to say.


Cate Blanchett

Cate, you have a lot of movies out this Fall.

Thats a bit of an understatement, isnt it? Thats not my doing.

How do you decide which one you actually get to come out and talk to us for? Theyre all great roles, great movies. How are you able to balance all this out?

Babels out already, so there you go. Thats one down. I think (The) Good German and Notes (on a Scandal) are being released in very quick concessions, which if I had my way, Id have Christmas off in addition to being away from studios.

Your accent in this film doesnt sound like a Hollywood German accent. It sounds like a real German accent. Can you talk about the dialect training you might have undergone?

You mean someone like James Mason doing.

Honest to God, it sounds like a German person.

I think the model was more the European actresses who were embraced by Hollywood during that period. As an actress, I watched a lot of Hilda Garnett, whose work I didnt know before; and Maria Louis Reyna and Ingrid Bergman. Fortunately when its released in Germany, it would be dubbed. What the difference I suppose is that if it was a film of the 40s then I wouldnt be speaking German and that Steven decided at the 11th hour, when I arrived, that in fact he wanted me to speak German. It melded internal panic there, but there was a fantastic German advisor who helped me and obviously Christian, who was playing Lenas husband, was fantastic and great to have an actor who said that if it you give it this cape, it would have a different meaning.

Are you the kind of actress who has to speak the language on the set all day?

I think the more you do as an actor the more facility you have to switch on and off. Maybe five or six years ago, I think when I played Elizabeth for the first time, I called home and my husband asked why I am speaking funny and I didnt think that I was. I think your facility is greater than what you do. Ive certainly have done that a lot.

Steven (Soderbergh) wanted to work in the style of the 40s, so did that go through in the day?

He didnt work in the style in terms of the style system. Section 8 is not there. He gets something in terms of the visible style; and it was utterly influential. To someone else, if you were asked to perform in this highly theatrical way, it was a very different emotional production to the way we deceive truthful acting today without the backdrop. The cycle around is the built sets, the back lot quality, and also the noir-esque lighting that I think you would have been in trouble, but all of else really supported that performance style.

Did you do any kind of research?

Well, I studied the Second World War, but I think ultimately, probably from a victims perspective, and thats the thing about wars. It doesnt deal with the brackish until many, many years later; and something that I did read and dealt into a lot is a book called A Woman in Berlin. It was a journalist who diaries her experience of living in Berlin when the Russians came in and it was horrific and terrifying and the way that one became normal and the odd thing to be at the center of a powerful nation one day. A nation that was vilified by the rest of the world next and what that did to your sense of what was good and what was true and that sense that you couldnt trust anyone. This woman had just described when her husband returned, how shes been irrevocably changed by the rape on a daily basis by having to sleep with people for food, by then being betrayed at every step of the way; they couldnt be together anymore. So I sort of carried that to the film.

Would you consider Lena to be a survivor?

She is a survivor, but with enormous cost. I dont think you survive something like that without there being some psychological, emotional spiritual cost to yourself and to other people, which she would absolutely acknowledge.

Do you think it is important for the characters story to be told in shifting point of views?

I think thats whats surprising and whats really great about having Toby (Maguire) play the role; and I think Tobys remarkable. You dont expect to see his body turned over when you see it turned over; and I think the perspective and the narrative perspective helps that surprise, and thats where it is I came from, those great stories told in the 40s. The story and the narrative is so strong, and actually guides the characters through the story; whereas often you deal with the screenplay in that you kind of have to show the movie according to which the characters are interesting rather than the story, and this story is really equal.

How generous is George Clooney as an actor compared to other leading men youve have worked with?

Ive been pretty lucky in the leading men department. I had a good year, Brad (Pitt), George (Clooney), Bill Nighy. (George) Hes great. Hes incredibly humble. Hes got such a great perspective on who hes perceived to be, who he is, and what he can achieve in the world, and I think he does it incredibly; hes a very smart man. I love spending time with him.

Can you talk about the preparing for this style of filmmaking as an actor?

There are a couple of scenes set as a flashback when they know its ripped. Now if that was done in another film, the demand would have been different; whereas it was a half glimpse thing and if I hit the light in the right way, I put my head in the right way, then the emotions comes across in the right way; as opposed to the camera finding me, I had to find the camera, so its a slightly different shift, which at first felt quite technical but then I found it really liberating because it was like the meaning was completed through the camera. The shots underscore the emotion. You then have to really calibrate how much to reveal and when I arrived, didnt have a lot of preparation time there. I hadnt been to any rehearsal or anything. Steven showed me a whole lot of cut footage, stuff that they had done which was so helpful; and as soon as I saw that, I knew the reference points, the things he was pointing to, I went, Aw, I get it.

