Charm­ing. Re­fined. A vi­sion­ary artist with in­tegrity and grace.

This is Cate Blanchett.

ELLE (Canada) - - Culture - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Steven Chee WORDS Jia Qi

CATE BLANCHETT is a sur­prise from the mo­ment she shows up. Wear­ing jeans and a T-shirt and no makeup, she ar­rives alone at the sea­side apart­ment by Manly Beach in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia. The only clue iden­ti­fy­ing her as the award-win­ning ac­tress is that same husky voice from the sil­ver screen: “Hi, I’m Cate. Sorry, I seem to have caught a cold on the plane.” Though she is known for her poised de­meanour, the Aus­tralian ac­tress and global am­bas­sador for Gior­gio Ar­mani Beauty gives us a warm smile.

Even non-movie fans would surely be fa­mil­iar with Blanchett, but this Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ter rarely ap­pears in en­ter­tain­ment head­lines. A search en­gine can con­firm that she re­cently set­tled in the English coun­try­side, where she is rais­ing four children with her wri­ter­di­rec­tor hus­band, An­drew Up­ton.

BLANCHETT DOESN’T HAVE so­cial-me­dia ac­counts. Her viewpoint on this mat­ter is clear: “There are two rea­sons: For me, it’s too time-con­sum­ing, and for the other, com­mu­ni­ca­tions over the in­ter­net can be­come nar­row and neg­a­tive; they can in­cite jeal­ousy or anger with­out the coun­ter­bal­ance of face-to-face ac­count­abil­ity. I fear that much of our en­gage­ment with so­cial me­dia is ego-driven—and I like to sep­a­rate the ego from the ideas.”

Her ad­vice to young ac­tors is to set aside their ego. “As an au­di­ence mem­ber, I’m never in­ter­ested in the ac­tors’ per­sonal lives. I want to for­get all that and im­merse my­self in their char­ac­ters and the story they are telling. The tabloid gossip around ac­tors just gets in the way of en­gag­ing with the work.”

When it comes to act­ing, she craves real, cre­ative di­a­logue. She en­joys work­ing with vis­ual artists, musi­cians, writ­ers and di­rec­tors and us­ing more tra­di­tional meth­ods. She col­lab­o­rated with di­rec­tor Todd Haynes on Carol and I’m Not There— the former gar­nered Blanchett her fourth Os­car nom­i­na­tion for Best Ac­tress, and the lat­ter won her a Golden Globe Award for Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tress. She ad­mires the creativ­ity of German artist Ju­lian Rose­feldt; his short film Man­i­festo, in which Blanchett played 13 roles, was viewed by crit­ics as a “true art film.” Last May at Cannes, she at­tended as jury pres­i­dent for the first time, which, she says, al­lowed her to gain new in­sights into the film in­dus­try. She is deeply con­cerned about cli­mate change and the world’s wealth dis­tri­bu­tion, and she thinks about the mess older gen­er­a­tions have cre­ated—the en­vi­ron­men­tal, so­cial and politic­al is­sues the younger gen­er­a­tions will in­herit. “I am some­times wor­ried about the fu­ture be­cause I am a mother of four children. I of­ten think ‘What will the world be like when they are 20, 30 or 40 years old?’” Re­cently, it’s refugee is­sues that have moved her the most. As the good­will am­bas­sador of the UN Refugee Agency, she has wit­nessed first-hand the dif­fi­cul­ties that Ro­hingya refugees face. An 18-year-old girl she calls Laila left a deep im­pres­sion in her mind: Her house was burned down, her fam­ily was killed and she was dis­placed with her new­born baby. “I am a mother, and I saw my own children in the eyes of ev­ery sin­gle refugee child I met. I saw my­self in ev­ery par­ent. How can any mother en­dure see­ing her child thrown into a fire? Their ex­pe­ri­ences will never leave me,” she said re­cently in a speech at a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing.

TUCKED IN THE BACK of Blanchett’s trans­par­ent phone case are the year­book pho­tos of her four children: el­dest son Dash, who just com­pleted his high­school en­trance ex­ams, 14-year-old Ro­man, 10-yearold Ig­natius and young daugh­ter Edith. A day in her coun­try life be­gins with send­ing her three older kids to school and ends with pick­ing them up af­ter­wards. She and her hus­band di­vide the chores evenly, but, even so, the fol­low­ing scene is a fa­mil­iar one in their house­hold: Blanchett with a laun­dry ham­per in her arms, one ear to the phone as she dis­cusses work while try­ing to free up an arm to sign some pa­per­work. “My kids are al­ways telling me ‘Mum, you don’t have to do three things at once.’ Then they come help me put things away.”

Blanchett tries her best to work in an ef­fi­cient, in­ten­sive and well-planned man­ner. “Be­ing well or­ga­nized is the only way to get along with four children and the best way to sat­isfy both par­ties at work,” she says. Be­fore the photo shoot be­gan, she per­son­ally asked about the en­tire process and tried on ev­ery out­fit. She has very clear per­spec­tives but also fully re­spects stylists and pho­tog­ra­phers. She lis­tens to their opin­ions be­fore chang­ing into the next out­fit. “As a woman, one can feel like one has to do ev­ery­thing well. That’s the stan­dard I hold my­self to, but it can be ex­haust­ing.”

