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Feather sleeves, faux tattoos, Jean Paul Gaultier chainmail and Iris van Herpen undulating material waves — Cate Blanchett has worn them all, and may again.
Days before she’s set into her new role as jury president of Venice Film Festival, which begins Sept. 2, the style icon is rethinking the red carpet’s relentless march of new, new, new.
Blanchett will be continuing the momentum from the last awards season into the next one — by re-wearing looks from her closet throughout the Venice Film Festival, which runs through Sept. 12. And she’s urging others to do the same. “This is not a mandate, it’s a provocation,” she says of her challenge to attendees of the socially distant fest, which will have a more low-key red-carpet scene on the Lido, but is still expected to draw stars of its 60 featured films, which include Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Kirby, Andrew Garfield, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Gia Coppola.
No newcomer to the sustainability cause, Blanchett and her husband playwright Andrew Upton spearheaded the Greening the Wharf initiative at the Sydney Theatre Company back in 2010. And she has reworn a few of her red-carpet greatest hits in the past. But COVID-19 and the climate catastrophe that has made it more likely for other infectious diseases to emerge from the natural world in the future have made her consider fashion’s impact on the environment even more urgently.
Over the past several years, the industry has pledged to reduce that impact, which amounts to as many carbon emissions annually as hwat France, Germany, and the United Kingdom emit combined, according to McKinsey. And Hollywood stars have become the faces for brands looking to showcase their efforts, most notably at the Oscars in February, which were the greenest yet fashion-wise.
But there is still a lot of work to be done. And Blanchett is excited by the challenge of continuing to weave sustainability into her fashion story.
A keen follower of design with a daring but decorous approach to dressing, the Oscar-winner has had a long, lucrative relationship with the industry, sitting front-row at Burberry and Givenchy, collaborating with Giorgio Armani and serving as the face of his Si fragrance campaigns. (On the subject of the Hollywood-fashion symbiosis, she says, “Machines don’t have to be pollutants.”)
Although there won’t be a red carpet for the virtual Emmys on Sept. 20, Blanchett is a front-runner to win for her role in the Netflix drama “Mrs. America,” about the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. “Much to my horror, I didn’t realize that equality wasn’t enshrined in the American Constitution and I wonder how this moment in human history would have unfolded differently if it was,” quips the native Australian, who is outspoken about women’s rights and has worked on behalf of refugees as a U.N Goodwill Ambassador.
In other Venice fashion news, Blanchett style collaborator Elizabeth Stewart’s Chic Relief and Hollywood costume designer Arianne Phillips’ RAD (Red Carpet Advocacy) charities are spearheading a fund-raising effort around the festival. Blanchett was the first to sign on, and will be donating the looks she re-wears to an auction with 100 percent of the proceeds going to causes fighting for gender and racial equality, U.N. Women and Facing History and Ourselves.
Here, WWD chats with Blanchett about her thoughts about the future of fashion, why re-wearing past looks is not a knock on the industry, her take on fashion masks and compulsive buying, and what she’d like to re-wear from her wardrobe.
WWD: Good morning, or evening, are you in the U.K.?
Cate Blanchett: Yes, are you in L.A.? How are thing in L.A.?
WWD: Well thankfully, L.A. is not on fire yet like Northern California.
C.B.: I tell you, the world is on fire. Doesn’t it feel already liek five years ago that the horrendous bush fires in Australia were taking place and here we are again heading into bushfire season. It’s heartbreaking.
WWD: It is, which leads in to the topic of climate change. All eyes are going to be on the Venice Film Festival, the first major film festival fo the COVID-19 era with live events and screenings. You have re-worn looks on the red carpet in the past, and sustainability has certainly been a topic around the red carpet for a few years now, particularly at last year’s Oscars and BAFTAs. Why are you coming out of the gate with this statement now?
C.B.: It’s something I’ve been interested in — built-in obsolescence and the counterpoint to that, which is durability and products that are made well. It feels like it’s been such a time of introspection and reflection over the last six months broadly, and I think there is incredible opportunity to reassess processes we’ve taken for granted that were dysfunctional and unsustainable. As you said, this is a tentative first step out of the gate for the film industry, in which I work, but there’s a lot of connected industries that are associated with a festival like Venice — travel, tourism, the red carpet and what that means as a showcase for talent and ideas. And it’s a wonderful time to reinvent that.
WWD: Can what actors wear on the red carpet help change the world?
C.B.: The world isn’t going to be changed by one simple display in one particular industry. What the pandemic has revealed, though, is that everything is connected, and profound change only comes about through collaboration. The language around climate change is always around sacrifice, not around possibility. It takes as much water to make a cotton T-shirt that will fall apart as one that is far more durable. And beautiful things can come out of sustainability.
WWD: When did the wastefulness of fashion really get to you?
C.B.: It’s in the foundation, but we’ve seen over the last decade it used to be seasonal, now it’s trans-seasonal, multiseasonal, and brands are designing for outlet stores. When you the know the world is consuming 18 billion pieces of clothing a year, which is up 400 percent from a decade ago, you think, this is not working. When I was in school, I was very gripped by the failure of the [late 19th, early 20th-century European] Arts and Crafts movement, that they wanted to bring back craftsmanship, and it was an antidote to the Industrial Revolution and the ugliness of mass production. They wanted to make beautifully crafted pieces of furniture available to more people, but of course, when we pay people properly these pieces become incredibly expensive. So it’s a complicated ecosystem to be reexamined. In a simple answer to your question, I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s the handbag. How many arms do I have? People say, “I bought it on impulse.” But no, it’s not an impulsive buy, it’s a compulsive buy. When compulsion takes over, therein lies the destruction of an industry.
WWD: A lot of it is about changing the mind-set that we need to have new, new, new all the time. How do we do that? It’s so tied up with the fashion system of seasonal collections, monthly magazines, weekly drops and more.
C.B.: There are some incredible artists working in the fashion industry, so it’s always a pleasure to wear their latest invention and exploration. You want to foster that and continue, but how do you figure out how to do that in way that’s positive for the planet and the workforce, and inclusive as well?
WWD: So what are you going to re-wear in Venice? Maybe you could do an ode to Giorgio Armani through the years. Or Italy? Certainly the fashion industry is hurting there and everywhere.
C.B.: It is and that’s the difficult thing, and it’s not some mandate we’re saying to everybody at the festival, “Though shalt re-wear.” It’s just where possible.
WWD: And it’s not a knock on the industry to re-wear what’s come before?
C.B.: Oh no! Whenever I’ve talked to designers about it, they’ve been really supportive. I do think most houses are engaged in the idea of sustainability, but it’s how do we turn our business model around. That can’t be done in 24 hours, but it must be done. I’ve talked about it with Mr. Armani and Sarah Burton [of Alexander McQueen], and I’ve been talking a long time with Roksanda [Ilincic] about how we could do some sort of collection together that celebrates the recycling and repurposing of fabrics. And the people at Eco-Age have been huge champions of this. There’s a lot of movement afoot.
WWD: Certainly, Hollywood gets a lot of visibility and income from the fashion industry, and vice-versa, so the Hollywood fashion machine is likely to continue…
C.B.: But machines don’t have to be pollutants. There are beautiful machines like the human mind! And when you do try to reimagine things, it’s much more creative and everything is up for grabs, as it seems to be in this climate. Those of us who aren’t frontline workers, who aren’t ill, it’s up to us to reimagine new solutions.
WWD: When it comes to deciding what you’re going to re-wear on the red carpet, how do you remember what you have? I’m guilty of that and I don’t have your wardrobe!
C.B.: Quite a few phone calls, because having moved countries, I have beautiful things that are in museum boxes in storage in Sydney but with COVID-19 restrictions, I can’t get in and get them. And when you are talking about sustainability do you really want to fly a dress halfway around the world? I am working with what I’ve got in the attic. It’s an opportunity to clear the cobwebs out and see what I’ve got. And it’s fun, I remember seeing my mother’s wedding dress, and it was the first time in my life I truly appreciated the history of a garment. So whenever you do re-wear something, you have this shadow memory of the time you wore it before.
WWD: Tell me about your mother’s wedding dress.
C.B.: It was Sixties, very slim and Audrey Hepburn-esque, and it had this ivory satin top and a pillbox with a veil.
WWD: That would be cool if you could start a trend of people re-wearing wedding dresses on the red carpet.
C.B.: I know, I would love to re-wear the coat I wore on my wedding day, too; I spent my last savings on this coat, and left it with a family friend when [my husband] Andrew and I went off traveling. When I went to pick up my coat, because it was a peacoat, my friend thought it was one of her children’s and gave it away to a jumble sale! I was heartbroken. My sheath dress was made by the seamstress at the Sydney Theatre Company.
WWD: Will you be wearing a red-carpet mask in Venice?
C.B.: [Venice Film Festival director] Alberto Barbera is really bold in having the festival but cautious, so it’s going to be socially distant. Masks I’m sure will be worn. I went into a store the other day and saw what I thought was a whole pile of cod pieces in these amazing fabric remnants and of course, it turns out they were masks!
WWD: It’s a new stream of revenue for fashion.
C.B.: It’s like the mask has become a little haiku of recycling and repurposing. There’s been a lot of discourse about what one could make a mask out of, people are being inventive and there is a lot of home crafting going on.
