The Art of Random Willy-Nillyness: Talking Being Evil with Cate Blanchett! #CinderellaEvent
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Monday, March 9, 2015

Talking Being Evil with Cate Blanchett! #CinderellaEvent

Disclosure: I attended the #CinderellaEvent and my expenses: flight, accommodations, transportation and some meals were covered by Disney. All opinions, however, are 100% mine.

When Cate Blanchett walked into the room, I was amazed as how beautiful she looked. This woman is amazing. She is also amazing in Cinderella. As the Evil Stepmother, Cate is evil yet brings a humanity to the role of the Stepmother.

I'm not going to lie. I was mesmerized by Cate as she spoke to us. I have been a fan of hers for so long and she is one of my favorite actresses. And I was glad to see that her acting is spot on in Cinderella.

She is also funny and smart and was a pleasure to interview. In our interview, she talks about evil, her laugh, her favorite scene and her input on her character.

Q: So did you go after this role?

Cate Blanchett (CB): Yes, like a rabid dog [LAUGHS]. And I didn't get the Cinderella role though I had so many friends who asked me what I was doing in the summer and I said I'm in a live-action version of Cinderella, and there was a big kind of awkward pause. And they didn't quite know how to ask me are you a little old to be playing Cinderella? [LAUGHS] Yeah. A bit Bette Davis, so yes. It sort of landed in my lap, actually.

Q: What's your favorite scene?

CB: Ooh, well, I think the chemistry between Lily and Richard is palpable, and I wept like a baby, completely inappropriately and out of character when they waltzed for the first time. The, the music is beautiful, but also it was a really big feat because Lily was cinched in so tightly, and that dress was like an armored tank, and he was in seven hundred layers of wool, and the dance was really athletic, and they acted like a dream. And the chemistry was palpable, and I wept because it was beautiful to watch.

Being the mother of sons, I found it very, very moving, and every time I see it I do cry a lot, [LAUGHS]. I love the scene between Derek Jacobi as the king, and Richard Madden as the prince. You know, because that's the wonderful thing about the film, I think is that we try and shield our children from moments of grief and I know it from having lost a parent at the age of ten.

I found that really moving. I thought for him as a man to be curled up like a young boy. I've had a lot of friends recently lose a parent, and whether you're eighty or eight and you lose a parent, you're always the child, and so I find that scene very moving.

Q: How much fun was it to play a Disney villain?

CB: There's a lot of great Disney villains, and a lot of them are women and they always have fabulous frocks and fabulous hairdos and so it was an enormous amount of fun. The wonderful message in the film is to have courage and to be kind. You know, kindness is a super power, and we try to teach our children you share, you be respectful, you be generous, you be thoughtful, put yourself in someone else's shoes, and to play someone who can't play someone who can't do any of those things, to have that as your avatar during the day was quite fun.

Q: There was a scene where Lily asks you, as Cinderella, why are you doing this, and you say because you're young, and I think you're good, and I forget what the third one was.

CB: You're young and beautiful.

Q: Yeah, what is that saying that an older woman is going to be so mean and evil, and jealous of a younger, beautiful woman, and having to work that into your character? Did you find some humanity in her that you could use?

CB: Well, there's that wonderful moment you finally get to hear the stepmother's story and it's not the stepmother's story. It's the story of Cinderella. So the stepmother is a foil for her, narratively, and they've both suffered an incredible amount of hardship and tragedy, and this is a world still like today's world where a lot of women don't have agency; don't have financial independence, and she [the stepmother] made a decision really early on that the world is a tough place, and the way, the way to navigate your way through that is to graft yourself onto a man, and that's what she's imparting to her children.

And the way that the stepmother has dealt with grief and hardship is to close down and to become bitter and jealous and there's a sense of entitlement. And Cinderella's experienced those things but she's remained open-hearted and good. She's much more glass half full. And I think that whether you're a man or a woman that tragedy does define your character. You don't necessarily like what the stepmother does, but hopefully you understand her.

And I don't necessarily think it's just about older women. There's a lot of different female characters in there. There's Cinderella's mother, there's the daughters, there's the people at the court and then there's the stepmother, as well. But I think there can be like professional jealousy between men.

Q: How did you prepare for your role? You're so evil. I love it.

CB: Thank you.

Often on film, we don't get a lot of rehearsal time. We got a little bit of with Ken [Branagh] on the script. Actors come in at various different times, and so for me, the most creative two parts of the process early on are your costume fittings and makeup and hair.

We get to try things out because before you even utter a syllable. We form unconscious judgments of people [by] the way they smell, by what they choose to wear; how you choose to present yourself, it's a big part of who we are, and particularly on film because it's so visual. Once I knew what those silhouettes were, I knew which bits I didn't have to act because the costume was revealing those things.

