Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett is a chameleon of epic proportions: From portraying Phyllis Schlafly in “Miss America” to Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There” and Katharine Hepburn in “The Aviator,” Blanchett doesn’t shy away from being completely unrecognizable on the big screen.
It’s one of her many gifts, in fact, and one that was on full display for 2015’s “Manifesto,” for which Blanchett became a homeless man, a scientist, a funeral speaker, a tattooed punk, a reporter, and a teacher, plus seven more characters ranging from male to female, polished to grunge.
“I’ve realized over the years that my relationship with the costume designer and the hair and makeup people is really profound,” Blanchett told The New York Times in a joint interview with feminist photographer Cindy Sherman. “It’s profound to see what the character looks like, and therefore how a character might move or project.”
Yet Blanchett noted that male directors don’t always quite understand the depths to which those respective below-the-line teams are integral to filmmaking.
“Those departments — so-called ‘female guilds’ — are often things that male directors profess to know nothing about,” Blanchett added, explaining directors will often dismissively say “‘I’ll just leave that bit to you.'”
Blanchett’s Oscar-nominated turn as Queen Elizabeth I for both the 1998’s “Elizabeth” and its 2007 follow-up, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” proved prime examples of not seeing eye to eye with a director’s inherent male gaze.
“I played Elizabeth I years ago, and the director [Shekhar Kapur], whom l love and respect, was always, ‘I just want the hair down, flowing in the wind,'” Blanchett recalled. “I said, have you seen the pictures of Elizabeth I? There weren’t that many like that.”
She continued, “But it’s because [some male directors] need to feel attracted. They can’t see that there are other ways — and not even in a sexual way — you can be alluring. You can draw an audience into a character’s experience in many different ways.”
Blanchett recently made history as the second-youngest recipient of Film at Lincoln Center’s coveted 47th Chaplin Award on April 26. She next stars in Todd Field’s return to the screen, “Tar,” and is set to team with Pedro Almodóvar for “A Manual for Cleaning Women.”