WWD: I know you want to encourage other actors to re-wear at the festival. What would you say to them?
C.B.: In order to move forward, it’s a gift to be able to look back. As we reemerge, it’s a chance to reassess — and cinema is always doing that, looking back on its past, paying homage and using that inspiration to forge new moments. Look at “Hamlet,” we retell that story over and over, and each time we tell it there’s new things to be found. And this is not some strange club. I’m not the only person doing this. It’s a chance to do something positive. It’s not a mandate, it’s a provocation. I feel like people walk out of the house feeling like they have to shop the looks rather than work out which pieces they like, which is how you develop individual style.
WWD: Certainly we are in a time of great turmoil, particularly in the U.S. What’s made you feel good lately? Watching the astronauts on the SpaceX flight and thinking about them shooting for Mars was inspiring to me.
C.B.: Swimming in the ocean. I went surfing with my kids the other day. There’s something that happens in the surf. It’s invigorating. And trees. The wonderful thing about the U.K. is you can actually walk across it. What’s kept you going? Flying to Mars?
WWD: Yes, because at least if this planet becomes uninhabitable, we can go somewhere else!
C.B.: Maybe the chief executive officers of the top five multinationals! Although, I don’t know that Mars would want us. That’s an act of hubris right there!
Hello, everyone. Cate interviewed Fayssal Bazzi last July for Interview Magazine and there was a virtual press junket over zoom for the promo of the series.
Cate Blanchett and Fayssal Bazzi on the Timely Resonance of Stateless
Earlier this month, Netflix released Stateless, an Australian drama miniseries that traces the seemingly disparate experiences of an airline hostess (Yvonne Strahovski of The Handmaid’s Tale) fleeing a cult, an Afghan refugee (Fayssal Bazzi) fleeing persecution, and a young Australian father (Jai Courtney) in search of stable work. The trio’s lives converge in an immigration detention center in the middle of the Australian desert, revealing the nation’s dark history of imposing mandatory detention on immigrants who arrive on its shores without visas.
The project, executive produced by Cate Blanchett, the Australian national treasure and Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations’s High Commissioner for Refugees, was no easy feat to realize. For Blanchett, who has worked for years to enact reform surrounding the Western world’s treatment of refugees, Stateless is a labor of love. The actor spent six years combatting heavy social pressure in her homeland in order to bring the project to life, and in the month since its release, the miniseries has generated a considerable reaction across the globe.
A major source of Stateless’s positive reception is Fayssal Bazzi’s portrayal of Ameer, a father of two who sacrifices himself to ensure his family is smuggled to safety. Bazzi’s visceral performance stems from first-hand experience: at just three-and-a-half years old, the actor fled the Lebanese civil war with his parents and embarked upon the endless journey of combatting racial prejudice in Australia, his adopted home. For Bazzi, Stateless was an opportunity to portray a three-dimensional character, not a pigeon-holed stereotype, and to act alongside former refugee detainees at the detention center where much of the series is filmed. Over just six episodes, Bazzi delivers a heartrending performance that has placed him at the center of a cultural conversation that often disregards the humanity of immigrant lives. Though he never managed to “tread the boards” alongside Blanchett (who makes a glittering cameo as a suburban cult leader), the pair are confident that there will be plenty of opportunities down the line.
To celebrate the show’s success, Blanchett hopped on Zoom with Bazzi to discuss everything from the experiences that inspire his craft to the glory of growing a full beard. —MARA VEITCH
CATE BLANCHETT: Oh, hello! Are you in Sydney?
FAYSSAL BAZZI: I am in Sydney. It is a crisp Friday morning, 6:30AM and there is nothing I would rather be doing than speaking to you.
BLANCHETT: He’s just done his workout, of course. I thought that the last time we spoke virtually, you were in Los Angeles. Are you time traveling right now? Are you space shipping?
BAZZI: I wish I could be.
BLANCHETT: Or were you pretending? Were you using one of those Zoom backdrops? You’re in Hong Kong one day and in Shanghai the next…
BAZZI: Yeah. You’ll see that today. I’m just going to keep changing locations after every question.
BLANCHETT: To the envy of millions. One gift that COVID has given us is that we get up earlier than we ordinarily do; although we’re actors, so we are used to getting up at ‘the dawn of crack,’ as they say.
BAZZI: I was actually trying to think of the last time I’d gotten up at this hour, and it was this time last year filming Stateless. I actually do love an early morning, especially when I’ve got something creative to do.
BLANCHETT: And also, I mean, I don’t want to sound like I’m working for Tourism Port Augusta, but the light on the Australian desert at that time of morning is something to behold. I do think it’s quite spectacular.
BAZZI: It is absolutely stunning. I think that was one of the major benefits of early mornings and late finishes on set. The sunrises and the sunsets just look incredible. The sun setting over the rocks. I can still picture it now. It takes me back.
BLANCHETT: You don’t go to Port Augusta for the cuisine, but—
BAZZI: Actually, Port Augusta has a pretty good roast chicken shop that Yvonne [Strahovski, Bazzi’s costar in Stateless] and I would visit most days for a chook, so before you go bad mouthing the cuisine, I think you’ve got to try their rotisserie chicken.
BLANCHETT: I think the catering on set by some of the refugee cooks was probably far better than the chook shop, but I’m not going to challenge you too quickly on that one. Before we launch into the tea, have you been okay? I mean, how are you holding up? These are bewildering and heartbreaking days.
BAZZI: I was in a weird position, where my plan for the rest of the year was to go to L.A. for a few months and try to get some management. I was going to do publicity for a movie I’ve got coming out. So, my whole year’s trajectory was away from home. I’ve really just had to change courses and reassess what I’m doing now. I’m not one to just sit at home, so it’s been a nice break, considering. I’m trying to look at the positives in everything. I am ready for work, whatever that may be. I’m ready to dive into something.
BLANCHETT: There’s been a monumental creative recalibration, hasn’t there? But I think if there’s any industry that’s going to emerge from this, it’s going to be the creative industries, because we’re so used to dealing with challenges and finding different ways.
BLANCHETT: You have such an extensive background in theater. You’re like me, a theater animal. You and Marta [Dusseldorp] were unable to join us in Berlin when we launched Stateless to a European audience because you were on stage with Deep Blue Sea. What do you love most about performing for a live audience?
BAZZI: I guess it’s the fact that you’re creating every night, but every night is different. It’s a singular experience that you’re sharing with everyone in the audience and in the production. The ability to take people away from their daily lives and transport them somewhere in telling a story. I love doing screen work, but you just don’t get that buzz that you do from a theater crowd. I cannot wait until we’re back in theaters again at full force. That’s going to be my first port of call, just sitting in an audience and being one with the hive mind being affected by the artist on that stage.
BLANCHETT: There’s kind of a mystical, ancient call to gather with people. I think that’s what everyone I’ve spoken to is really missing. It’s a live experience. And we’ve all survived on being told stories with streaming, which is great, but you can’t supplant that live connection that you get between actor and audience, between story and audience. Do you find that, as someone of Lebanese and Syrian heritage, that there’s a more elastic sense of what is possible within theater than the more literal casting that happens in film?
BAZZI: Absolutely. I think with theater, if I walk on stage, I’m whatever I say I am. In the screen realm, sometimes producers and companies overthink it and go, “Oh, this’ll never happen.” One of my favorite experiences was watching August: Osage County on Broadway in 2012, I think it was. They had an African American woman as the matriarch. The rest of the cast were white and you don’t even think twice about it. Theater gets audiences into the habit of accepting anything in a story, because they want to be transported. They don’t really care about the politics.
BLANCHETT: The imaginative space is so large in theater that it transcends the literal. I think that’s often the struggle one has in television as well, because it’s all about the believability of the narrative. And so that sometimes it can tend towards the literal. So, casting opportunities have, probably up until relatively recently, been very literal and small.
BAZZI: Yeah, that’s been my experience coming up in the industry. I mean, I’ve been a professional actor now for 17 years and when I first started it was right after 9/11, so a lot of the opportunities that I was being offered on screen weren’t things I really wanted to pursue because I didn’t want to be a stereotype. I wanted to be a three-dimensional character with a story with a history.
BLANCHETT: So what made you actually want to get into acting in the first place? Is that something you were even conscious of? It’s a compulsion, isn’t it, in a way?
BAZZI: I can pinpoint the exact moment, and it was when my family and I immigrated to Australia in the mid-’80s. I was three-and-a-half. We were escaping the civil war at home. Our house was destroyed, which is what the catalyst for us leaving. We lost all our papers. When we moved here, I had no birth certificate and my parents told the government I was five when I was three-and-a-half to put me straight into school. I spoke Arabic and French but I couldn’t speak English yet.
BLANCHETT: Oh, wow.
BAZZI: My mother was an Arabic and French teacher, so I’d be going to school trying to learn English and I’d come home and she’d make me take Arabic and French classes. The first school was a pretty racist experience, from the teachers to the students. I didn’t really have a good time. I was bullied a lot.
