The M Interview: Cate the Chameleon
Cate Blanchett plays one half of a forbidden 50s couple
It seems there is nothing Cate Blanchett cannot do.
She has played queens, elves,journalistsand even Katharine Hepburn and Bob Dylan in a glittering career that has brought her three Golden Globes and two Oscars.
This year, the 46-year-old Australian thespian has two movies in awards contention: Truth, the story of US news anchor Dan Rather's fall from grace which opens here Feb 18, and Carol, for which she just received her ninth Golden Globe nomination. The film is out tomorrow.
Always beautifully dressed and on time, Blanchett is the consummate pro in interviews.
She gives just enough so journalists have something to write about, but she still remains slightly removed and unknowable.
This is a feat in this social media age, where celebrities' lives are daily fodder for avid fans.
The story of Carol, based on the novel The Price Of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, is set in the 1950s and revolves around two women from different backgrounds who fall in love.
Blanchett plays the title role of an elegant society woman trapped in a loveless marriage. US actress Rooney Mara is shop girl Therese, with whom Carol has an instant connection.
Beautifully directed by Todd Haynes, the film has terrific production values, from the design to the score to the costumes.
Blanchett tells M at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills: "On films which are incredibly low-budget, you don't have the luxury of having a lot of rehearsal time, so I find the time spent with the hair and make-up people and with the costume designer enormously creative.
"You are researching, to try and find out the psychology of the character and why they might have made the choices they make and the circumstances that they are existing in.
"We wanted to create something that was alluring and mysterious, so then we could break that down as you got inside the private hell in which Carol was living."
The conversation then shifts to her 18-year marriage with Australian playwright-screenwriter Andrew Upton.
"I feel so fortunate to have met my soulmate and we sort of leapt with the same gusto at the same time.
"What has kept our relationship great is that we have each other's best interests at heart, where we are complementary rather than competitors.
"It's constantly shifting, but something that doesn't change is a sense of respect and a sense of tenderness and also a sense of humour.
"Whenever he makes me laugh, it's like I am falling in love with him all over again," she says.
The couple have three sons aged 14, 11 and seven and they recently adopted a baby girl, Edith, from the US.
Was that always the plan?
"It was just part of our conversation from very early days together.
"Apparently the Australian adoption laws are extremely tough and (my) friend Deborra-Lee Furness, (Australian actress) Hugh Jackman's wife, is campaigning to have them changed," she says.
"I have such deep respect for (her) Adopt Change (advocacy group) and the work that they are doing to try and shift those things, so that not only (are) the child's needs respected and relinquishing mothers are respected, but the children don't linger in the foster process with a lot of unnecessary red tape," she says.
With Christmas around the corner, she is asked during the press junket about her plans and whether she is a good shopper.
"I am a panicked Christmas shopper. I panic. We had an enormous family Christmas last year, a bit of a road trek through Europe with 17 of us and I felt like the tour guide.
"So I think we are having a very small, contained, I think almost invisible Christmas, but it will be very much led by the children."
What is the best Christmas present she has ever received?
"Katharine Hepburn's niece gave me a pair of Hepburn's gloves, which was an extraordinary gift," recalls Blanchett, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for portraying the Hollywood screen legend in The Aviator (2004).
"My mother-in-law gave me her engagement ring and she gave it to me after I had been married for 15 years and I was, like, she finally trusts me!
"So I think it's those things that I have been given that have been very special to somebody, rather than going to a store and buying something."
And what about the worst ones?
"For the first few years of my marriage, my husband gave me a vacuum cleaner, then he gave me a Mixmaster and then an iron.
"And he also gave me a set of golf clubs. I was amazing at golf the first time I played and then I have been crap ever since. The vacuum cleaner I did use once or twice."
The M Interview: Rooney Mara obsesses about getting into character
When tattooed and pierced computer hacker Lisbeth Salander burst onto the big screen in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011), Rooney Mara became an overnight sensation.
In her latest film, Carol, her character couldn't be more different.
The 30-year-old New Yorker won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and just received her second Golden Globe nomination for this performance.
She will go head-to-head with Carol co-star Cate Blanchett in the Best Actress category at the Globes awards show, which takes place on Jan 10 in Los Angeles.
Mara's Therese is a woman in her 20s, reluctantly affianced to her boyfriend because that was the path young women followed in the 50s.
When she makes a connection with Blanchett's Carol against all of society's mores, the price they have to pay is considerable.
When we meet at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, Mara, who comes from a wealthy sports family (founders of the football teams the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants), is poised and self-contained, dressed in a black pantsuit and skinny, with hair slicked back.
How did you create the character of Therese?
I knew that (director) Todd (Haynes) wanted to take sort of a more naturalistic approach to it and because of that, we had to walk a fine line. I didn't want it to feel charactery or over-the-top.
We did a lot of work on the dialect because obviously, the way that I speak now is quite modern and sort of jaded and it doesn't sound like I could have come from that time.
The costumes really helped change everything about the way you posture yourself. They made me feel much more feminine, but I also felt quite uncomfortable and restricted in them.
What was it like working with Blanchett?
I don't think there's a film of hers that I haven't seen. She's one of the best actresses of our time, so to get the chance to work with her was really scary and intimidating before.
And then it was just incredible.
Therese is very much a reactionary character and so to have Cate be the thing I was getting to watch and react to, you couldn't ask for a better person to have.
Australian actress Cate Blanchett (L) and US actress Rooney Mara pose on arrival for a gala screening of the movie Carol during the BFI London Film Festival in central London on October 14, 2015. PHOTO: AFP
What surprised you about her?
I learnt very quickly just how funny she is. She has that really great Australian sense of humour and wit.
Were you surprised at winning the Best Actress award at Cannes?
It's nice to be recognised and honoured by your peers but it's not really something I measure myself by.
There are so many films that I see and that I've been in that I love that don't get recognised in that way.
Since Carol deals with obsession, is there anything you are obsessed with?
I'm obsessed with architecture and real estate. I love going to open houses even if I'm not actually looking for a house. I just love looking at other people's houses. I know that sounds kind of creepy.
Do you understand obsession in love?
I think anyone who's newly in love becomes obsessed with the other person. I know I certainly do. You hang on to their every word and you dissect everything, every interaction, every glance, every silence.
During rehearsal, I remember Todd and Cate talking a lot about how sort of a lover's mind is very much similar to the criminal's mind because of that sort of obsession. And there's always sort of scheming and plotting.
I thought that was really interesting.
Will you play Lisbeth again in the sequel to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? Apparently they're jumping ahead to film the fourth book, The Girl In The Spider's Web.
I haven't read (that) yet. I just don't really want to read it until I know what's happening. But I plan on playing her until someone tells me otherwise.