“Cate who?” asked my roommates on Saturday night, before I left for the Arlington Theatre to watch Cate Blanchett stroll down the red carpet. Blanchett is not the most glamorous or spotlight-seeking actress in Hollywood, but with a diverse spectrum of roles ranging from Katharine Hepburn to Queen Elizabeth to Bob Dylan to Galadriel from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, she has become one of the most respected thespians among film critics and by the Academy. The Santa Barbara Film Festival presented the versatile actress with its highest honor – the Modern Master Award – and treated her fans to a two-hour interview and a selection of film clips as part of the award ceremony.
Press pass in hand, I nervously approached the red carpet under the impression that I would have to shove my way through a mosh pit of aggressive reporters just to catch a glimpse of the actress. Instead, I was relieved to find a crowd of relaxed and friendly journalists; I definitely wasn’t going to get pushed around by the nice old lady standing next to me. First to walk down the red carpet was Todd Haynes, writer and director of the Bob Dylan biopic “I’m Not There.” A slew of journalists and I crowded behind a USA Today reporter to hear Haynes describe Dylan as an “androgynous, feline creature” who could only be portrayed through an ensemble cast of six actors. But Haynes’ advice for aspiring filmmakers was far less vague: “Just make stuff.”
Haynes was soon drowned out by paparazzi screaming simply for “Cate,” who is more striking in person than on the silver screen, despite being visibly pregnant. Though she received two Oscar nods this year, as Best Actress in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” and Best Supporting Actress in “I’m Not There,” Blanchett wouldn’t fess up to which award she wanted more. As the crowd shuffled into the theatre, I tried yelling out a question about Bob Dylan’s opinion of her role, and she responded with a quick “I haven’t met him,” before walking away. Not an impressive answer, but I can now safely say that Cate Blanchett talked to me.
“Making a baby is quite fun,” joked Blanchett on her decision to have a third child, as she sat on the stage of the packed theatre. But throughout the two-hour interview, the articulate Australian mostly talked business, admitting that she achieved Hollywood success through a series of lucky breaks. A clip from “Notes on a Scandal” demonstrated her knack for performing intense monologues and emotional meltdowns. “Pushing Tin” featured one of the few clips in which she portrays an ordinary, unexceptional person, but the former stage actress clearly favors more theatrical roles. For example, Blanchett was so set on accurately portraying Katharine Hepburn in “The Aviator” that she approached random grocery store shoppers to get their opinion on the legend’s true personality.
“I love you Cate Blanchett!” yelled an audience member, before she cheekily responded with an “I love you too, babe.” But it is acting, not audience attention or fame, that seemed to be Blanchett’s true love.