My parents moved me to a Catholic school and on my first day there I met this teacher, and it was her first day as well. She came up to me and she went, “Oh, you’re Fayssal, right? I’ve heard about you. Look, I know you can understand English now, but you can’t speak it. So if you want anything, just show me what you want, and I’ll help you get it.” So I had to mime getting a pencil, mime going to the toilet, and slowly build up my confidence. I was slowly leaning English through that, and one day she just said, “You’re really good at that, Fayssal. You should be an actor.” And I’ve never thought of doing anything else. I think it was just that first bit of kindness from someone and that first bit of encouragement that just guided me for the rest of my life.
BLANCHETT: That’s amazing.
BAZZI: I’ve always said if I ever won an award for anything, I’m going to thank Ms. Moyle.
BLANCHETT: Ms. Moyle. It’s a powerful moment in one’s childhood when you feel understood for the first time. You feel that you’ve found someone who can actually see you.
BAZZI: It also highlights the importance of good teachers. I always follow the debates around cutting education budgets, and I think, “These people are shaping young minds.” It’s amazing how much difference a good teacher can make in a person’s life. I’ll always go to bat for teachers because one of them certainly changed my life.
BLANCHETT: We should probably talk about Stateless. We were so fortunate that you were free and willing to be part of it. I think I drooled all over you in person, but I may as well do it again in public. I find that the heartbreaking openness that you brought to your portrayal of Ameer and your connection with Soraya Heidari, who played Mina, is so authentic and rich and painful to watch as a parent. What drew you to the character of Ameer? What made you want to be involved in the project?
BAZZI: I think it’s what I was saying before about roles. He was a fleshed out, real life human being who was representing a community. I was completely blown away from the script. You follow the journey of a man seeking safety for his family and it was relatable. I could look at my own life. I could look at the sacrifices my parents made. I could look at the wars that are never ending, really, and the humans that are always just seeking a better life for themselves and their families. I had to be a part of telling this story. My first day on set at the detention center, I was welcomed by the Afghan elders and they held a ceremony to say that they were overjoyed that I was the one representing their community. One by one, these background actors would come up and just share their plight and their stories. Nearly all of them had been in a detention center or a refugee camp in Australia or around the world, which really hit home just how important it was to put a face on something that’s more often seen as a statistic. We’re talking about human beings here. Fleeing home is something that every single person would do if they were put in that position. And I got all that from the script. I’m thrilled that you fought so hard and for so long to get it out there, because a lot of people wouldn’t have. Stateless has got such a wide reach and people are seeing that Australia has a checkered past, not just with our Indigenous people, but also with people seeking asylum.
BLANCHETT: It was a real process getting it off the ground, to find the right partners who were willing to realize the project in a non-compromised way, in a non-sensationalist way, in a deeply human way. Like you said, a lot of the background artists had actually been in detention centers themselves. In a lot of ways, you had lived some of this experience yourself, but a lot of the other actors hadn’t. So there was a strange hybrid of people with lived experience and people who were having to learn. And I’m sure it was a minefield for you on a daily basis, but also illuminating in a lot of ways.
BAZZI: Just knowing how important it was for them to be represented added pressure. But there’s nothing better than the pressure of wanting to represent people properly.
BLANCHETT: Part of the motivation of wanting to make the series is that the refugee and asylum seeker is pushed offshore in Australia, and pushed out of the national conversation. So it’s up to the space of drama to ignite empathy. I’ve been so gratified by the diversity of the responses, but how broad now that we’ve finally got an international audience that can find those points of connectivity with the refugee experience as well. We’re all obsessed with home right now, during the pandemic, and so many people are estranged from family, or their freedom is curtailed. That is at the core of the refugee experience. Maybe, in a way, the show has dropped at a good time, and people are more open to hearing those stories.
BAZZI: There was this study in Australia a couple of weeks ago about the mental instability of white people forced to quarantine in hotels when they come back home, and how this is affecting them in the long run. The response is like, “You’re talking about people in a 5-star hotel here. What about refugees that have been here for seven years, or 15 years?” I think it’s very timely that this should come during the pandemic because more people can connect to it and more people can start to question their own privilege.
BLANCHETT: Yeah, I mean, you’re in quarantine for two weeks. There’s a beginning, there’s a middle and an end to that experience, but indefinite detention causes real damage. I want to return to your incredible commitment on Stateless. I know we threw you in the deep end. The pre-production on Stateless was the most fast and furious I have ever experienced. You had about two seconds to learn Dari, which is a Persian dialect that’s spoken in Afghanistan, having not been a native speaker. How was that? I believe you worked with Soraya’s dad—he was your kind of Dari master.
BAZZI: I was lucky enough that once Soraya was cast and we were kind of building our family relationship, her father came forward and said that he was a Dari interpreter and translator. And so he was my shadow for the majority of the shoot. I got to know their family very well because of that. He would also sit during takes and I’d just see this thumb pop out from behind the monitors.
BLANCHETT: What did your Ma and Pa think when they saw the series? Were they pleased you became an actor?
BAZZI: They were blown away. My dad wanted to be an actor when he was younger but my granddad wouldn’t let him, so he went into medicine. So when I told him that I wanted to be an actor, he had one rule. He was like, “I’ll give you my blessing to be an actor, but you have to make it work. You can’t be a bartender who acts or someone that works in a café. You either try it for real and it fails and then you do something else, or you don’t try it at all.”
BLANCHETT: Oh, Jesus. No pressure.
BAZZI: It’s pressure, but it’s also support. It makes you go, “Okay, how can I make this work for me?” And I’m thankful to say that because of that and because of that passion and the drive to want to act, I’ve been thankful to never have had the need for another job in 17 years. And that’s all from the support and the pressure that my father and mother have given me. They really connected with the the story because they know that there are no villains, really. Everyone is doing what they think is right and everyone is trying to look for their own slice of life.
BLANCHETT: Now that the series has been launched internationally on Netflix, what do you hope people are going to take away from it?
BAZZI: The responses we’re getting are what I was hoping for. I wanted to start putting pressure on the political powers that be to let them know that this isn’t on us anymore. The Black Lives Matter Movement at the moment is a perfect example of people finally standing up and going, “We deserve better than this.” These asylum seekers deserve better than this. Our Indigenous people deserve better than this.
BLANCHETT: Something that I’ve heard over the last six months is just how tired people are of being patient and waiting for change. And I can only imagine what that experience must be like when you’re in indefinite detention, when you’ve been forced out of your home and you’re in limbo. I think it’s a very, very brutal and tiring existence.
BLANCHETT: I’m so envious of your talent and I’m so envious of your beard. It’s so nice to talk to you. What’s next?
BAZZI: There was a movie I was in that was meant to come out in May that has been pushed to September called Measure for Measure. It’s myself and Hugo Weaving as rival gang bosses and my sister falls in love with his ward and I don’t like it.
BLANCHETT: Your performance in Stateless is an absolute calling card. I only wish that we’d had a chance to share the screen together. I hope we get to tread the boards together before we’re in adult diapers.
BAZZI: Any offer to tread a board or stand maybe to the side of you on a screen, I will take, Cate.
The last two episodes of podcast on Stateless which was hosted by Cate was also released.
Hello, Blanchetters! We have compiled June-July 2020 magazine issues with Cate Blanchett plus the Variety: Power of Women tribute for Cate alongside Patti LuPone and Janelle Monáe. Enjoy!
Cate Blanchett’s Passion Project: Bringing Awareness to Refugees at Risk of COVID-19
As people in U.K. households step out on front doorsteps every Thursday at 8 p.m. to eagerly applaud, whistle and clang pots and pans in appreciation of the National Health Service, Cate Blanchett and her family raise a ruckus from their countryside home outside London, surrounded by inquiring sheep and cows.
But while the Australian-born actor has her adopted country’s NHS firmly in mind — particularly as it shepherds the U.K. through Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak — Blanchett is also banging the drum for the UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, which she has supported since 2014.
“In my heart, I’m also [thinking of] UNHCR staff who’ve remained in the field, away from their families, delivering services at great threat to themselves,” declares the two-time Oscar-winning actor of “Blue Jasmine” and “The Aviator.” “I’m full of admiration for them.”
Blanchett, who instantly brightens speaking of her fieldwork, has been a Goodwill Ambassador for the UNHCR since 2016, traveling to meet Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, as well as to Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, which is home to thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.
According to recent figures by UNHCR and the World Health Organization, more than 70 million people have been forcibly displaced, of which 26 million are refugees, who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 as 80% are sheltered outside camps, often in overcrowded communities with little access to health care. As Alessandra Morelli, head of UNHCR’s operation in Niger, tells Variety, “The coronavirus crisis is one in which old certainties are being shaken and we find ourselves in a permanent state of the unknown.”
And yet Blanchett has tried making sense of the chaos, observing a “connective tissue” between the refugee experience and what millions have now endured in lockdown. The circumstances are vastly different, she acknowledges, but there is a new understanding of the vulnerability of those in camps with limited access to soap and water, where social isolation is unthinkable.
“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” says Blanchett. “Even if Britain gets [the coronavirus] under control, the movement of people — who are moving because they’re imperiled — means the problem is not going away, and you can have a second or third outbreak.”
Further complicating relief efforts is a temporary suspension of U.S. funding to the World Health Organization, which President Donald
Trump is now threatening to make permanent.
“It’s very, very shortsighted,” seethes Blanchett. “It’s so bizarre to me that, in the wake of the pandemic, there’s still this sense of border protection rather than realizing this is a global problem that can only be solved through global connectivity.” The actor is supporting U.N. fundraising efforts “any way” she can. As well, Blanchett hopes her NBCUniversal-produced refugee drama “Stateless,” which launches globally on Netflix this summer, will further the conversation.