In a time when women’s rights are a ma­jor topic, Blanchett is glad to see the sta­tus of ac­tresses in

Hol­ly­wood chang­ing, with more strong and tal­ented fe­male di­rec­tors and pro­duc­ers turn­ing the tide. “I don’t know when this mis­con­cep­tion started,” she says. “This in­dus­try al­ways as­sumes that most au­di­ences go­ing to the the­atres are men over the age of 30, so they are will­ing to seek more bud­get and dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels for male-dom­i­nated movies. But, in fact, fe­male au­di­ences have long since ex­ceeded half of all movie­go­ers.

“Many peo­ple only talk about women’s rights, but the dis­cus­sion of gen­der equal­ity is ac­tu­ally about cam­paign­ing for more for ev­ery­one,” she con­tin­ues. “I think both men and women have been trapped un­der cer­tain so­cial ex­pec­ta­tions for a long time and that clouds their vi­sion and ideas. I think equal pay will be a good start.”

WHEN TALK­ING ABOUT Cate Blanchett, you can’t ig­nore her stun­ning record: seven Os­car nom­i­na­tions and two wins. She has al­ready tran­scended so­ci­ety’s def­i­ni­tion of suc­cess, but she seems not to care at all: “I don’t just sit there think­ing ‘Hmm, am I a suc­cess­ful ac­tress?’” Blanchett laughs as she strikes a think­ing pose.

“Suc­cess can be quite ran­dom. Some things are just meant to be, like if you meet some­one and just feel like you know them.... I know many peo­ple who are very tal­ented but don’t get the recog­ni­tion they de­serve. Think about Van Gogh. Think about all those writ­ers whose works are only pub­lished af­ter they’ve died. I con­sider my­self very lucky.”

In 1992, 23-year-old Blanchett grad­u­ated from Aus­tralia’s Na­tional In­sti­tute of Dra­matic Art. Af­ter­wards, she par­tic­i­pated in many the­atri­cal pro­duc­tions, most of them Shake­speare. Years of stage train­ing gave her the habit of re­flect­ing on her mis­takes: Why did things go wrong this time? Why are these mis­takes made? “I only care about fail­ure, learn from it and make sure I don’t make the same mis­takes again,” she says. She did not stop act­ing in theatre af­ter mak­ing her mark in Hol­ly­wood. Last year, she brought her hus­band’s play The Pre­sent, an adap­ta­tion of Chekhov’s Platonov, to Broad­way. To no one’s sur­prise, this de­but won Blanchett her first Tony nom­i­na­tion, and she’s in re­hearsal for her up­com­ing role in Martin Crimp’s When We Have Suf­fi­ciently Tor­tured Each Other at the Na­tional Theatre in Lon­don. She and her hus­band used to run the Syd­ney Theatre Com­pany, for which they once moved back to Syd­ney for 10 years. “If you made me choose be­tween film and theatre, I would def­i­nitely choose theatre,” she says. “There is a real sense of ca­ma­raderie on the stage. You have a more di­rect con­nec­tion with the audi­ence. Film re­views and au­di­ence re­ac­tions are two very dif­fer­ent things.”

When in­ter­act­ing with oth­ers, Blanchett is frank, hu­mor­ous and out­spo­ken, and she’s forth­com­ing about her own short­com­ings. “Where do I be­gin? I am im­pa­tient, have per­fec­tion­ist ten­den­cies, have a fear of heights...there are too many.” Her mod­esty is charm­ing, and so is her straight­for­ward na­ture. “The most in­ter­est­ing women al­low all their com­plex­i­ties to co­ex­ist with­out ever feel­ing sorry for them­selves,” she says. “She is def­i­nitely her own per­son. She doesn’t want to be­come any­one but strives to be her best self.”

THE WORLD AC­CORD­ING TO CATE You are also the face of Sì fra­grance. Sì means “yes” in Ital­ian. What is your un­der­stand­ing of the Sì at­ti­tude?

“I think say­ing yes has al­ways been my de­fault set­ting. Peo­ple around me of­ten tell me that I should learn to refuse, that you can’t take care of ev­ery­thing. But I am al­ways will­ing to try—do­ing some­thing is bet­ter than do­ing noth­ing.”

What en­cour­aged you to keep work­ing with Ar­mani?

“It has been a very cre­ative re­la­tion­ship. My re­la­tion­ship with Ar­mani be­gan in my stu­dent years, many years be­fore I met Mr. Ar­mani in per­son. I’m very in­ter­ested in men’s cloth­ing. I bought my first Ar­mani men’s suit when I was study­ing in drama school. Ar­mani rep­re­sents more than fash­ion and beauty—it’s also about ar­chi­tec­ture and food. It rep­re­sents a life­style.”

De­scribe a sce­nario that makes you feel ab­so­lute bliss.

“When I wake up on the week­end, my first re­ac­tion is ‘Oh my gosh, what is my sched­ule to­day? What do I need to do?’ In that mo­ment, if some­one were to say ‘You don’t have to do any­thing to­day. There are no plans.’ Then some­one sug­gests ‘Let’s take a walk in the forest!’ Or, ‘Let’s stay in our py­ja­mas all day! Let’s just sit and see what hap­pens!’”

What are you cur­rently afraid of?

“Sky­div­ing! Gosh, I will never try it!”

How do you de­fine suc­cess?

“Suc­cess to me is hav­ing the abil­ity and time to think. I pay more at­ten­tion to fail­ure. I think peo­ple can learn more from fail­ure.”

What are some fem­i­nine qual­i­ties you ad­mire?

“Wis­dom, gen­eros­ity.”

What do you see in the ELLE woman?

“ELLE gives me the feel­ing of be­ing very free. You know, fash­ion can some­times be very se­ri­ous and sa­cred. But ELLE makes it light­hearted and fun.” ®

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