Cate Blanchett’s life path is highlighted by, challenging childhood experiences, a 26-year marriage, three biological sons, and an adopted daughter. Her prolific acting career includes 96 film roles, 14 produced films, 22 theatre productions, two Oscars, and five Golden Globes. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is considered one of the greatest actors of all time. Blanchett is also renowned for her timeless beauty and style.
Today, she is passionate about producing, and we spoke to Cate about this new aspect of her career at the Cannes Kering suite after the screening of the film ‘The New Boy,’ created by her production company, Dirty Films.
Kate’s father passed away from a heart attack when she was only ten years old, and her mother had to raise three children on her own. It’s clear that the family faced many challenges, but it instilled in the future Hollywood star the ability to overcome difficulties, discipline, resilience, and empathy towards people who, against all odds, know how to survive in the most challenging life situations.
Cate Blanchett gained fame and recognition not only thanks to her talent. She has always worked tirelessly and with full dedication, not dwelling on failures, of which there were many, but instead, she pushed past them and moved forward. Blanchett doesn’t conform to the standard norms of the global dream factory, especially in the realm of her personal life: no divorces and scandals that Hollywood is known for. Kate married screenwriter and film editor Andrew Upton, and they have been together for 26 years. Yet, it is Cate Blanchett, with her rather conservative views on Catholicism and family, who has changed Hollywood’s cinematic standards from ‘Captain America’ to ‘Mrs. America.'”
Q: Can you share your thoughts on the film you premiered in Cannes “The New Boy”?
A: I am incredibly proud of “The New Boy” and thrilled to see it premiere. It’s a film that explores important themes and tells a compelling story. The cast and crew poured their hearts into this project, and it’s exciting to finally share it with audiences.
The script of “The New Boy” immediately caught my attention because of its unique perspective on a familiar coming-of-age story. It beautifully captures the complexities of adolescence and the challenges of fitting in. I was drawn to the depth of the characters and the emotional journey they go through.
This script was in writer’s bottom draw for eighteen years but when he’s pulled it out, it would have been percolating for a long time so we had to act quickly to produce it. As a producer, you have to be alive for those different rhythms.
Q: How was it working with the director and the rest of the cast on “The New Boy”?
A: Working with the director and the cast of “The New Boy” was a fantastic experience. The director brought a fresh and innovative approach to the storytelling, and it was inspiring to collaborate with such a talented team. Filmmaking is a conversation and working on it together with Coco Francini was a pleasure because it makes you think in a different way and makes you ask different questions and see things from different perspective.
Q: Can you tell us about your journey in producing and what sparked your interest in this aspect of filmmaking?
A: Producing for me began with my work as an actor. I’ve always been fascinated by the entire process of filmmaking, from development all the way to post-production and distribution and marketing. Running a theatre company in Australia also gave me the opportunity to produce works by various artists. It allowed me to engage in meaningful conversations with fellow creatives and contribute to the overall vision of a project. It feels like a natural progression for me as an actor.
Coco and I, we understand how the films get made. We are prepared to the the job big and small and that’s the way we make films in Australia.
As a producer you do have to be a publicist sometimes, you do have to a crew member and get people coffee. You need to know what the post production process looks like. Of course it’s about getting money – we wouldn’t be here today – but also what gets lost in the art of producing is the creative dialogue between people who are involved in the project.
Q: You act in The New Boy which is not usual for films you produce at Dirty Films. What makes you decide whether you want to act in a film or not?
A: I always try to get out of the acting. I’ve been trying to stop acting my entire life.I remember one director telling me at the beginning of my career that I should stop taking small roles. And I couldn’t understand why because I wanted to play that small role. It was interesting to me, not the lead role as I wanted to experiment with it. I really wanted to be in a dialogue. But when you direct a show it’s just as nerve-wracking as being on stage. For me, it has always been about the dialogue and facilitation is equally as creative.
Q: Dirty Films is known for its director-driven approach. Could you share more about the philosophy behind the company?
A: At Dirty Films, we believe in the power of creative dialogue and supporting the unique vision of each filmmaker. We aim to create an environment that nurtures diverse voices and encourages collaboration among artists. It’s important to us that directors have the freedom to express their creativity fully.
Q: As an actor and a producer, how do you balance the two roles?
