Os­car win­ner and Gior­gio Ar­mani global beauty am­bas­sador CATE BLANCHETT is back in black at the Sei­dler Pent­house on Syd­ney har­bour. She talks to EU­GE­NIE KELLY about fam­ily, fra­grance and why her right­eous fury won’t be con­tained

Harper’s Bazaar (Australia) - - The Buzz - Pho­tographed by STEVEN CHEE

It’s a dull, sod­den Tues­day morn­ing and rain is lash­ing the floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows of Mil­sons Point’s iconic Sei­dler pent­house.what should be a post­card panorama of Syd­ney har­bour is just a blan­ket of grey. In the up­stairs bed­room, Cate Blanchett has just pulled a furry blan­ket off the bed and is now us­ing it as a rug, writhing around on the floor for pho­tog­ra­pher Steven Chee. She strikes pose af­ter pose, then lies on her side and kicks the leg of her fuzzily trimmed black silk pants into the air for ex­tra dra­matic flair.the back­ground sound­track to this per­for­mance is “The Night” by Frankievalli & the Four Sea­sons — a cur­rent favourite — but the track’s not work­ing its usual magic.“maybe we need a lit­tle Ethiopian jazz to get things go­ing,” Blanchett cries out to the crew, who prac­ti­cally stam­pede one an­other for the chance to stalk the ac­tor’s Spo­tify playlist. Dolly Par­ton’s war­bling 1969 ver­sion of “I Will Al­ways Love You” starts up in­stead. “Close enough,” Blanchett de­clares, and gets back to work.

Tak­ing a break for a re­fresh, Blanchett slips back into the py­jama-ish pants and top (navy; white piping) she ar­rived in, col­lapses into her chair at the hair and makeup sta­tion and or­ders a peppermint tea and a strong latte “to back it up”. Blanchett flew in from LA yes­ter­day, where she’d been do­ing voice ed­its for an up­com­ing project, and although she’s here for a fleet­ing 24 hours to ful­fil com­mit­ments as Gior­gio Ar­mani’s global beauty am­bas­sador (which in­cludes be­ing the face of fra­grance Sì), she swears she’s not tired.“are you kid­ding? If any­thing, this is re­ju­ve­nat­ing! Not hav­ing four kids has­sle you in the morn­ing? I got to shower in peace!”

On cue, her phone rings, and the two-time Os­car win­ner segues seam­lessly into mum mode.we con­fess: we eaves­drop. But the con­ver­sa­tion play­ing out is bor­ingly nor­mal. One child is killing it in bas­ket­ball, Blanchett proudly de­clares to the per­son on the other end of the line. And yes, the youngest, Edith, is set­tling nicely into kinder­garten. Hence projects for now need to fit around fam­ily de­mands.

Blanchett’s vir­tu­osic turns over the years in such crit­i­cally ac­claimed films as The Avi­a­tor, Ba­bel, Veron­ica Guerin and Blue Jas­mine; cou­pled with box-of­fice hits in­clud­ing Thor: Rag­narok,

The Lord of the Rings, Cin­derella and the re­cent Ocean’s 8, have meant work­ing away for long pe­ri­ods on lo­ca­tion. So it’s no ac­ci­dent that her IMDB pro­file now lists more fam­ily-friendly new projects. Such as lend­ing her voice to the an­i­mated films Mowgli (out Oc­to­ber 18) and How to­trainy­our Dragon:the Hid­den World (March 2019). “I had an ex­pe­ri­ence a few years ago with two films I was very proud to be part of — Carol and Truth,” she re­calls.“but I felt I got caught up in other peo­ple’s awards-sea­son am­bi­tions, and I just wanted to do things for plea­sure — not to get any­where.with four children, what you do is de­pen­dent on what you can fit in. My part­ner [hus­band An­drew Up­ton] is sup­port­ive and we jug­gle things be­tween us, but it’s still a mil­i­tary operation. As a par­ent, you con­stantly feel pulled, and that pull is ex­haust­ing. My children have big ex­ams this year, so I wanted to step back and do things that work for me.”

Blanchett grew up read­ing John Bel­lairs books, so a chill­ing adap­ta­tion of the fan­tasy hor­ror The House with a Clock in Its

Walls (out Septem­ber 20) was a re­sound­ing ‘yes’. She plays Florence Zim­mer­mann, a witch who lives next door to Jack Black’s war­lock char­ac­ter, who takes in his 10-year-old or­phaned nephew.“my fa­ther died when I was 10, and when I was around 15 I re­ally got into the hor­ror genre,” Blanchett says. “I loved [di­rec­tor] Eli Roth’s sen­si­bil­ity on a children’s film, and the script was amaz­ing.the books are unique, strange, painful, ab­surd. I’ve en­joyed read­ing them to Iggy, my nine-year-old.”

Although Blanchett grew up in Mel­bourne, the mid­dle of three children, and hap­pily kept a base in Syd­ney’s Hunters Hill from 2005 un­til 2016 as her fam­ily’s res­i­dence, home is now High­well House in Crow­bor­ough, East Sus­sex, in the UK.THE Vic­to­rian manor sits on five hectares and sa­ti­ates her ap­petite for his­tor­i­cal build­ings (Blanchett and Up­ton also re­cently se­cured a land­mark 1923 Mac­quarie Street apart­ment with views of the Opera House as their Aussie bolt­hole). “I al­ways thought I’d study ar­chi­tec­ture — I’m fas­ci­nated by build­ings and what they mean,” she says. “We miss this coun­try so much. It’s mag­netic. I don’t think you re­ally ever leave.”

