Cate ages with grace in “Benjamin Button”

Monday, Dec 22, 2008

If movie fans didn’t know she was co-starring with Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” they wouldn’t recognize Cate Blanchett when the film opens with a close-up of her in a hospital bed, as a withered old woman.

The 39-year-old Australian actress, an Academy Award winner for her 2004 portrait of Katharine Hepburn (“The Aviator“) and a two-time Oscar nominee last year as Queen Elizabeth (“Elizabeth: The Golden Age“) and Bob Dylan (“I’m Not There“), disappears into another challenging role in “Benjamin Button,” which opens Christmas Day.

She undergoes a striking transformation as the life of her character, Daisy, unfolds over eight decades, blossoming from a sprightly girl into a beautiful ballet dancer, then growing old while the love of her life inexplicably gets younger.

Blanchett says much of the credit for her metamorphosis goes to the “unbelievable” talent of makeup artists.

But the actress says her own performance was informed largely by experiences from her youth — from childhood ballet lessons, to a close relationship with her grandmother and to her first job, at 14, serving meals in an old-age home.

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