You could play against it. So that was an incredible amount of fun and then obviously, it gives you a sense of how the character might move, and you try those things out because the camera's not rolling- no one's looking at you, and the other thing I find very creative is the camera tests. Because obviously the cinematographer and the director are looking for lighting effects and how will it effect on your skin or the hair- with wig color. They're not looking at you, and I always like to see the camera tests because you can try things out.

So that was a big part of the preparation.

Q: I wanted to ask you did you have any input on what you wore, and what was your favorite look of what you wore?

CB: Oh, gosh it's been a Sophie's Choice moment isn't it? Sandy has [Powell – costume designer] very, very strong ideas. I mean, that's what makes her Sandy Powell. We talked really early on. We started emailing each other pictures that we found inspiring, lighting references, hat references, drapes, fabrics and we found this pool of images that we were both drawn to. I found really exciting when she pulled out the color swatches.

Okay, we're going for chartreuse, we're going for green, we're going for hot pink, and we're gonna mix them all together.

Q: And your favorites?

CB: My favorite. There was a lot of green. My school uniform was green, so I tend not to wear a lot of green in everyday life, and I call that dress that I wore at the ball, the gherkin, you know, that was my least favorite, but everyone seems to like that one.

I like the blue one. There's a scene where the stepmother goes to see the archduke, with the poppy gloves and a blue hat. The detail in Sandy's costumes are just extraordinary.

Q: You just spoke about trying things out on the camera test. How much input did you have on the script?

CB: A lot. I mean, I think there's a sense that actors are sort of puppets that get moved around but no I'm always interested in input. My husband is a writer, you know, and I come from the theater, so I have a great respect for the script, and often times the line that you want to change is the line that you need to make work, and that once you make that line work, then you've actually- you've shifted from yourself, the line you find hardest to say.

Without getting too kind of complex, it's quite a difficult neuro linguistic process to actually make someone else's words sound like they're your own. And so the one I find that you may find most difficult to make your own is often the one that will unlock the character. But it was really important to me, and it wasn't the case when I first read the script that Cinderella had the final line of the film. I said to Ken it's a really great message. She comes in and says, well, I'm not going be rescued.

If this relationship is going work, he has to accept me for who I am, which I think is wonderful for young girls to say. I think it's fantastic. And then there was a line at the end where he said, shall we go, and she didn't say anything. And I thought, it's not his story- it's her story. And so then we added in this sense of forgiveness. I forgive you, and I feel like that's a wonderful kind of conclusion to her super power. Ella has an incredibly generous spirit and she also closes out the film which I think is great.

Q: Of all the villains that you have seen in a Disney, like you mentioned did you kind of draw from anybody, I mean, to really get into that role? I mean, you're not a villain, but you're a mean person in the movie.

CB: I will steal from anything- anything I see that works. I have no shame. I have no pride. I will steal from any other actor's performance. I think as human beings, we do absorb the stories that are read to us, the films that we see growing up, the pieces of art that we get taken to see, the music that we listen to and somehow I really do have early onset dementia.

But I can't consciously remember anything. That cultural wellspring, it does come up. You know, like, I love Bette Davis, I love Lucille Ball, I love Gena Rowlands. You know, I don't consciously try and reference any of that stuff, but the people that you're inspired by will obviously influence you.

Q: Your laugh in the movie, I found that very iconic. Where did you draw the inspiration for that laugh?

CB: I was mucking around with a friend of mine on set and, we were talking about what makes people ugly. And I said, it's interesting you can go out with somebody and think, oh my gosh, you're so attractive, and then he or she eats, and you think, oh my god, you're a pig. Or someone is amazing and you think, your politics are reprehensible, or you know, there's something about them will give them away, and we were talking about dirty laughs.

And, and so I just did it, and she laughed, and then the gambling scene and I laughed, and Ken's face was so revolted. He was really worried. He said, you're not gonna do that, are you? And I said, oh yes I am. I think his reaction made me wanna keep it. She's got exquisite dresses, perfect makeup, and then she opens her mouth and that comes out. And so I thought that that was a bit of a red flag about what was to come.

CINDERELLA opens in theaters everywhere on March 13th!

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  1. Crystal can't wait to see this movie! I was 'eh' about it until I read this. Now I'm going to have to be the one to take her!

    Great questions. Great answers, too!

    We're big fans of Cate, too. She's a true gem.

  2. I'm a huge Cate Blanchett fan, her work is amazing, her style is unique but still manages classy, and congrats on her adopting a baby girl.

  3. I would never have seen this movie, but you may have created a convert. LUCK E. DUCK!

  4. Interesting interview. She sounds like a good mother.