Cate Blanchett talks about skin care, the beauty benefits of colonics, and why she avoids social media.
Cate Blanchett is an undeniably beautiful and stylish woman, but she’d greatly prefer to be recognized for her talent on the big screen and the stage. With two new films, “Carol” and “Truth,” already gaining Oscar buzz, and a recently-adopted daughter added to her family, the well-decorated actress chocks up her success to choosing meaningful parts, and avoiding social media at all costs; “I cannot for the life of me work out why adults are participating in that s–t,” the actress told me last week. Blanchett is bored to death of red carpet 360-degree cameras and the desperate validation of selfies, which is perhaps a shame. Her porcelain skin looks luminous up close without the need of a filter. I met up with Blanchett last week to discuss her beauty secrets and love of SK-II skin care products, but the opinionated actress also up wound up revealing her love of colonics, the desire to change her destiny, the actress she most admires, and why you’ll never get to see her bunions.
I’ve seen you on stage in “The Maids” and on screen in “Blue Jasmine,” and while I feel some actresses hold back in fear of not looking “pretty,” you throw yourself into roles where you’re crying and crazy, with makeup smeared. Did it take you time to become so fearless and comfortable taking roles that weren’t glamorous?
I think I’ve done those all the way along. So maybe in a way “Carol” is a bit of a surprise, not that she’s just a very well put together person, and because Terese finds her beautiful, there’s no more to her, and that feels more like a crutch to me than anything. But yeah, that last scene in “Blue Jasmine,” I just took everything off because I wanted to look scrubbed and raw, and there was no makeup, no mascara, no anything. But I think you can do that — it depends on the role. If you have someone who is wearing a lot of makeup but then you see them without it, that’s a really useful shot for the audience.
There’s been a lot of discussion and praise of women going makeup-free for roles — that it’s a huge deal for women to not wear makeup. Why do you think that’s so shocking?
I think it’s because people constantly are taking pictures of ourselves to send them to people to see if they like me, “do they like me?” It’s pathetic, the whole thing about people worrying about what other people are going to think.
Like the selfie culture?
I just can’t handle it. Of course you want people to go see the films that you make, of course you want them to enjoy them. But I’m not out there saying, “Do they like the way I look? Do they like that look on the red carpet?” You have to say, “This is what I’m doing right now.”
Some celebrities have spoken out about not wanting to answer the silly questions about what you’re wearing or do the Mani Cam and to focus more on being nominated for a great role.
Look, I understand, people get really excited about it. The dresses are incredible. Unless you go to a Cotillion ball in the South, when do you get a chance to wear them except to these pageants? But when it takes over and then you’re asked to stand on this 360-degree camera, stick your toes into some device so they can beam your bunions around the world, it’s like, ‘No thank you.’ And when men talk about your clothes above your actual achievement, it’s a bit, you know…
We often hear about the lack of roles for older women or the lack of complex roles for women. What do you think you’ve done to avoid that?
Often I’d take a role that was a small role in a film just because I hadn’t done that type of role before. You might be offered a role that has more lines in it, but it’s not the interesting role. So I think I started off doing that — out of the limited things that were offered to me, I took what I found most interesting. Not to get anywhere. You see girls in their 20s now, they’re being pushed to play the lead role in blah blah, and then what’s next? It’s great, but you need to have a really clear head about what you want to do with it.
Well, your next two roles are so different in terms of the characters. In “Carol” you’re very glamorous and put together and in “Truth” you’re a career woman and not worrying about her looks. Is that interesting for you, that physical part that goes along with the role?
Yeah, absolutely. I love that stuff. It’s a big part of it. The costume fittings, with Sandy Powell, who I’ve worked with a few times now. We did “The Aviator” together and “Cinderella,” and then “Carol.”
Can you tell me about the new films?
Well, “Carol” is based on Patricia Highsmith’s first novel, “The Price of Salt,” which is a story about two women falling in love. It’s the first piece of gay fiction that had sort of happy ending. Todd Haynes is directing it, and he’s a master director. I play Carol, an older woman with a child in a marriage of convenience, who falls in love with a shop girl in the ‘50s, and the film really deals with the subjectivity we all experience when we fall in love with someone. Something in the world around you shifts, and you see the person you’re falling in love with in a series of minutia. It’s very emotionally shocking. I found watching it that you forgot that you were watching two women falling in love, and in the end, it’s really just about falling in love.
And the other one is based on an ex “60 Minutes” producer, named Mary Mapes, who was a producer for Dan Rather. She wrote a memoir about her time at 60 Minutes — she produced the Abu Ghraib story, and she produced many groundbreaking reports. She did a story going up to the second Bush election about the question mark over Bush’s National Guard service, and that was a very contentious story for CBS to run, and for 60 Minutes to run. So the story was retracted and eventually she and Dan Rather lost their jobs. It’s a very intense story.
