After winning the Best Actress Oscar for Blue Jasmine less than two years ago, Cate Blanchett got busy. She had been spending much of her time doing theater projects in her native Australia or appearing in smaller parts in such blockbusters as The Hobbit trilogy and How To Train Your Dragon 2. But this year has been a virtual Blanchett-fest, starting in March with her role as the stepmother in Disney’s Cinderella, and continuing this fall with leading roles in the 1950s lesbian romance Carol, and as 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes in Truth. Both latter roles have won wide praise and yet present a quandary for Oscar voters. They are both leads—and Academy rules state that only one acting performance can be nominated in the same category, which means the votes for both roles could split. But this is a good problem to have, especially for someone who already has two Oscars on her mantle—the first won 10 years ago for her role as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator. It’s been a great decade for today’s Great Cate.
What a year you’re having between Cinderella and Carol and now Truth.
Yes, it’s funny. Truth we made really quickly; it was like a freight train. I made Cinderella two or three years ago, and Carol I made at the beginning of last year. So it’s sort of everything coming out at once.
Do you like that?
It’s a little confusing. You hope that one film doesn’t end up getting lost because both Carol and Truth, I think, are really interesting stories by two very interesting filmmakers.
I saw Truth in Toronto, where it was well-received. I got to meet Dan Rather.
Isn’t he something? Both he and Mary (Mapes) are cut from the same cloth in the sense that they have this searing intelligence, this fiery sense of fighting injustice and a hatred of hypocrisy, and they’re also deeply emotional people. It’s a really interesting combination. I mean, no wonder they gravitated towards each other.
It must have been interesting to work with Robert Redford. This is the first time that you worked with him, right?
Yeah, but hopefully it’s not the last. He’s extraordinary. We would have these situations on set where they’d be setting up for the shot and he’d just start talking to me, and I’d have this terrible sense of déjà vu, thinking, “We had this conversation before.” And then it’d suddenly dawn on me that he was running lines. We seemed to be talking about things around the scene, and then the lines would just be drip-fed in.
What got you involved in Truth?
I had (the script) for a little while. My life is very full with the amount of children that we have and my husband running a theater company. Often by the time I get into bed at night and read a script it’s like taking a sleeping pill. I just fall asleep. It has nothing to do with the writing and everything to do with my age. But when I read this, I just ate it alive because you step on this conveyor belt, and you almost lose your balance because it goes so quickly. I knew about the story but I did not know about the fallout.
What kind of research did you do? Did you go to 60 Minutes or to a newsroom?
I didn’t. I’ve been in newsrooms and I’ve been sort of hauled over the coals in my own small way, so I know personally what that feels like but in a much smaller, lesser degree than Mary experienced. So I felt like that was something I understood.
And then Carol coming out a month later. You and Rooney Mara are so great together.
She and I gravitate to similar filmmakers. She’s had such a great creative relationship with David Fincher and Steven Soderbergh and Todd (Haynes, Carol director), and she just worked with Joe Wright. So I felt like we were very sympatico creatively.
That was an interesting period in our history, the early ’50s.
What’s interesting about the film that Todd’s made, and also about Patricia Highsmith’s novel, is that in the end it’s about falling in love. And it’s as much about the age gap between the women as it is about the outsider nature of their love. And so he’s made a beautiful film about falling in love and heartbreak and maturity.
How long do you have to make a film like this?
There were times when we barely had time to do one take. Todd is like no other director I’ve ever worked with. He’s a master making a student film, in the sense that he has that sort of danger and hunger that a student filmmaker has but this incredible finesse and expertise and facility and insight that an auteur has. And the intersection of those two atmospheres is really unique.
Actors are the only artists who can’t be nominated twice for an Oscar in the same category. You’re a member of the actor’s branch of the Academy and you have two great performances this year.
I’m not a lobbyist, so I don’t get tied up in those machinations. Perhaps that stuff matters more to producers than it does to me. To simply be in that dialogue is more than enough, and, I mean, it seems a bit hubristic to be having this conversation. The first port of call is that the films find an audience. So that’s the bit that I feel a responsibility towards. The rest is outside.
To see a short scene of Blanchett in Carol, click play below:
And to see a scene of Blanchett in Truth, click play below: