The Best Actress Oscar is Cate Blanchett’s to lose. As she says in our flip cam interview below, many movies with strong female performances will come out before year’s end, but right now her role in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” towers over the rest so far, amid a summer season suffering from a lack of women’s roles. You just have to keep looking, she says, citing the likes of Dames Helen Mirren and Judi Dench, Michelle Williams and Meryl Streep as actresses with enviable careers.
So far Blanchett has earned one Oscar, for best supporting actress as Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s “Aviator,” out of five nominations: two for playing Queen Elizabeth I, one opposite Dench in “Notes on a Scandal” and one for embodying Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ “I’m Not There.”
And she will likely join the ranks of actresses who have won Oscars for juicy roles in Woody Allen movies: Diane Keaton (“Annie Hall”), Mira Sorvino (“Mighty Aphrodite”), Penelope Cruz (“Vicky Christina Barcelona”) and Dianne Wiest (“Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Bullets Over Broadway”).
Basically, Woody Allen, 77, gave Blanchett a chance to run with the ball. Most of what she needed was in the script, she says–and the notoriously aloof director let her know if she was doing something wrong. At the beginning she wasn’t sure how Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale and Sally Hawkins were all going to mesh with her character Jasmine, the anxiously babbling vodka-swilling and xanax-popping widow of a once-wealthy Bernie Madoff-like financier (Alec Baldwin) who has left her with nothing. She moves in with her adopted sister (Hawkins) in San Francisco, and takes a job as the receptionist to a dentist (Michael Stuhlbarg) who makes unwelcome advances. A rich politician (Peter Sarsgaard) could be her white knight, she hopes.
While playing Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ “Streetcar Named Desire” certainly informed Blanchett’s performance as Allen’s fantasist Jasmine, who is loosely based on a real East Sider who lost her fortune, so did William Shakespeare’s “Richard II.”
Amazingly for someone so productive, Blanchett is raising three boys with her husband Andrew Upton in Sydney–he’s still artistic director the Sydney Theatre Co., but her term is up. In the past year she’s returned to Wellywood to play Galadriel in Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit.” At the start of the year she was in Berlin shooting Grant Heslov and George Clooney’s “Monuments Men,” a humorous World War II thriller about saving Europe’s great art from the encroaching Nazis.
Still in the works: Kenneth Branagh’s “Cinderella,” David Mamet’s “Blackbird,” Haynes’ Patricia Highsmith adaptation “Carol” and voice work in “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” Even after collaborating with the likes of David Fincher (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), Steven Spielberg (“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”), Joe Wright (“Hanna”) and Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu (“Babel”), nothing could prepare her for Terrence Malick.
Blanchett has no idea what will come of her three weeks noodling with the filmmaker in Austin and Los Angeles, which felt like the opposite of working on the efficiently controlled Woody Allen set, where they shot so fast that it feels “buoyant,” she says. For his part, Malick improvises without a script and is inventing a new cinema that she calls “poetry.”