You are such a chameleon when you act, completely inhabiting your characters — what role has been the biggest challenge for you and why?
All those years ago playing “Elizabeth,” because it was my first time filming outside of my country, I didn’t know anyone in England, I was completely away from my family, and friends. And the demands. Some of the producers wanted me and some of them didn’t, so I felt like I had to battle every day, and I found that quite challenging. But they’ve been challenges that I’ve really enjoyed.
Your new SK-II short film is called #ChangeDestiny. What did or do you view as your destiny, and how has your path been unexpected?
It’s a bit different, isn’t it — the concept of fate and destiny? Destiny you can do something about, fate is… in the Greek sense of the word, you can’t shift it. It’s like the House of Atreus. It’s like a curse that you can’t break. Destiny is something you can rise to and fulfill. I think the notion of change is really challenging for me, for everybody, because it’s particularly in relation to one’s physical appearance. You go to embrace the changes so you can make the best of what’s going on, or you’re trying to prevent the change — you’re actually preventing a series of opportunities, I think, personally. So, with my skin, I’ve always been trying to work with what I have and make the best of it.
Do you ever have any skin issues from all the on-screen and red carpet makeup?
I definitely get dehydrated. I mean, we all forget to drink water. And that’s where I love this, the Mid-Day Essence Spray that you can carry with you, and you can stay hydrated during the day.
What is your skin care routine like during those tough moments?
When I’m in the theater that’s even more intense because it’s so physical. Your pores, your vocal chords open up, and you find your face eats the makeup. Particularly when there’s makeup on, makeup off, there’s a lot of tearing. Then it was really important for me to use the LXP range because it was really nourishing. They have a cleansing gel and a cleansing oil, so I use those rather than firming cleansers, and the Cellumination Cream.
Are there any wellness tips you’ve figured out over the years?
Look, nothing in life is easier if you don’t drink, don’t smoke, and you sleep. But you have to be able to get some steam off, too.
You travel nonstop for work, which can be hard on skin, but also for your body, and your state of mind. What do you find is beneficial to do when traveling?
I think it’s good every now and then to have a colonic.
Yeah, not every day, but every now and again, because it’s super hydrating. I know a couple of people who are much older than me who had big problems with their guts, and they’d had a series of colonics and taken probiotics. You have blockages. I notice it with my son — a lot of blockages have to do with what’s going on in your gut. They call your gut your second brain.
I know you adopted a little girl this year so you now have another lady in the house. What do you hope to teach her about life and about beauty?
I hope the conversations I have with her are no different than the conversations I have with my sons. There’s a whole lot of discussion in the media, which is interesting at the moment, about “they” rather than the “he” or the “she” and children who don’t identify with any particular gender. It’s not that I’m ideologically bringing our children up to have no gender, but I would speak to my children about sensitivity and looking after themselves and always encouraging of traditional female pursuits, as I would be the same with Edith. The same conversations you have about the world are not gender-based. Of course, the notion of the date rape drug, because that’s happened to a few people I know — it’s horrible. So perhaps those conversations. But at the same time, it’s all about self-respect, isn’t it? And the kernel of self-respect is respecting other people.
Who knows what social media will be like when she’s a teenager, but the whole selfie thing where girls are putting themselves in a vulnerable position…
Comes back to self-respect. It’s this huge thing. “Like me! Like me!.” The like and the dislike is just totally primary schoolyard. I cannot for the life of me work out why adults are participating in that s–t. There is so much great stuff on social media, I don’t want to be on a soap box about it.
What do you think the pros and cons are?
I think it’s a genuine way to build community and, we tell ourselves we live in democracies, but really the media runs a lot of the way opinions are formed. Look at the way the election cycle is dictated. It’s like a circus run by the media. There’s a subversive quality to the internet, and I do think there’s a genuine ability to connect. But the downside with social media is it divides people really quickly and sets up rivalry and jealousy and a sense of the life over there is better than the life over here.
What would you say to your kids if this is something they want to do?
I’d say, “Why would you want it? Is it just because your friends have it, what are you going to use it for?”
Are you on any social media yourself? [She shakes her head] No?
The thing is, even on the news people refer to a tweet, so you’re still hearing about it. It’s enough of my day going through emails. I went for four days to an island in the South Pacific with my kids on holiday, I came back to 130 emails. I panicked. And then I spent the whole plane ride answering the emails. That’s enough. I probably do miss out on a lot of stuff — I probably go to less parties than I would like.