If there’s a more revered actress than Cate Blanchett working today, you’ll have to fill us in. And with two films set for release this season, her star couldn’t seem to rise much higher. But wait — there’s that little “Indiana Jones” film she has coming out next summer and the David Fincher-directed “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” co-starring Brad Pitt, after that.
MTV News caught up with Blanchett to discuss her return to the throne in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” which opens Friday; her daring choice to play Bob Dylan (or at least an approximation of him) in “I’m Not There,” which arrives November 21; and how she’s protecting her family from “Indiana Jones” maniacs.
MTV: Clearly you’re in a much different place with this “Elizabeth” film compared to where you were with your film career when the first one was released in 1998.
Cate Blanchett: Yeah, I’d made two films then. I was working mostly in the theater. [Director] Shekhar [Kapur] found me doing a production of “The Seagull” in Sydney [Australia].
MTV: Did you believe in him immediately?
Blanchett: I adored him. I could see that this wasn’t going to be a chronological cup-of-tea historical lesson. It was going to be completely non-BBC. I love the BBC, but that had already been done, and [I] thought, “That doesn’t need to be done again.” Working with him was the draw card. Also, I had nothing to lose!
MTV: So was it a tougher sell this time around? You have a lot more going on in your career right now, and to return to a role you’ve already played …
Blanchett: You do get nervous about it, because you think, “Is the connection going to be there a second time?” Shekhar is a real provocateur. He was talking about making another one as soon as we finished the first. I had just gotten married. I wanted to go home! It took time for the story to evolve. Elizabeth is endlessly fascinating, but with any female figure, often it’s the story that suffers. Amelia Earhart is a fascinating figure. So are Pope Joan and Hillary Clinton. But what’s the story you’re going to put those characters in? You don’t want to tell the same story. This one has this huge, epic backdrop of the Spanish Armada and this really fragile internal struggle of a woman thinking, “I’m so old!” I found that very appealing.
MTV: Shekhar is already talking about a third film with you about Elizabeth.
Blanchett: He started talking about it in the second week of shooting! Shove him into the river.
MTV: Let’s talk about “I’m Not There.” Have you ever met Dylan?
Blanchett: He’s a bit like a UFO. A lot of people have sightings. My brother-in-law was at a party in Los Angeles in the ’80s and was having a smoke with some guy, talking about horticulture, and after he left someone said, “How do you know Bob?” And he said, “I thought he was the gardener!” No, I’ve never met him. I don’t know whether he’s seen the film or read the script.
MTV: With all due respect, you’re probably not the first person most would think of to play Dylan in his heyday.
Blanchett: He was very androgynous in the time that I was playing him. I had to lose weight to do it. It’s liberating, the fact that it’s gender-bending. I’m curious to know what he thinks, but I’m not about to ring him and ask him.
MTV: Do you approach a role like this — where you’re not exactly playing Dylan, per se — differently than you did with Katharine Hepburn in “The Aviator”?
Blanchett: It’s about the context. “I’m Not There” is really surreal. It draws as much from Fellini as it does from [the 1967 Dylan doc] “Don’t Look Back.” With both roles you know you’re opening yourself up to huge criticism. There’s a league of people who feel that they own Katharine Hepburn and her movies and her persona. And there’s a league of people who feel that they know Bob Dylan, even though he’s more mercurial than Hepburn was. So you know that you’re not going to please everyone.
MTV: I know you’re dying to tell me the entire super-secret plot of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
Blanchett: Oh, I am. Stop me. Please stop me!
MTV: Go ahead. Talk it out. I’m listening.
Blanchett: It’s about this transvestite who finds himself in Victorian England. And he ends up killing himself.
MTV: That’s kind of a downer. OK, how about this: Which is your favorite Indy film?
Blanchett: I have a soft spot for the first one because I adore Karen Allen. This one is a big bar of chocolate and you want to eat the whole thing. I’m really looking forward to this slotting into the boxed set.
MTV: Do you get the sense that it will fit in and not feel out of place with the others because so much time has passed?
Blanchett: That’s really hard to say, isn’t it? I did feel on the first day [like], “I know the iconography of this.” When they were setting up the shot and I was walking into the frame, it felt familiar and strange at the same time.
MTV: Have you finished filming?
Blanchett: I wrapped on Saturday. They have a couple more weeks. It meant a lot to me. And it meant an enormous amount to my kids. They were on set, and Steven was great with the children. They loved all the effects and the stunts. It was a real riot for them.
MTV: Have you gotten bruised up? I would assume some significant stunt work is involved.
Blanchett: Oh, baby. Spielberg kept saying he was butching me up.
MTV: Are there any giant boulders chasing after you?
Blanchett: Not that I remember. Maybe that’s when I was knocked unconscious.
MTV: There’s so much secrecy around this movie. Who have you shared the plot with? Your family?
Blanchett: Are you going to take them hostage?
MTV: Yes, that was my plan.
Blanchett: I wouldn’t put them in that danger. [She laughs.] No, very few people have seen the script. Only department heads have seen the script.
MTV: Have you finished filming “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” with Brad Pitt?
Blanchett: Yeah. I finished early on this year, and then [director] David [Fincher] did a rough edit of the film, and then there was a modern-day sequence he wanted to film. So I went back and filmed that about a month ago.
MTV: Have you seen much of the footage?
Blanchett: I have. Now it’s getting a whole other layer of work being done to it. It’s really incredible.
MTV: Fincher has quite the reputation as an exacting director. Did he live up to his reputation?
Blanchett: Sometimes there were a lot of takes, and sometimes there were four or five. It varied really. Every director works differently. Spielberg likes to set everything and get it done in one or two takes. David builds more slowly than that. Sometimes it takes 25 takes to do that, but you know that going in.
MTV: As opposed to the last time you worked with Brad, I presume your character isn’t in agony the entire time, à la “Babel.”
Blanchett: Yeah, bleeding to death. We were trying to find a place where I could urinate on Brad in “Benjamin Button,” but I don’t think we found one! [She laughs.]
Check out everything we’ve got on “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” “I’m Not There” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
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