Cate Blanchett: 'My maternal guilt is of the high-class and expensive variety'
Cate Blanchett's latest performance in Woody Allen’s ’Blue Jasmine’ – as a vodka-and-Xanax-swilling woman on the brink of breaking point – must have been quite a stretch for the immaculately casual mother-of-three
I’m sitting down with Cate Blanchett when a star-struck guy comes up, handshake at the ready: “You’re fabulous,” he says. (He’s talking to Cate, obviously).
“You mean in general?” she nods. “Well, that’s a relief.”
In life, as on Fashion Police, the award-winning star of The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies is so strikingly self-assured and elegant – she’s makes for a reliably porcelain presence on most red carpets – that one is consistently surprised by her capacity for humour.
As I turn on my recorder, she warms to the theme with more faux hauteur: “Yeah, let’s talk some more about me.”
This afternoon, Australia’s finest-boned acting export is wearing a black Givenchy dress with a delicate multi-coloured print and a front ruffle over its fastenings: “Good for a quickie,” she smirks, in plummy rounded vowels, not normally associated with that word. “Not that that will be happening today.”
I assume not. As we meet, she’s awaiting the arrival of her theatre director husband Andrew Upton and their three sons, Dashiell (12), Roman (9) and Ignatius (5). When the family touches down in London tomorrow – a few miles down the road from our current location – she won’t have seen them for four days.
“If I’m making a film, I bring them with me,” she says. “But for most of the six years, I’ve been making theatre. So I take my kids to school every day. I love them too much to be away from them for longer than four days. And I’m in a very fortunate position. I can choose to work or not to work. My maternal guilt is of the high class and expensive variety. Think about those mothers whose kids are living in Mexico City while they’re working as a nanny in the States.”
But there’s maternal guilt just the same?
“Oh yes. Isn’t that true of all working mothers? I’m very proud of my relationship and our children – who are very grounded. But, like any parent, I’m filled with guilt and remorse. I lie awake thinking: ‘Why did I say that to him when we moved house when he was two-and-a-half. You’re always thinking about the things you’ve done wrong rather than the things you’ve done right. Maybe that’s what keeps us going: the hope that we’ll do better.”
She takes a similar approach to her craft. She didn’t always read reviews. But since she and her husband became artistic directors at the Sydney Theatre Company – a troupe of players she’s been attached to since 1992 – she feels obliged to suffer the slings and arrows just a little.
“As an actor, you can ignore reviews, whether they’re coming from blogs or from trained, professional critics. As a producer, you can’t. Positive criticism can be just as detrimental to the ongoing health of a production. Actors can play to positive criticism and it can affect a production in negative ways.”
And when she’s acting?
“I just ask: are they good or are they bad? And in the end, I’ll always search out the bad. My husband is always telling me off for that saying: ‘You found that one bad review and now it’s all you’re talking about’.”