Living in the age of Cate Blanchett

Adam Griffiths

Cate Blanchett is a woman of many faces.

The first reigning queen of what was once the greatest monarchy on the planet. The Lady of the Wood in what may be the most popular fantasy series ever. An Irish investigative reporter. A Scottish woman drawn into the midst of the French Resistance after her lover’s death. A Jewish German prostitute during World War II.

The list grows annually, and with each role she tucks under her belt, Cate Blanchett reaffirms her position as one of the most prominent and acclaimed performers of all time.

For the second year in a row, the Australia native Blanchett is arguably dominating the fall’s silver screen. Last month, she revived the Elizabeth role that earned the actress her first Oscar nomination in 1999, and now she’s pushing the envelope again as one of many of the elite taking a turn in the Bob Dylan biopic, I’m Not There.

In a little less than 10 years, she’s risen out of obscurity to one of Hollywood’s most in-demand players. The now defunct Premiere magazine featured Blanchett on the cover of its October 2006 issue, recognizing her with other great modern icons including Sally Field, Annette Bening and Sofia Coppola. Esquire magazine propped her up with actors such as Denzel Washington and Robert Downey Jr. for next month’s “Performances of the Year” cover story for her Dylan portrayal. Look no further than critics’ reviews of her work for the reason why.

“Blanchett makes Dylan a cussed dude who uses his wit to wound” and “does a spectacular, soul-on-the-sleeve enactment of Dylan in his Don’t Look Back media-put-on phase,” writes Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gliberman in his review of I’m Not There.

Ten years ago, Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers gave Blanchett similar praise for her embodiment of the Virgin Queen.

“Australian actress Cate Blanchett has a passionate fire and wit that command attention,” Travers wrote. “Think of Princess Diana when British screenwriter Michael Hirst and Delhi-born director Shekhar Kapur show a girl forced into womanhood by the duties of royalty.”

Blanchett commands every role she assumes. The demeanor she brings to the screen is rarely paralleled within the current gamut of A-list actresses. Her skilled and well-rounded performances recall memories of Hollywood icon Katharine Hepburn, another historic figure Blanchett impersonated in the 2004 The Aviator, a role for which she was awarded her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Next up? One of the biggest revivals of the past five years: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, due out in May. Also primed and in post-production for a November 2008 release is a film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in which Blanchett stars alongside Brad Pitt, sure to be next fall’s cover story.

But Blanchett is guaranteed to make headlines before then. Rumors are already abuzz of another Oscar nomination for her Dylan stint, and she announced her pregnancy with her third child at the Australian premiere of Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

When interviewed by Time magazine after working with Blanchett in the 1999 The Talented Mr. Ripley, producer Alison Owen predicted, “I think she will be huge if she wants to be.”

Clearly, the actress has a closet full of faces we know we’ve yet to see.