THE WIZARD OF OZ
How does Cate Blanchett manage it all? Being a mother of four, an Oscar-winning Hollywood star, an ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency, and the face of Giorgio Armani? In a world-exclusive interview with LIFE Magazine, the 47-year-old Australian supersta
When you’ ve watched her acting in so many iconic film roles (Lucinda Leplastrier in Meredith Logue in Elizabeth Tudor in Jasmine French in or Katharine Hepburn in it is almost unnerving when you are ushered into a big suite and Cate Blanchett is just sitting there . . . playing herself.
With her features framed against the sunlight that’s flooding in through the giant windows on a London summer’s afternoon, she gets up from her seat in the grand Florence Hall in Portland Place.
“I’m Barry from Dublin,” I say, to which she replies, “I’m Cate from Sydney.”
Then she gives me a hug. She is not the austere, aloof Hollywood movie star one might expect. I’ve met her before — in Dublin in 2003, when she was filming
and Cate was like that
Lucinda, Mr Ripley, Veronica Guerin, Oscar and The Talented Elizabeth, Blue Jasmine, The Aviator),
then. So this is not an act. Warm, normal and above all friendly, she wears her superstar status lightly. She is wearing a Giorgio Armani New Normal grey suit. At the cocktail party later that night, she wears a powder-pink Giorgio Armani sleeveless dress.
The globally feted Italian fashion titan is the reason Cate is in London today: to attend the unveiling of Armani’s Si Le Parfum and the Si Women’s Circle, which is described as “a newly created digital platform that encourages open dialogue between one another and serves as an opportunity to share life stories”. Cate has been the face and ambassador of Armani’s fragrance Si for three years. I ask Cate what drew her to Giorgio. “He has been a huge aesthetic influence on my sense of what was possible, visually, as a woman when I was at school,” says Ms Blanchett, who was born on May 14, 1969 in Melbourne, Australia.
“My jaw hit the floor when I first started seeing his now iconic and much absorbed influence of masculine and feminine tailoring. So I tried to emulate that in an op-shop, second-hand way, until finally, when I got my first pay cheque from my first theatre job, I went to a sale at the Sydney store — and I bought a Giorgio Armani suit.”
Asked how much her first pay cheque was made out for, the actress, who is now on quite a few million dollars per picture laughs, and says, “Oh, it was about 25 cents!
“That was my entire pay cheque for the whole season! So it wasn’t particularly sensible, but I’d always wanted one. I still have the suit. And that’s the thing — his design, his aesthetic, is timeless.
“So Giorgio has been an incredible influence on me — and I count our creative relationship as one of the great privileges of my career. We’ve worked together in the theatre, and from a philanthropic point of view, and obviously in fashion, and now being asked to be the face of his signature fragrance. It has been a fantastic, fruitful and inspiring relationship.”
When she describes Giorgio Armani’s personality as “intensely curious, intensely singular,” Cate Blanchett could be describing herself, too. “He is a perfectionist, but from an eastern perspective; he has an understanding that anything that is going to be truly beautiful must be skewed slightly.” So do you share the same artistic and intellectual curiosity? “I can but hope! He is indefatigable!” says the indefatigable Cate Blanchett.
“He is so difficult to catch. I think he is a bit like Santa Claus. Apparently, he was here last night and I missed him; I was staggering to get up to finish the school run,” she jokes, referring to her children — sons Dashiell (14), Roman (12) and Ignatius (7), and toddler daughter Edith, whom she and her husband, playwright Andrew Upton, adopted in March 2015.
“Nothing gets signed off without passing over his [Armani’s] desk. I think that’s why the house and the aesthetic of Armani has remained so absolute and influential, because his hand is really across everything.”
Have you learned from him in terms of film roles?
“I greatly admire his passion and his work ethic . . .”
Being commercial but also keeping the integrity?
“I feel like you’re leading somewhere!” Cate Blanchett laughs as the giant, male Armani PR handler in the room does anything but laugh.
I suggest that perhaps the road I was leading her down was that, in a sense, some of her roles could be considered couture.
“You mean, elite and unattainable — and no one purchases them?” she laughs.
“But there is a bit of straight-to-video in my career and there is absolutely no straight-to-video for Mr Armani.
“Look,” Cate Blanchett says eventually, “you can only say yes to the experience; the outcome is based on timing and luck and circumstance. If you are always concentrating on the results and not on the process, then I think one’s creative journey becomes very arid.”
Arid creative journeys notwithstanding, Cate Blanchett has been nominated six times for an Academy Award: she’s won two — for 2004’s and 2013’s
Blue Jasmine. The Aviator