Beyond UNHCR, the actor expects to return to an industry that will be “wobbly” but potentially changed for the better. This year’s jury president for the Venice Film Festival, set to run Sept. 2-12, Blanchett assures that plans “are going ahead in a positive, realistic way.”
“We can’t be guided by fear,” she says plainly. “We have to be forward-looking, and in an intelligent way. The systems we were laboring under weren’t working for everyone before. The only opportunity in this is to fix things.”
We’ve been away but we’re back and here are the news on Cate this past month.
Stateless on Netflix
Stateless was released on Netflix on July 8. You can now binge-watch all 6 episodes.
You can check the trailer below:
Cate Blanchett co-created and co-stars in Stateless — a powerful and timely series about four strangers whose lives collide at an immigration detention center in the middle of the Australian desert. pic.twitter.com/w39frU616W
A podcast hosted by Cate was also released along with the series:
Here are a couple of interviews:
Cate Blanchett, Elise McCredie: “Stateless deals with painful stuff”
After winning three Golden Globes and becoming one of the world’s biggest movie stars, Aussie actress Cate Blanchett is the latest performer to gravitate towards the small screen, appearing in not one but two limited TV series in 2020.
Her first role was playing conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly in the limited series Mrs. America, and next up she’ll appear as a cult leader in the Australian Netflix series Stateless. The six-part series was also co-created and co-produced by Blanchett, along with her high school and drama school friend, Elise McCredie. Loosely inspired by the real-life story of Cornelia Rau – a German-Australian woman who was unlawfully detained for ten months at an Australian refugee camp by mistake – the story also follows a woman escaping from a cult, a refugee fleeing from persecution with his family, a father trapped in a dead-end job, and a bureaucrat on the verge of a national scandal. Their lives intersect in an isolated immigration detention center and other cast members include Dominic West (The Affair), Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad). The series had a festival premiere in Berlin in February, where Blanchett and McCredie sat down to talk about their provocative new show.
Is Stateless based on the story of Cornelia Rau?
Cate Blanchett: Stateless is not based on anyone’s particular story. When Liz and I met back in 2014, we were very much interested in exploring immigration detention stories, as I had just started working with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). So we started delving into what was going on in the offshore processing of refugees because when we were growing up in Australia, our country as a brand was welcoming and multicultural; but in our young adulthood, we’d watched that brand shift. So we wanted to reverse engineer that and go back to the time before immigration detention centers were taken offshore, and see how we got from that period to 2014.
Elise McCredie: We were very interested in investigating the period post 9/11 when a lot of boats were coming to Australia filled with asylum seekers, and learning about what the government chose to do with the boats. While researching many of the stories that came from around that time, we did read about the German-Australian woman who was mistakenly put into detention, and many other stories that also came through, but we didn’t have a clear idea of the structure of the show at that time. Once we had started to research properly, we settled on the four main characters in the show, whose stories were all inspired by real people, and whose stories were inspired by real-life events.
Do you think people outside Australia will be shocked to see that Australia, too, struggles with human rights issues regarding refugees?
CB: Part of the desire to create a drama around this particular issue, and everything that hangs off it, comes from the fact that it’s been cloaked in silence for years. I feel that in not talking about it, and not dealing with it, and not trying to honor ourselves as signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we get separated from our humanity. I think we create a schism, not only within our communities, but within ourselves, and then we get estranged from our own identity. So, we wanted to scaffold a conversation around these issues and tell the story, not just from a detainee perspective, but from the perspective of the policymakers and the guard as well as that of an Afghani refugee. I hope people will say it’s not a judgmental series. It’s a provocative and painful series, but it’s something we all need to look at.
EM: As storytellers, we didn’t want to say, “This is the right or the wrong position.” We wanted to present the world from multiple perspectives, and say, “We don’t have the answers, but we’re showing you that this is how it was.”
CB: I felt like that period of history was already being forgotten: or, worse, it’s also being valorized. As someone who lives and works in various parts of the world, it’s devastating to me to hear the same immigration rhetoric that I’ve heard in my own country being employed around the building of a wall now too.
EM: We lure you in with the fishing line of Dominic West and Cate Blanchett dancing and singing, with all that color and movement in the opening episode, but by the third or fourth episode you are dealing with heavy, painful stuff about immigration. We’re conscious of having to get an audience to watch it in the first place, and then we’re hoping they will choose to keep watching rather than stop when Cate stops singing!
Cate Blanchett in “Stateless” is the stuff memes are made of.
In the first episode of the Netflix miniseries (streaming Wednesday), the two-time Oscar winner is deliciously unsettling as a charismatic teacher named Pat, who runs a self-help cult out of a dance studio. Pat’s sinister streak is juxtaposed with cheery scenes of her teaching dance classes in Easter egg-colored tracksuits, and performing a hammy cover of “Let’s Get Away From It All” in a sparkling ballgown.
“I was channeling Rosemary Clooney,” Blanchett says of the premiere’s lavish production number. “Pat was an incredibly fun and depressing character to play. I got to sing, I got to dance,” and through taking a supporting role, “help the series get made in any way I possibly could.”
The choice to start “Stateless” with some light-hearted camp is entirely deliberate. The six-episode drama, which Blanchett co-created with Elise McCredie and Tony Ayres, is primarily set in an immigration detention center and follows a white Australian woman named Sofie (Yvonne Strahovski of “The Handmaid’s Tale”) who is mistakenly detained Down Under after fleeing a cult.
“We use Sofie’s story to give the audience a touchpoint into the series,” Ayres says. “There’s mystery, there’s intrigue, and there’s Cate Blanchett singing a song. What better way to get an audience to watch our show than through that? Hopefully, the idea is that we will then get an audience to invest in the other characters in the other parts of the story, which are in many ways refugee stories.”
Some TV critics have questioned the choice to make a show about refugees where three of the four main characters are white, particularly with renewed conversations about representation in media happening this summer,following national anti-racism protests. (Aside from Strahovski, Jai Courtney and Asher Keddie play a guard and bureaucrat, respectively.)
Blanchett acknowledges the criticism, but encourages viewers to watch “Stateless” all the way through. She points to Ameer’s daughter, Mina (Soraya Heidari), as “the beating heart of the story.”
“We’re in no way saying this is the only way to tell this story,” Blanchett says. “I look forward to many more refugee stories being told on television, film or documentary. It is very much about trying to capture a wide audience, because often the reality is that you start talking about refugees and asylum seekers and the global displacement crisis … and (people) turn off because it’s too huge. So we wanted to create a sense of, ‘It could be me, it could be you,’ and so often, that is the white experience. But then you get inside the series, and there’s a multi-various array of characters.”
Blanchett, 51, has worked and traveled overseas as a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) since 2016, and says she hopes to capture the “profound resilience” of refugees in “Stateless.”
The show comes on the heels of another esteemed TV project for the Australian actress, who also executive produced the FX miniseries “Mrs. America” earlier this year. Blanchett portrays the real-life Phyllis Schlafly, an outspoken anti-feminist and conservative activist who opposed the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the 1970s.
“Mrs. America” ends (spoiler!) with a long take of Phyllis dolefully peeling apples at her kitchen table, after being passed over for a position in Ronald Reagan’s cabinet and her husband asks for dinner.
“It’s a bit of an homage to ‘Jeanne Dielman,’ ” a landmark 1975 feminist film, Blanchett says. “Fortunately, I’m an expert apple peeler and make a mean apple cobbler.”
Cate Blanchett, Jai Courtney and Yvonne Strahovski of ‘Stateless’ talk immigration and coping with the lockdown
Los Angeles — Cate Blanchett is keeping cool and collected.
As creator-producer of the new hard-hitting TV drama that aims at her country’s own immigration system, Cate remains focused and confident as she details why she ventured on a very important and controversial topic.
“Stateless” is inspired by the true and tragic story of Australian/German Cornelia Rau who made headlines in 2004, when she escaped a dangerous cult only to be trapped and unlawfully detained in the notorious Baxter Immigration Detention Centre located in the Australian desert.
The series actually follows four strangers whose lives intertwine: Sofie Werner (Yvonne Strahovski) is an airline hostess escaping a cult, Ameer (Fayssal Bazzi) is an Afghan refugee fleeing persecution. Cam Sandford (Jai Courtney) is a young Australian father who wants to get out of a dead-end job and Claire Kowitz (Asher Keddie), a bureaucrat caught in a national scandal.
We recently went on a virtual call with Cate, Jai and Yvonne who all shared with us their experiences in doing the series and the heartbreaking stories they heard from the refugees and detainees themselves.
Can you please tell us how you got involved in this project?
All the characters are composites and they’re inspired by people that we met. Elise McCredie, my dear friend and another co-creative, did a tireless amount of research.
And there were some stories that we’d heard and accounts that we’d read, experiences of the guards and bureaucrats and detainees and refugee applicants. But we’re talking about working together and it was a little bit like the elephant in the room. We were both, I think like many Australians at the time, bewildered as to why offshore processing was shrouded in secrecy and it felt that these might have…subjugation of people’s basic human rights offshore on our watch was not part of the national conversation.