With 2006 wrapping up, who do you think has been the entertainer of the year?

If only Al Jolson was still alive. I dont know. I cant wait to see Bill Nighy in The Vertical Hour, and I think Judi Dench is phenomenal in Notes on a Scandal.

What do you look for in a script? How do you choose a character you want to play?

Generally the character is the last protocol with me. Even from Elizabeth all those years ago, I thought, Glenda Jacksons done it. What am I going to bring thats any different. But when I spoke to Shekhar, who directed it, I thought, I really want to work with you. Its usually that conversation that clinches it for me. I would have shopped this anywhere, the Steven Soderbergh film.

What about working with Director Shekhar?

Well Shekhar and I, all during the first one, we were talking about finding something to do together. Were good friends and we've stayed in contact and he's a man of a thousand ideas. We're developing this other film together but that hasn't come together yet; and I just said no to Elizabeth, because I thought I'd done it, I don't need to do it again. But then we had one great conversation, he and Geoffrey [Rush] and I, when I suddenly saw it as being a part of the aging process and taking her to a different level. He wanted to make a film about immortality. When he talks about it in those broad sweeps, and also about holy war, which I thought was very timely; and he talks about it from that perspective; and then he said that Clive Owen is going to do it and Geoffrey is going to do it again, so I'm just churlish if I say no to this, so I couldn't refuse.

I couldnt be more excited about Im Not There. Which Bob (Dylan) are you playing?

Isn't that the 24-dollar question? Which Bob is Bob? There's six different Bobs, and I think that's the greatness of the idea is that he's splitting Dylans persona into so many different ways; to a Woody Guthrie type figure, the TV evangelist. I played him when he went electric into an actor, into a 17th Century poet, and I think when you juxtapose all those different personas, then you get a sense of his spirit or his shape shifting. Mine's in black and white and I think some of them are hyper-colored. Todd is a genre-defying film director to begin with. If you look back to his film school thing about Karen Carpenter with the Barbie dolls if you've seen it, it's amazing. He thinks so laterally in such a Todd Haynes way, I don't think anyone else could have conceived of the idea, and its the great. The fact that I'm a woman, automatically you have that Brechtian distance between the persona of Dylan; and the form of the film liberates it from being a biopic.

Why are you nervous about it?

It's probably the expectations. I was terrified doing it. I had no interest in imitating Dylan, but yet, Todd was really specific that I wore the exact suit that he wore in Manchester in 1965, and the hair. He wants those iconic references, but yet, he doesn't want an imitation, so it was a really difficult tightrope to walk, which I hope I walked without falling off too often. But it's just that expectation. Even though the film's aim is not to be a biopic, people automatically will want to receive it like that.

You cant pick when movies will come out, so are you worried about having too many movies come out all at once?

I think every actor has that worry. You never want to be all me, or her again. I think ties everyone. Everyone needs to step away for a while.

How much of the year did you work?

I had about 6-9 months and then I made Babel, which was 3 weeks, and then Notes on a Scandal which was a couple of months. The scene between Notes on a Scandal and The Good German was very tight. I literally walked off one set on a Friday and started filming on a Monday.

How did Babel come about it?

They came to me. Lucky girl that I am. I met Alejandro and I really didnt want to work, but hes such a flatterer that I sucked it up and went to Morocco. Im so proud to be a part of that film. I think its an astonishing vision. All three films. It was an amazing year, and then when you get offered Notes on a Scandal, Patrick Marber is a friend and I knew he was writing the screenplay and I read the book, so that very quickly evolved and it didnt look like The Good German could fit, then the two camps worked it out. It was tight for me, but it fitted in. Once you get an offer from Steven Soderbergh, you just do anything you can to make it fit.

What happened to Little Fish?

It was so badly released. It was hopeless. Lets face it. It was hopeless. It was a really small film, but small films can find a chance to find a small audience, so it was kind of criminal to what they did I thought.

Hopefully it will have a life on DVD.

I think most of my films have a life on DVD, hopefully not The Good German.

When is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button shooting?

Its happening now. I start January sometime. Its a star-crossed lovers story. I play a woman Brad Pitt meets when hes about 10, so hes really about 85, and Im 6. Theres a point in their lives when they can be together. I play a dancer who has an accident.



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