Woman’s Day (Australia)
FACING THE MUSIC
Nominated for a Golden Globe for Tar, the celebrated Australian actress reveals how the role has changed her life
In her bold new film, Cate Blanchett, 53, plays fictional composer and conductor Lydia Tar, a consummate professional who struggles to maintain her own composure when the past comes back to haunt her. Here, the Oscar winner spills on how she relates to the character and why she considers it one of her best.
Did you ever have any concerns about playing such a flawed and unlikeable character?
It’s funny because my mum said, “You know people aren’t going to like her” But I think it’s more that people might not want to like her. You don’t have to be a classical musician, or a master musician to recognise yourself in some of the things that she does and some of the things that the people around her do.
It’s quite uncomfortable. Watching this film with an audience, there’s a lot of uncomfortable laughter in those points of recognition.
How did you set about inhabiting the character of Lydia and making her seem so real?
I really thought of it as like a musical score, in that the script is so rhythmic. I felt very alive making this film. It really felt like something very exciting and special.
What kind of preparation did you do for the musical aspects of your performance and the task of conducting an orchestra?
Well, the truth is I wasn’t really doing the conducting. It was more like a lip-syncing version of conducting (laughs). But it was important to me to be able to hold my own with the musicians around me. We really wanted [to] avoid that thing when you see movies about painters and you go, “Please don’t turn the canvas around because I know that you’re not really a painter!” We didn’t want to do a musical version of that.
Is it true that you learned how to play the piano as well as how to conduct and you studied German for this role?
I did. It sounds like a lot, but it was actually a joy to do. I learned piano as a girl and I have often said how I wanted to go back and pick it up again. I have never quite managed it, but stepping in front of the Dresden Philharmonic for this was the moment. It was a lifechanging moment for me. It was phenomenal.
In what ways do you identify with this character?
I think the wonderful thing about this film is that it’s very human. Lydia Tar is someone who is out of step and out of time with the world around her and I think that’s a thing that a lot of people are feeling right now. I know
I do. I can’t even remember what day it is, let alone what
year it is most of the time!
How do you know when a film is going to be successful?
To this day no one knows what’s going to work and what’s not. For me, it’s always a conversation that you have with a filmmaker, with other actors, with the crew, with the designers. The unusual is always intoxicating to me and this is unusual.
Finally, there’s a lot of awards season buzz around you and this film. How does that make you feel?
Grateful and humbled. It’s always overwhelming to be even mentioned as a nominee. I feel very lucky. TAR
opens in Australian cinemas January 26
‘I felt very alive making this film. It was special’