And so we wanted to raise an awareness of the global displacement crisis and I think drama’s a great place to do that in a nonpolitical way, but also just to bring it back into the national conversation in Australia.
It was a passion project obviously. You use the word refugee or asylum seeker and those words have become incredibly politicized and so it took a long time for us to find partners who were brave enough to see beyond that political rhetoric and the polarizing nature of it and to look at the human drama, which of course is where “Stateless” lives and breathes.
So we kept hoping that it would become irrelevant but unfortunately, sadly, it’s become incredibly pressing. And so yeah, very timely I think, particularly when everybody is locked inside and I think to some degree it’s hopefully an empathetic connection to the refugee experience. Refugees have been displaced for scores of years and live with deep uncertainty as we’re all living through right now.
What was the reaction of the government when they found out about your project?
Well as we’re currently seeing, often governments don’t reflect the majority view of civilians on the street. And I don’t necessarily know what the government reaction has been, but I know what the audience reaction has been and I think a lot of people thought that, perhaps the refugee experience would be seen through a particular lens, a judgmental lens, and we’ve gone to great pains to make sure that we’re looking at the broken system that we’re all laboring under, not just in Australia but around the world, from all angles.
We’re trying to find a poignant connection and so in the end I hope that’s what the governments are seeing. Because it’s not a political drama even though of course the fact that 80 million around the world who’ve been forced to leave their homes due to violence and persecution, governments should absolutely be dealing with that.
One in 97 people in the world are now displaced, a large percent of humanity, it requires urgent political action. But we’ve tried to, rather than deal with the overwhelming nature of those figures. We’ve tried to look at the power of one so we followed one central refugee family, the life of a guard, the life of a bureaucrat, the refugee advocate, a German Australian woman, as a point of intersection as perhaps for a more middle class audience who may feel estranged from the refugee experience. Hopefully the audience will connect with the humanity and how we’re all involved in this change and this problem.
Then maybe it will allow the government to no longer think of closing borders to the world’s most vulnerable population.
The last time we spoke to you in April, you were making foil unicorns with your daughter during the lockdown. When the world opens up, what are the things you are looking forward to doing again?
I’m looking forward to the world not being cello-taped together in a pale resemblance of its dysfunctional previous iteration. I’m looking forward to emerging into a new world that is sane and inclusive and rational and forward-thinking. There’s a lot of challenges I think that face us all and a lot of voices that need to be continually heard and listened to and folded into the societies that we need to re-forge and remake. I don’t want to step out and step backwards, that’s for sure.
Cate Blanchett and Dominic West on refugee drama ‘Stateless’
Immigration is one of the most divisive topics in the world – guaranteed to blow up a quiet pub chat or turn a taxi trip sour. Everyone’s got an opinion, and regardless of where you stand, refugees need our help. Currently, an estimated 70 million people have been displaced globally and many of them are defined legally as ‘stateless’, which means they’re without any citizenship whatsoever.
Cate Blanchett began working with the UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), as a goodwill ambassador for stateless people back in 2014. The actor, known for roles in Oscar-winning films like Carol, Blue Jasmine and The Lord Of The Rings, has now co-created a new six-part Netflix drama based on her experiences in the field. It’s called Stateless, and represents a rare foray into television.
Stateless details Australia’s on-shore detention programme at the turn of the millennium. In it, four fictional characters with wildly different stories end up at the same immigration centre in the dustbowl of southern Australia. Among their number is Sofie (Yvonne Strahovski – The Handmaid’s Tale, Dexter), a flight attendant who flees a suburban cult led by the wild-eyed Pat Masters (Blanchett) and her glitzy, enigmatic partner Gordon (Dominic West – The Wire, Brassic).
Broadcast on ABC in Australia back in March, Stateless is only now getting a global release via Netflix. We sat down with Blanchett and her co-star Dominic West to find out what the world’s been missing.
What is the one thing every ‘stateless’ person has told you?
Cate Blanchett: “They have all said that they feel invisible and in limbo. They have no access to basic human rights. And it can happen from something as simple as losing your passport or your identity papers. Without the ability to prove your identity your children can’t get an education, you can’t access basic medical care, you can’t get married — all basic human rights that we take for granted.”
Dominic West: “I haven’t experienced being stateless politically but what’s so striking is how close we all are to this. I’ve been homeless for a night in London without money. It was astonishing how quickly you become invisible and how quickly you become reviled and how quickly you realise all you’ve got to appeal to anyone is a common humanity. And that’s just not having money, never mind being a refugee or escaping a regime.”
What do people get wrong about ‘stateless’ people?
CB: “I get very concerned when I hear people talk about migrants and immigrants when in actual fact what they are either talking about are stateless people, refugees or asylum seekers. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights every human being has the right to seek asylum, so you can’t call a refugee an immigrant. Or illegal.”
How does Britain compare to Australia when talking about refugees?
CB: “I noticed it in the lead-up to Brexit and the misinformation that was used in getting that one across the line: you frighten people with inflammatory language. We have the power of speech, and language is incredibly specific. Refugees will be called ‘migrants’, because the fear [that is induced] is that they are coming to take our jobs. Language is the first point of disconnection, and I think it’s really important that we use the right words for these things.”
Are there any personal stories that have stuck with you?
CB: “I remember a Rohingya [a stateless ethnic group from Myanmar] woman I met in Bangladesh with a young child she had given birth to whilst fleeing through a forest. She hid for six months, foraging and trying to feed her child. I was completely transported to when I gave birth to my first child. The idea of not being able to support and feed that child whilst being attacked and fearing, not only for my own life but, for my child’s life… Half of the world’s displaced are children and seeing children in detention is an indescribably heart-breaking thing. Not being able to educate your children and the ongoing trauma that they experience; it makes me so grateful for the things that we take for granted.”
Cate, Stateless joins your humanitarian work with your acting career – would you like to do more projects like that?
CB: “Definitely. If you find yourself with a platform, you can either use it for self-aggrandisement – which I do occasionally (laughs) – or for positive ends, hopefully. It has been life-changing for me and my family to be involved with UNHCR. You can’t un-see things and my role as a goodwill ambassador is to bring back those stories and to humanise the people; give dignity to those terribly vulnerable people around the world who have become faceless numbers.”
How has working with refugees changed your life?
CB: “My husband and I don’t quarantine what we do from our children. We talk about it around the dinner table. Our 11-year-old came with us when we went to Jordan on a mission. We watched him play soccer with the boys in Azraq Camp [a refugee camp built for survivors of the Syrian Civil War]. There was one boy who was the same age and he wouldn’t get up to play. Our son said, ‘Ah, he doesn’t want to play.’ I said, ‘No, darling, he got shot. He’s still got shrapnel in his foot from when he was crossing from Syria to Jordan. He can’t walk properly so he can’t play with you.’ You could just see him thinking, ‘this is so outside of my experience.’
“And you could see that as he climbed into a jeep to leave he realised those children were staying there indefinitely. Whether he remembers it consciously or not, you get altered by those exchanges, I think.”
What do you hope audiences will take away from Stateless?
DW: “The importance of this, I suppose, is ultimately to remind us of our common humanity. These aren’t people who should just be chucked in the bin. I’m about to do something on [US military prison] Guantanamo Bay, which is another instance of a government finding a convenient dustbin for people who are difficult, and I think that is very much what this is about. You can’t do that to people.”
CB: “The series is not worthy, it is not educative. That was never our intention. It is human and, hopefully, affecting. We are hoping that will drive a more engaged conversation rather than a fear-based conversation.”
It took almost six years for Cate Blanchett to get Stateless made.
Cate — along with co-stars Yvonne Strahovski, Jai Courtney, Asher Keddie, and Fayssal Bazzi — explains why this is a story that needed to be told. pic.twitter.com/E0eVfEqfxx
Ecstatic news for Mrs. America, Cate has received her first nomination for the series as an actress and executive producer from the Television Critics Association (TCA) Awards.
INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN DRAMA: Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America
Kaitlyn Dever, Unbelievable
Regina King, Watchmen
Mark Ruffalo, I Know This Much Is True
Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul
Jeremy Strong, Succession
Merrit Wever, Unbelievable
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN MOVIE OR MINISERIES:
Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu) Mrs. America (FX on Hulu)
Normal People (Hulu)
The Plot Against America (HBO)
PROGRAM OF THE YEAR:
Better Call Saul (AMC) Mrs. America (FX on Hulu)
Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV)
Mrs. America premiered on BBC Two also on July 8. You can also stream it on BBC iPlayer.
Meet the women who opposed the women's liberation movement in 1970s America…
Here are interviews related to Mrs. America with a podcast:
The Awardist: Cate Blanchett talks Mrs. America and rewatching The Sopranos in quarantine
As the coronavirus pandemic continues around the world, many people isolating at home are returning to favorite shows and movies looking for comfort and even newfound understanding in a strange time. On the latest episode of EW’s The Awardist podcast, Cate Blanchett revealed that she’s been using this time to rewatch The Sopranos with her family.
“I had watched The Sopranos and thought I had totally imbibed it. But I’ve gone back again with my kids and we’re watching it as a family,” Blanchett said. “They’ve got school commitments and I’ve got publicity commitments and also going into the garden, we’ve got four pigs, there’s a lot to be getting on with, but we cannot progress with the next episode of The Sopranos unless we’re all together. Not only is it a seminal piece of television, but the performances, the storytelling adventures, watching it again I feel like i’m only beginning to understand it.”
Blanchett has four children, only two fewer than conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, whom she recently portrayed on the FX/Hulu series Mrs. America. Asked about similarities she saw with Schlafly as a fellow working mom, Blanchett noted that their differences were even more important.
“She’s a very contradictory and polarizing figure. You’re right, I’m a mother of four and I’ve been married for a long time. Whenever you play a character, you do look for points of intersection. But I’m also interested in those points of divergence,” Blanchett said. “The difference between art and politics is that in art, you don’t sit in judgment. The difference between Gorky and [Anton] Chekhov is that very space. Politics is a place of judgment and ideology, and art is a place where you ask questions, you sit in the gray areas and the nuance. I’m very proud of being part of a series that takes a very deep dive into the different perspectives that took place in the ’70s.”
Listen to the full conversation below, along with thoughts from EW’s Kristen Baldwin and Sarah Rodman about potential Emmy nominations.
Cate Blanchett: My next role? A Trump-loving anti-feminist
There is a woman who is somewhat forgotten in America and little known in Britain, but, goes a thesis, is the key to where we are in this riven moment in 2020. Phyllis Schlafly was a Catholic anti-feminist firebrand from St Louis, Missouri, who began her series of barnstorming speeches in the 1970s by thanking her huband for his permission to speak: “I like to say that because it irritates the women’s libbers more than anything.”
Schlafly’s style — angry, combative, uncompromising and at times surprisingly playful — was effective in tying Republicans into a close marriage with the religious right. No prizes for guessing who took notice; the day after she died in 2016 her book making the case for Donald Trump was published. Trump, on the presidential campaign trail at the time, paid tribute when speaking at her funeral: “A movement has lost its hero.”
Who to play this polarising, mysterious woman? No one could do it better than Cate Blanchett, the star of Mrs America, the new mini-series about Schlafly and her mighty legacy. For while Blanchett, at 51, is undoubtedly one of the most talented actors of her generation, in none of her 70-odd films does she play the girl next door. She is Katharine Hepburn — and won an Oscar for it in The Aviator — never Audrey. Sure, she plays an elf in the Lord of the Rings films, but it is the regal Galadriel, “the mightiest elf”.
Directors even realised that they had to ignore matters of sex and cast her as Bob Dylan to find the necessary quantities of forbidding aloofness. She has joked about playing the US president — “I would play Donald Trump in a heartbeat. The comb-over? I’m there” — but the casting would be terrible; the inscrutable Melania or Barack Obama would be better. And, of course, no other actress has been Oscar-nominated twice for playing the same role in two films nearly a decade apart. Queen Elizabeth I is the part of Blanchett’s life; the solitary mask of power, the brittle hauteur of the undemocratic leader. Great writers may have a splinter of ice in their hearts, but there is ice in the eyes of this great actress. In short, for an Australian in the entertainment industry, she is the least Australian and least “luvvie” you could expect to meet.
The snag: a life’s work in unknowability makes it hard to get to know her. The director Anthony Minghella once said: “Though I have worked with her, I barely know her. I would be hard pressed to say more than three things about her with any confidence.” Blanchett suffers media appearances like a Special Operations Executive expert at resistance to interrogation (a part she played in Charlotte Gray). She grew up in Melbourne, the middle of three children. Her father, Bob, was a former naval officer from Texas; he died when she was ten, from a heart attack in a cinema. He was a figure of mystique for her. She once said that she fantasised for a while that he had not died. “I somehow thought the CIA had taken him; that one day he would just turn up,” she said, although she later retracted that thought.
It has become commonly known that this economics undergraduate got her first taste for acting when appearing in a boxing movie in Cairo, while travelling there. “Nooo,” she groaned when someone asked her about it. “But say that if you want. Print the legend of the boxing movie.” In a press conference to publicise Carol, in which she plays a lesbian, she said she had had “many” past relationships with women, which the world took as a revelation of bisexuality. She later said that this was misconstrued and that none of those relationships were sexual. You can imagine the response when one journalist found out she had a tattoo in an intimate place and asked her if she would identify what it depicted; never has the word “no” carried more froideur.
In a series of retreats from the glare of being one of Hollywood’s highest-paid, most garlanded actors, Blanchett spent ten years living in Brighton, then a five-year stint as joint-artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company with her husband of 23 years, the Australian playwright Andrew Upton. Shortly after adopting a baby girl in 2015, a dream she has said they had since the birth of their first child, the couple moved back to a house in the East Sussex countryside to bring up the baby and their three older sons.
This is well known, but when I start the three-way phone call with Blanchett and Stacey Sher, the executive producer on Mrs America, my first chatty question is: where is everyone calling from? Sher says, “My home in Los Angeles,” and Blanchett says, “The UK.” I ask roughly where in the UK and she repeats, after a pause that is far longer than the time lag on our international line, “The UK.”
This series was finished in lockdown — Blanchett says she was “sitting inside my closet to finish off the sound” — and Blanchett is doing the publicity for it while homeschooling her children, the eldest of whom is 18, among their pigs and chickens. Schlafly was also an early champion of phonics and has inspired Blanchett to do some phonics-based reading with her five-year-old girl, but as she said on an American news show, “a teacher I ain’t”. For Sher, who worked on the prescient pandemic film Contagion, this period has “felt like my dreams on that set turned into reality”.
Mrs America, though, is a passion project for Blanchett, precisely because of her political antipathy to Schlafly. She had spotted Schlafly, then a frail 92, being brought on at the tail-end of Trump’s campaign events and given standing ovations, then had seen Trump eulogising his guru at her funeral. She thought, “Who is this woman?”
In the early 1970s the American government was on the brink of ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment to the US constitution, explicitly giving men and women equal status, with wide bipartisan support across nearly all states. With her campaigning Schlafly pretty much derailed it single-handedly. In demeanour and hairdo she was a figure as queenly as Margaret Thatcher and just as polarising, although in her anti-change politics not similar at all.
“It felt,” Blanchett says, “like with every passing week [of filming], issues that even two years ago would have been seen as tangential to the concerns of women and men today were profoundly and increasingly relevant.”
Except, I say, it feels like the culture wars of the 1970s are back; Betty Friedan et al didn’t have to reckon with a “pussy-grabber” in the White House. “I think there have always been pussy-grabbers in the White House,” Blanchett says. “They perhaps weren’t rewarded for that.”
Blanchett is drawn to elegant villainesses, literally playing the wicked stepmother (in Cinderella). Yet as Sher says, the way out of polarisation is not to demonise, “and a corollary of that is it doesn’t serve us to only canonise people that we agree with”.
Blanchett takes on this theme. “We’re so used to our algorithm delivering us the news that makes us feel better or speaks to our points of view.” To “unlock Phyllis and what motivated her” felt like a vital act of understanding.
“It’s very easy to say she was a crackpot,” Blanchett says. “But look at the way people are responding differently to the virus. I’m an American citizen, but I don’t live there, so I’m one step removed from it, but there is a profound thread in America of the rights of the individual, rather than who they are as a society. Phyllis was an individualist who prized hierarchy over change.”
Blanchett’s mother was unwittingly affected by Schlafly, thousands of miles away in Australia. After the death of her husband, June Blanchett gave up her job as a teacher and became a property developer to support three children through private school. Blanchett has said she developed an “enormously empathetic” connection with the sacrifices and strength of her mother. “Yet,” as Blanchett told the Sydney Morning Herald, her mother “didn’t really identify as a feminist because . . . Phyllis Schlafly was very adept at suggesting that if you were a feminist you were anti-family.” Blanchett’s mother was nervous about her revisiting this on screen.
“I mean,” Blanchett says to me, “we’re living through that backlash right now, another sort of backlash. I was very interested in my mother’s response to my being part of this series, trying to look at the women’s movement and the equal and opposite traditionalist movement. It was trepidation because I feel that there are battle scars.”
Yet she says, “There are battle scars for men too.” The success of feminism depends almost as much on men’s attitudes as women’s — “Those in power have to share.”
Interesting point, I say. Would your fathers have supported women’s rights? Sher says that “there was no one who was more proud of my accomplishments” than her late father. Blanchett, after a long pause, says, “I hope so. He died when I was ten so I can’t give you an answer.” What about your husbands, do they identify as feminists? “One hundred per cent,” Sher says. I direct the question at Blanchett. There is an even longer pause. “I think we lost her,” Sher says of our crackly phone line, but then Blanchett talks. “Well, yeah, I’m just wondering what you’re seeking.”
I change tack. What will success look like for the next generation in terms of relations between the sexes? Sher says: “I have a 16-year-old daughter and I have an 18-year-old son. I guess maybe not having to answer that question any more?”
Blanchett laughs. “Yeah.” Then continues. She is worried about her little girl growing up and being vulnerable in the world because she is a woman. “I’ve got three boys and a girl and there is something that I do worry profoundly about. When there’s a growing fear about so much economic uncertainty, the people who always get to bear the brunt are women. The increasing domestic violence I find incredibly worrying.
