Cate Blanchett rushes into our interview with a certain determination. At the Toronto Film Festival, the Aussie star is dressed in a grey pants suit laced in a gold pattern strewn throughout. “This is my Euro Trash look”, she says, laughingly. Blanchett was in Toronto for the North American premiere of her latest film, "Veronica Guerin" the true-life story of the Irish journalist-cum-anti-drug crusader. This one of three films Blanchett will have in cinemas, including Ron Howard’s "The Missing" and Martin Scorsese’s "The Aviator"
It seems that this wife and mother is very busy these days. “I suppose so. I mean, last year I did a few things, and then had the rest of the year off. I think I re-charged my batteries, and so this year is quite busy,” says Blanchett, in a Toronto hotel room. Being selective, she decided to embark on the story of crusading Irish journalist Guerin, because the actress found Guerin “so enigmatic and incredibly passionate,” she explains. In addition, Blanchett recalls being “fascinated by the whole socio-political environment she was working in. Most of the films I had seen about Ireland were about the clergy and the IRA. To learn about the rampant drug problem in the 80’s and 90’s, because the government was so concerned about the IRA and the subversives, paramilitaries, the drug barons were left to rampage about unchecked. I was fascinated by the circumstances.”
One would imagine that playing such an impassioned journalist might make her more respectful of journalists. Blanchett laughs at the notion before responding. “It’s a weird feeling, having been door stepped before and now being on the other side of that,” she explains, smilingly. “It wasn’t that I found a newfound respect. It’s one thing if you just had a baby and they’re trying to come to your house to get a picture and you think, come on, how important is that to the world? Compared to Veronica, other journalists who were writing about the same thing said that everyone knew what was going on. You just needed to get these people on the record. She was actually trying to achieve something and I think that’s a bit more important,” says an emphatic Blanchett.
Blanchett says that she can relate to Veronica’s sense of passion but not necessarily her ruthless need to succeed. “I starve for new experiences, and that aspect of her I respond to.” Blanchett calls London home these days, rather than Sydney or Los Angeles “for no other reason than because it worked out that way,” and as hard working as she is, Blanchett’s family comes first, now that she is both wife and mother. “I think that when children are very young they just need to feel secure in their immediate environment. They are much more portable than when they start going to school and connecting to peer groups. You have a window and it depends on the personality of the child. I am not frightened of change. I was never frightened of parenthood. Everyone kept saying how things would change, like this giant weight would descend, but I’m sort of one that welcomes a challenge. I found it sort of expansive.”
Perhaps there remains in Blanchett an innate desire to be less nomadic as she discovers the joys of motherhood, which explains why she will spend 6 months in her native Sydney next year in a new production of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, for the Sydney Theatre Company. “My husband [Andrew Upton] is adapting this new production which I’m excited about”, though she has no idea what that new adaptation will consist of. “He won’t tell me”, she says laughingly.
Meanwhile, her film career goes from strength to strength, beginning with The Missing, a dark western thriller, in which she plays a mother whose daughter is kidnapped. Tommy Lee Jones also stars as her estranged father. “I saw it the other day and it’s one of the scariest films I’ve seen. It’s pretty unusual for a Ron Howard film.” Blanchett is currently co-starring as Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator, and insists that audiences “won’t get some half-baked caricatured performance. That was something Marty was clear about. He’s trying to capture the spirit of the time. You’ve got to adjust your performance to the tone of the film, which is about Howard Hughes. It was a very private affair. Being an actor myself, who you are to the public onscreen bears very little resemblance to you private life. Who was the private Katherine Hepburn? That is the enigma.” Perhaps that sums up the enigmatic Ms Blanchett!
– PAUL FISCHER
Veronica Guerin OPENS ON OCT 17, 2003