A: I must admit that I have a desire to transition away from acting. However, I find the collaborative process and the opportunity to play interesting roles still alluring. As an actor, I can engage in conversations with other actors and creatives on set, contributing to the overall artistic vision.
Q: The name “Dirty Films” is quite intriguing. Can you shed some light on its significance?
A: The name “Dirty Films” was chosen as a humorous reference to the editing process in the film industry. When you work with film, you have to clean the negative from a chinagraph pencil used in editing process to be able to screen the rushes (daily footage). And editors used to have a joke that they don’t screen ‘dirty films’, they clean them. We’ve kept it because it’s kind of cheeky. But also it reflects our ethos: we know the process of filmmaking, we don’t mind getting our hands dirty, we are interested in a complicated and often messy process of making something.
It also reflects our willingness to embrace the complexities and challenges of filmmaking. We navigate the intricacies of the industry while supporting filmmakers and telling compelling stories.
Q: What films do you select for Dirty Films?
A: I’m a bit weary of the mission statements, saying “we make this type of cinema”. I think our taste is really eclectic. The type of films we are interested in evolves We never discount any conversation. We support a lot of female filmmakers.
Recently, we were also involved in an interesting VR project. It was a really fascinating VR installation at the Tribeca festival Exec produced by Terrence Malick.
Q: Diversity and representation are essential topics in the industry. Can you share your experiences in this regard?
A: Projects like “Mrs America” have been significant for me, where efforts were made to have female directors helm the episodes. We sat down and decided to make a list (of female directors) and without drawing a breath, we suddenly had a list of seventeen women who were completely qualified, capable and inspirational. And then it became “oh how do we narrow it down, we only have eight episodes.
In a process, we realised how easy it is and how lazy the industry is to it’s own detriment. There is this profound malaise and a level of homogeneity because the people behind the lens were too homogenous. And when you introduce diversity – and I’m not only talking about gender and sex and racial diversity, I also mean generational diversity – then, the work becomes so interesting.
I believe in challenging traditional industry practices and creating opportunities for underrepresented voices. It’s crucial to ensure diverse perspectives are heard and represented in the stories we tell.
I’ve had experiences where I’ve walked to the film set and did the head count. You wonder why you feel annoyed some days and then When I did the head count, I realised not only I was the only woman in the cast but there are also sixty-two people in the cast and crew and I am the only woman in the room. And the attitude was “I will do this tomorrow”. So the representation is really disproportionate and you end up always laughing at the same jokes. I do have a really good sense humour but let’s change it up.
Q: What changes have you seen in the industry for women since you started?
A: “I think the diversity at the of on mind. And we need to keep having the conversation until the production is completely inclusive. When I started, there was a narrative perpetuated by the media that you are competitors and not collaborators. And I think women really have each other’s backs.
Q: Are you interested in directing?
A: I get asked a lot. But for me there are so many things I find enjoyable in the process of making films. I’m slow as an actor and I’m triply slow as a director. There is one project that we would like to work on but takes time. I have four children and a garden and I don’t want my flowers to die. I’ve killed too many cauliflower. Gardening teaches you patience and that’s one of the things I have to learn.
Q: Should Hollywood take more chances with filmmaking?
A: I don’t know what Hollywood means. I think it’s a state of mind. You san see that ‘Hollywood’ state of mind everywhere.
Healthy industry is the one diverse in scale. We often try and compare the ambitions and resources of film that are made for $250M and those made for $1.5M. I think healthy industry gives platform and access to the audience to the entire cornucopia of cinematic experience. I, as an actor, have enjoyed being I that wide scale of films.
Q: Is it harder to get financing for a project as a woman?
I’m sure it is. It’s hard to get paid as an actress. We are not there yet. But I think we are making progress. The transparency is very important. We talk about money as if we don’t talk about money. But why? We talk about all other aspects, why not about money?
Q: how d you navigate the change of tone of a character who can achieve any kind of goal but also has this fragility inside?
A: I’ve always been drawn to complex roles. Or early day in my career when there weren’t that many opportunities and you had to make an opportunity out of what was traditionally called a ‘girlfriend role’, you try and play against the banality or the simplicity of the character on the page.
With Tar, the character was there on a page and I only had to raise to the complexity.