“I hope my daughter does not worry about walking out at night or what she wears, you know, basic questions. I’m really saddened that I’m even thinking these thoughts in 2020. I’m sure women who were part of the women’s movements in the 1970s would have thought that we would have evolved to the point where we didn’t have to have that growing level of concern.”
Then it’s the end of our short time together and Blanchett gets demob happy, suddenly very friendly and apologetic about the quality of the line. Her last point lingers in my head. Her best roles are about armour and its weight. She is a powerful woman who so often plays powerful women, but still can never be armoured enough to protect those she loves.
Here are some behind the scene videos with interviews from Mrs. America official twitter account:
As Emmy is nearing Cate also joined few conversion as a possible Emmy contender. First one was the The Los Angeles Times Emmy Roundtable Drama with 8 other actors from different TV series. Then, Deadline Contenders Television with Mrs. America cast.
The Emmys Roundtable Drama
Weeks before the Black Lives Matter protests broke out around the globe in the wake of the senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, inclusivity, the feeling of “otherness” and the struggle for anessentialhumanity were already on the minds of the eight actors gathered via video conference for The Envelope’s annual Drama Roundtable conversation.
The Stars Aligned For ‘Mrs. America’ Team To Take On History – Contenders TV
In the biggest panel of all 44 shows in Deadline’s Contenders Television virtual event, all seven key female stars of FX’s Mrs. America gathered in different locations to talk about the limited series, which centers on the fight for the ERA as well as the women’s liberation movement centering on those who fought hard to make a change — and one woman in particular who rallied her own troops to defeat that movement.
Her name was Phyllis Schlafly, and she is played by Cate Blanchett in her first major TV project; she also serves as an executive producer of the nine-part show. The two-time Oscar winner joined the panel from London to tell why the series was important to her.
“For me I’m reeling like a lot of us from the 2016 election and trying to reverse engineer how women could vote for the man who currently sits in the White House,” she said. As for the ERA fight in the 1970s, ‘It was a period of history I thought I knew about but I had no idea who Phyllis was and had no idea how polarizing she was and how she put a lot of things in the Republican Party platform that we know now.”
“Apart from playing someone who felt so far away from me, I was trying to understand what was so terrifying about the issue of equality. I felt that it was a timely and prescient thing to delve into.” she said.
On the other hand, Cate is expanding Dirty Films in the United States.
Cate Blanchett Signs First-Look Production Deal With New Republic
Cate Blachett has signed a first-look feature film production deal for her Dirty Films production company with New Republic Pictures, headed by Brian Oliver and Bradley Fischer.
Blanchett and Fischer previously worked together on “The House With a Clock in its Walls” and “Truth.”
Dirty Films, founded by Blanchett and Andrew Upton, recently executive produced the miniseries “Mrs. America” for FX on Hulu. In the show, Blanchett starred as the late conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. The company also co-created and executive produced the limited series “Stateless,” set at an immigration detention center in the Australian desert, which will launch globally on Netflix in July.
Los Angeles-based producer Coco Francini, who executive produced “Mrs. America,” has joined Dirty Films as a partner. Francini was an associate producer of Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” and a co-producer on Zach Braff’s “Wish I Was There.” She’s held executive posts at Activision Blizzard Studios and Stacey Sher’s Shiny Penny.
Blanchett closed a deal recently to star in director Eli Roth’s movie adaptation of the video game “Borderlands” at Lionsgate. She will also star in James Gray’s upcoming “Armageddon Time” and Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up.” Blanchett won Academy Awards for her performances in “The Aviator” and “Blue Jasmine,” and was nominated for “Elizabeth,” “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” “Notes on a Scandal” and “I’m Not There.”
“I’ve known Cate and Andrew for almost 10 years now and have had the great privilege of working with Cate on two films,” Fischer said. “While it is well-settled that she is among the greatest screen and stage actresses of our time, Cate also happens to have a fierce entrepreneurial vision and instinct for finding, developing, packaging and producing the kind of poignant and transportive film events that are at the heart of what Brian and I are building at New Republic.”
Oliver received a Best Picture Academy Award nomination in 2011 for “Black Swan” and formed New Republic in 2017. The company backed “1917” and “Rocketman” last year. CAA negotiated the deal on behalf of Dirty Films.
Cate Blanchett Inks First-Look TV Deal at FX
Cate Blanchett is strengthening her ties with FX.
The two-time Oscar winner and star of FX on Hulu’s Mrs. America has signed an exclusive first-look TV deal with FX Productions through her company, Dirty Films. The agreement covers scripted and unscripted programming at FX and potentially other divisions of Walt Disney Television as well.
The deal comes on the heels of Mrs. America earning three Television Critics Award nominations: individual achievement in drama for Blanchett, outstanding movie or miniseries, and program of the year. Blanchett and Dirty Films’ Coco Francini are executive producers of the limited series.
“Cate Blanchett is a legendary talent, and it was little surprise that her first role as an executive producer and star in an American television program — Mrs. America — was such an overwhelming success,” said Gina Balian, president of original programming at FX Entertainment. “Cate, Andrew [Upton, co-founder of Dirty Films] and Coco are equally talented at crafting and producing incredible stories, and we welcome this opportunity to support their future television projects under this overall agreement.”
Said Blanchett, Upton and Francini in a statement: “We are excited to continue working with John [Landgraf], Eric [Schrier], Gina and the entire brilliant team at FX. Through our collaboration on Mrs. America, we’ve experienced firsthand their enthusiasm for robust conversations and their unwavering support for bold and ambitious entertainment.”
Blanchett and Upton founded Dirty Films, and L.A.-based Francini joined as a partner this year. In addition to Mrs. America, the company’s credits include the feature films Truth, Carol, Little Fish and The Turning and the TV series Stateless, which debuted Wednesday on Netflix after airing on Australian TV earlier this year.
Dirty Films joins a roster of creatives at FX that also includes Better Things multihyphenate Pamela Adlon, True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto, Counterpart‘s Justin Marks and Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson’s Color Force.
CAA negotiated the deal on behalf of Dirty Films.
During quarantine, Cate was also able to make a mini project by narrating a short film by Ana Lily Amirpour as part of Netflix’s COVID-19 short film series. It was released on June 30, 2020 and here’s the trailer:
HOMEMADE, a collection of short films shot in isolation from around the world, includes films by acclaimed directors Ladj Ly, Pablo Larraín, Rungano Nyoni, Gurinder Chadha, Kristen Stewart, Naomi Kawase, Rachel Morrison, Sebastián Lelio, and more.
Ana Lily Amirpour gave a short interview about the short film mentioning Cate:
Amirpour credits editor Taylor Levy, another Mona Lisa collaborator, with helping give the short structure. (“We were working together very closely for the last six months, so I think that helped, because we were very much in each other’s frequencies mentally,” she says.) But the finishing touch was the ethereal narration by Cate Blanchett, who recalls her opening voice-over from The Lord of the Rings as she waxes poetic on the pandemic’s physical and psychological impact. The Oscar-winning actress, who’s self-isolating in the U.K., recorded the narration on her iPhone in her closet from a script written by Amirpour.
“I just knew that it was gonna come down to having a narrator who had that force, that gravitas that would make you not just listen, but really take in what you’re hearing,” the filmmaker says, citing Werner Herzog’s voice-over work as an influence. “And I knew I wanted it to be a woman, because something about the piece feels very feminine, and gentle. Almost like you’re being read a children’s book.”
Deciding Blanchett fit the bill, Amirpour got in touch with the actress, who, as it happens, is a fan of her work. Blanchett did two takes, one with more of a “National Geographic tone,” as Amirpour puts it, “and then one where she was a little more playful, like she was reading a children’s story.”
And as cinemas in Australia starts to reopen, Where’d You Go Bernadette is one the movies released on July 16, 2020.
Here’s an unreleased interview conducted last year during the press junket in Toronto:
A new UNHCR #iBelong video was released recently. She’s also going to be a keynote speaker at PWBC 2020 Conference.
Actress and UNHCR Good Will Ambassador Cate Blanchett, in the context of the mid-way point of UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign to end Statelessness (2014 – 2024), explains the causes and consequences of statelessness. She outlines what barriers a stateless person may experience, even without any displacement, to leading a normal life. She covers legal barriers and discrimination, which are essential causes of statelessness, and stresses that it is a man-made problem that can be solved.
Cate Blanchett leads a stellar cast in Mrs. America, a look back at the feminist leaders of the ‘70s, their political foes and the fight over the Equal Rights Amendment.
By now, the Equal Rights Amendment was supposed to be history, not news.
The proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended to guarantee equal legal rights for all Americans, regardless of sex. Approved by the House of Representatives in 1971 and by the Senate the following year, it needed to be ratified by 38 states by 1979.
But before that could happen, Phyllis Schlafly stepped in. The story of how the conservative activist defeated the ERA (which has since been revived — and still awaits ratification) is a large part of the story of Mrs. America, the FX on Hulu limited series now streaming on FX on Hulu.
A deep dive into the second wave of feminism (suffragettes were the first), the series challenges assumptions across the political spectrum.
To some, Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) was the enemy, fighting the ERA and other feminist causes. To others, she was a hero: a wife and mother of six whose Eagle Forum promoted traditional values.
From the opening scene — in which Blanchett models an American-flag bikini at a 1971 political fundraiser — viewers may reconsider their opinions of both the woman and the era.