Although she of­ten trav­els with children in tow, Blanchett is fly­ing solo this trip, as to­mor­row she heads to south­east­ern Bangladesh on be­half of the UNHCR. Her aim is to high­light the plight of the more than 150,000 Ro­hingya refugees who have suf­fered vi­o­lence and hu­man rights abuses and who are now at risk of flood­ing and land­slides dur­ing mon­soon sea­son. “The Ro­hingya are a state­less race, so they’re buf­feted be­tween pil­lar and post.the prob­lem is so over­whelm­ing, so my role is to come back and share their sto­ries,” she says.“i know peo­ple have their own stresses and dis­con­nect from these is­sues — es­pe­cially in Aus­tralia, due to the tyranny of dis­tance. That said, we have our own is­sues to re­solve in­volv­ing the rep­re­hen­si­ble way we’ve been treat­ing refugees.” Does tak­ing on these good­will am­bas­sador roles re­quire a kind of fear­less­ness? “If you have a cer­tain plat­form and stand on it for five min­utes, you can talk about what you’re wear­ing — or you can talk about some­thing of con­se­quence,”

“I think about [age­ing] on an ex­is­ten­tial level, but on a ca­reer level, I refuse. It’s im­por­tant to keep karate-chop­ping those doors down and cre­at­ing new op­por­tu­ni­ties not just for your­self, but also for those who are com­ing up be­hind you.”

Blanchett answers. “In­evitably, the peo­ple who don’t want that stuff talked about will lam­poon you.when it suits the me­dia, you’re an ac­tress of in­ter­na­tional stand­ing with rel­a­tive in­tel­li­gence. But veer out­side your per­ceived re­mit and you’re a ‘celebrity’. I don’t ever see that hap­pen to men in the bank­ing sec­tor who take on phil­an­thropic causes. For them, it’s seen as an un­der­stand­able ex­ten­sion full of al­tru­ism.”

Let’s pre­tend that some­one has handed her the phone to talk to Malcolm Turn­bull for a minute. Blanchett bris­tles.“god, I’d need more than a minute. I’d talk about off-shore pro­cess­ing and the ab­so­lute im­por­tance of up­hold­ing the hu­man rights con­ven­tion. This is a coun­try that has been pos­i­tively built on im­mi­gra­tion. This isn’t the Aus­tralia I know!” The words catch in her throat. “I grew up in mul­ti­cul­tural Aus­tralia. These peo­ple are flee­ing hor­ren­dous per­se­cu­tion. No one gets in a boat un­less they have to.” She ad­mits that when she shares her pas­sion­ate views on asy­lum seek­ers and cli­mate change with her children there’s “a lot of eye-rolling”, but tells them these aren’t po­lit­i­cal is­sues — rather, hu­man is­sues. “We took our nine-year-old to Jor­dan, but we make a point of not lec­tur­ing them. It’s ac­tu­ally in­ter­est­ing to hear them talk when they think you’re out of earshot …”

Given re­cent events in Hol­ly­wood in re­sponse to the #Time­sup and #Metoo move­ments, some of us were hop­ing Blanchett might have used her weighty role as this year’s pres­i­dent of the Palme d’or jury at Cannes Film Festival (only the 12th time a woman has oc­cu­pied this po­si­tion) to award the cov­eted prize to one of the three fe­male di­rec­tors nom­i­nated. It didn’t come to pass (“You have to work with what you’ve got”), but she’s adamant that change is hap­pen­ing in an in­dus­try built on male en­ti­tle­ment. “This isn’t a zeit­geist mo­ment,” she says.“this is our chance to rev­o­lu­tionise the in­dus­try once and for stamp out the sys­temic abuse of power.” Pay dis­par­ity is an­other topic that presses her but­tons. “Peo­ple talk about [Hol­ly­wood] as dys­func­tional, but we are re­ally em­blem­atic.what in­dus­try of­fers equal pay for equal work?”

This cur­rent fast-mov­ing era of so­cial change gives Blanchett a fresh an­gle when it comes to spruik­ing Gior­gio Ar­mani Sì, the fra­grance she’s been the face of since 2013, when the first ver­sion — a patchouli-cas­sis-rose con­coc­tion — launched. To­day, she’s do­ing the me­dia rounds for its lat­est ren­di­tion, Sì Pas­sione, a lighter, sub­tler ver­sion of the orig­i­nal blend­ing pink pep­per, rose and jas­mine. “Mr Ar­mani has al­ways cel­e­brated the seem­ingly con­flicted du­al­i­ties and com­plex­i­ties of be­ing fe­male,” Blanchett says.“the strength, the weak­ness, the depth … his fra­grances are an ex­ten­sion of that un­der­stand­ing.”

The fact that this pres­ti­gious beauty con­tract has now been ex­panded to en­com­pass makeup and skin­care is re­as­sur­ing when you re­alise Blanchett’s on the cusp of 50 (al­beit boast­ing a com­plex­ion any 20-year-old would kill for). How is she pro­cess­ing that most mon­u­men­tal of mile­stone birth­days? “I think about it on an ex­is­ten­tial level, sure, but on a ca­reer level, I refuse,” she says. “It’s im­por­tant to keep karate-chop­ping those doors down and cre­at­ing new op­por­tu­ni­ties not just for your­self, but also for those who are com­ing up be­hind you. I’m not pan­ick­ing on a work level. It’s more that there are so many lives I want to live.”

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