Over nine episodes, the series adds shades of gray to what had been monochromatic views of this history.
“None of us were interested in a piece of advocacy entertainment,” Blanchett says in a Los Angeles studio, where Mrs. America’s principal cast members and producers gathered for their emmy photos. They shared an easy rapport, borne of their five-month shoot in Toronto.
Dahvi Waller, the series’ creator, showrunner, writer and executive producer, recalls early talks with fellow executive producer Stacey Sher, who was determined to present the story “in a nonconfrontational way.” “We have to start talking to each other as humans,” Waller says.
“There is a lot of doctrinaire, binary thinking on both sides,” adds Blanchett, who also served as an executive producer. “These are extremely messy, smart, hilarious women. And we see them from different perspectives. It is interesting to see the contradictions within them.”
Scans will be added as soon as we have them.
As we reported in our last post Cate was on the cover of Sunday Life magazine. We are still looking for the scans, please mail us if you have them.
We have added four new magazines to the gallery. The last two are pretty recent, do give them a read.
Io Donna Italy – December 21st, 2019
Harper’s Bazaar Taiwan – February 2020
S Moda – El Pais – March 22nd, 2020
Aventura Magazine – April 2020
A brand new interview promoting Mrs. America has been released today, read it below (Cate also talks about Nightmare Alley)
Mrs. America: Interview with Star and Producer Cate Blanchett
Interview with Blanchett
Career Vs. Home
Cate Blanchett: Gloria Steinem said something fascinating, that she has yet to hear a man ask her advice on how to combine marriage and a career. And here we are in 2020, and we are still asking those same questions that my male counterparts just do not get asked. That is one of the reasons why I wanted to make a series because I feel in a way that each day that went past us as we were filming, the show became increasingly relevant, because the language around how we discuss these women in the world, whether we spend our time primarily in the home or whether we try and work in the workforce and also have a family or whether we devote ourselves entirely to our career or any combination thereof, there is still a sense that we alone have to make this work and that if we fail it is our responsibility. I think there’s something wrong with that system and I don’t think anything has really changed in the conversation around that since 1971, which is when our series starts.
CB: I had tangentially heard about her. I had seen this little old lady, in her late 90s, being trucked out at the tail end of Trump’s campaign. And there was a standing ovation for her, and she seemed to be very, very important and treated with profound respect by members of the Republican Party. And I found out that that person was Phyllis Schlafly. And then I saw Trump attending her funeral, and I thought who is this woman? And parallel to that, I had met with Stacey Sher and Dahvi Waller to talk about this project. And I like you, I didn’t know much about her at all, but I wondered about why she was so internally important to the Republican Party but yet not so widely known outside of circles. And I think it’s partly because her influence has been so absorbed by the Republican Party. I mean a lot of her achievements, whether you call them achievements, some people will say they are dubious achievements, but achievements nonetheless, is that she has a past on preventing the ERA from being modified, she has quite, singlehandedly I think, embedded into the spine of the Republican Party, the notion of pro-life, pro-family and being pro-American.
All of that discourse came out of Phyllis Schlafly’s activities in the 70s and the early 80s. And I think that what has happened is her achievements has been absorbed by the Republican Party, whereas I think there’s been quite a lot of public rejection of second wave feminism that those women had their own identity. Whereas Phyllis, from my point of view, I didn’t know much about her outside her circle, so it was a really journey for me and one of the primary reasons that I wanted to make the series was to understand what was so terrifying and abhorrent that Phyllis Schlafly and the people who were like minded around her, what was so terrifying about the notion of equality and that was the reason I wanted to make it.
CB: First and foremost, it’s an irreverent human drama, and it speaks to a point in history, but one that we haven’t learned that much from. And so I feel that the conversations and the dialectic and the drama that people experience in the series is very, very current. There were so many times when I would turn to the other actors and say oh my God, haven’t you had this conversation at home or don’t you feel like you are back in 2019? And we are saying we are in 1974, what’s changed?
It is interesting that back in 2001, they did a survey in America, and it was revealed that 72 percent of Americans already believed that the Constitution had specified that all citizens have equal rights irrespective of their gender. And I think that all of us believe that is a foundational given in the American Constitution. But the fact is it’s not, and the fact that it isn’t, means that we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes in our legislation, because the Constitution is an inspirational document from which laws spring. And so I feel like our situation as women, but also men and people of various different sexual and gender identifications and people who live on the fringes, still can’t walk into a space and say I am equal because the Constitution, which inspires us to be better people, doesn’t say it’s so. I think that really very little has changed. So I think it’s very, it would be quite shocking to an audiences watch the series and feel like at once they are back in the 1970s, but totally in the time in which we are living right now. Because the show is really a reverse engineering process of how did we get to where we are?
Raised by Single Parent
CB: In my high school years, there was a big question whether you identified as a feminist or not. And it was just, I was raised by a single parent, a mother, and my grandmother was in the house, which was great, but my mother had to work. My mother didn’t really identify as a feminist. There was the notion that if you were feminist, you were anti-family. And that of course we all understand that the family is the basic building block of society and the totalitarian regime trying to destroy this and competing loyalties and the main loyalty always has to be in this state. And so feminism was anti-American, anti-family. And my mother kind of grew up with that sensibility, so even though she was a single, working parent, with all of the challenges that that entails, I, her daughter, identified as the feminist, but she didn’t. And so there was a stigma around identifying as being a self-actualized woman who felt like they could achieve anything in line with their male counterparts. And I didn’t understand the problem, but I do realize in retrospect that there was a real stigma that came off the women’s liberation movement because of its branding. And because also, in a way, the interesting thing was that it was women themselves who helped kill the notion of equal rights. And I think that influenced the way future generations of women picked it up.
Explaining to her Children
CB: You can say it’s enlightened, but Phyllis Schlafly would say that there was a dogma to feminism, because they were trying to sort of enforce change. And I think in a way one leads by example and if you, I have always tried to tell my boys that my situation and having the ability to work or not work is not the case for all women. And they do understand that, they see other parents at their school and they encounter kind of stereotypical language say in a way say they naturally parody it, because they think it’s ill informed. But I don’t think that they are aggressive about it, because I think if we have learned anything by the second wave of feminism and the fights around the ERA, it’s that fear based language and polarizing discussions and attacks, don’t really progress the conversation at all. And I think that one of the profound things that the series shows and I hope my boys can see, is that there’s a lot of connective tissue between the desires of traditional women and women who are in the feminist camp, that there is a lot more that unites us and separates us. And that what happened in the 1970s was this profound schism happened between women of different ambitions. And I am hoping in a way that “Mrs. America” will be a place where a conversation can be re-ignited around the points of intersections rather than the points of division.
Living in England
CB: We are in the country where we live, but yes, we are self-isolating like everybody and it’s very difficult. We are all in it together and some of us are in more perilous positions than others but I think what is revealing to all of us is that viruses don’t recognize international borders and this notion of nation building is a bit spurious really in the wake of a pandemic. It’s also revealing something which we need to do something about as we emerge which is the systems we are living in are very fragile, and it’s pointing out the cracks in those systems. We need to work together with our governments to make sure those systems are fixed so that their citizens are very well served should this happen again. But I am in awe of the people who are, I was just talking to a friend in Queensland and the nurses and doctors on the front lines there and it’s terrifying for them, they have got children of their own and families of their own but they are so committed and I have profound respect and empathy for the position that they are in and gratitude for their service.
Working with Del Toro on Nightmare Alley
CB: Guillermo del Toro and I had been talking for years about working together and we had actually been developing a TV series together and for one reason or another, that didn’t happen. And so when “Nightmare Alley” came up I just jumped at the opportunity. And I learned so much from him, as a filmmaker, as a director, he is so generous and transparent about the way he, and clear, about the way he puts the thing together. And there’s no Svengali about him, even though he is a Svengali. He’s so generous about all of the information and he is completely, I warmed to him because Australian filmmaking is by and large, is non-hierarchal, comparatively I think to a lot of other filmmaking processes. And he is non-hierarchal, such profound respect for every member of every department. It was a really warm and inclusive set, but he’s also very muscular as a filmmaker. It was absolutely brilliant, and my filming has completed on that.
We have collected all the recent magazines where Cate was featured into and the recent photoshoots she posed for.
Startig from her most recent cover for Harper’s Bazaar UK celebrating the Women of the Year, where she posed for the talented Tom Munro (the man behind many Armani Beauty campaings) we go backward till July collecting magazines and pictures related to Where’d You Go Bernadette promotion and other events. If we missed anything, please let us know. Enjoy!
InStyle – July 2019
7 Jours France – August 23rd, 2019
Madame Le Figaro France – August 30th, 2019
InStyle Russia – October 2019
Sussex Life UK – October 2019
Vogue Russia – October 2019
Cine Premiere Mexico – October 2019
Newsweek International – September 6th, 2019
Io Donna Italy – September 7th, 2019
Vanity Fair Italy – September 18th, 2019
F Magazine Italy – October 4th, 2019
We are looking for collaborators (maybe with some help we can try to post stuff on time ;)), please contact us using the chat, mail, or social media.
We are still catching up on the past week. After evvents, we now have three talk shows (in four times) and a new series of press junket interviews. Some of these interviews may be double, it depends on who posted them. Enjoy!
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