I knew I was going to be interviewing Cate Blanchett but I never really thought about who she was going into the interview. I knew she was the wicked step mother of Cinderella in the new full feature live action Disney film but that’s all the thought I really put into it and then I saw her. When she walked into the interview room I felt like, wow, this is classic Hollywood. She is pure grace and elegance. Then it hit me who she was, she’s to me a living legend. She’s been in Lord of the Rings and she played Elizabeth. She has the talent to play such strong characters and she brought that talent to Cinderella. Here are just a few snippets of the interview with her.
Q : So did you go after this role, or…
CB : Yes, like a rabid dog, [LAUGHS], and I didn’t get the Cinderella role, [AUDIENCE LAUGHS], though I had so many friends who- they asked me what I was doing in the summer, and I said, oh, I’m, I’m, um, in a live-action version of Cinderella, and there was a big kind of awkward pause. And they didn’t quite know how to ask me, [LAUGHS], are you a little old to be playing Cinderella? Yeah. A bit Bette Davis, so yes. No, I, well, no, it sort of landed in my lap, actually.
I was very lucky, and when I, um, Sandy Powell and Dante, uh, Ferretti were on board, and they’re, you know, two of the greats, uh, you know, uh, that they’ve created such extraordinary visuals, um, in modern cinema. And, uh, and, and then Kenneth Branagh came on board who’s so fantastic with actors and with language, so it was kind of a perfect, a perfect storm.
Q : What’s your favorite scene?
CB : Ooh, well, I think the chemistry between Lily and Richard is palpable, and I wept like a baby, completely inappropriately and out of character when they waltzed for the first time. The, the music is beautiful, but also it was a real- it was really big feat because Lily was cinched in so tightly, and that dress was like an armored tank, and he was in seven hundred layers of wool, and the dance was really athletic, and they acted like a dream. And the chemistry was, um, palpable, and I just, I wept because it was beautiful to watch.
Um, but I think maybe being the, the mother of, uh, sons, I found it very, very moving, and every time I see it, I do- I’m a bit of a- I do cry a lot, [LAUGHS]. Um, but I, uh, I love the scene between, um, Derek Jacobi as the king, and Richard Madden as the prince. You know, because that’s the wonderful thing about the film, I think is that, you know, we try and shield our, our children from moments of grief and, um, and I know it from, uh, having lost a parent at the age of, of ten.
Children are resilient, and they can, in a way, it’s harder, I think, to lose a parent, you know, the age the way that we are. Well, I mean, I’m might be a thousand years older than you all, but, um, and I, and, and I found that really moving.
I thought, um, for him as a, as a man to be curled up like a young boy, you know, and I’ve had a lot of friends recently lose a parent, and whether you’re eighty or eight and you lose a parent, you- you’re always the child, and so I find that move- that scene very moving.
Q : How much fun was it to play a Disney villain?
CB : There’s a lot of great Disney villains, and a lot of them are women and, um, and they always have, um, fabulous frocks and fabulous hairdos, um, uh, and so it was an enormous amount of fun. You know, the, the wonderful message in the film, of course, um, is to have courage and to be kind. You know, kindness is a super power, and we try to teach our children, you know, you share, you be respectful, you be generous, you be thoughtful, put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and to play someone who can’t play someone who can’t do any of those things, um, you know, to have that as your avatar during the day was quite fun.
Q : There was a scene where, uh, Lily asks you, as Cinderella, why are you doing this, and you say you’re- because you’re young, and I think you’re good, and I forget what the third one was.
CB : You’re young and beautiful, and, and I’m…
Q : Yeah, what is- is that saying that an older woman is gonna be, you know, so mean, and evil, and jealous to a younger, beautiful woman, and having to work that into your character? Did you find something else that you could- some humanity in her that you could use?
CB : Well, there’s that wonderful before that moment, you, you finally get to hear the stepmother’s story, and you know, it’s, it’s not the stepmother’s story. It’s, it’s the story of Cinderella. Um, and so the stepmother is foiled for her, narratively, and they’ve both suffered an incredible amount of hardship and tragedy, and this is a world still like today’s world where a lot of women don’t have agency; don’t have financial independence, and she made a decision really early on that the world is a tough place, and the way, the way to navigate your way through that is to graft yourself onto a, a man, and that’s, and that’s what she’s imparting to her, her children.
And the way that the stepmother has dealt with grief and hardship is to close down and to become bitter and jealous, um, you know, and there’s a sense of entitlement. And Cinderella’s experienced those things, but she’s remained open-hearted and good. She’s much more glass half full. And I think that whether you’re a man or a woman, you know, it, that, that tragedy does define- can define your character. So, I mean, hopefully, you’re not, you’re not, um, you don’t, you don’t necessarily like what the stepmother does, but hopefully you understand her.
And I don’t necessarily think it’s just about older women. There’s a lot of different female characters in there. There’s Cinderella’s mother, there’s the, the daughters, you know, there’s the people at the court and, and then there’s the stepmother, as well. But I think, I think there can be like professional jealousy, um, between men. You know, the same thing can exist between, between them, and this, I think it’s interesting to see them onscreen.
Q : How did you prepare for your role? You’re so evil. I love it. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]
CB : Thank you. Um, often on film, we don’t get a lot of rehearsal time. We got a little bit of wi- with Ken on the, on the, on the script. Um, but, you know, actors come in at various different times, and so for me, the, the most creative two parts of the process early on are your costume fittings and, um, and so working with Sandy who I’ve worked with before, but also, Morag Ross who is doing my, um, makeup, and Kay Georgia who is doing my hair, and the four of us had, um, have, have worked together quite a lot.
And it’s- we get to try things out because before you even utter a syllable, um, what you wear- I mean, we do it, we do this on a daily basis. You, we form unconscious judgments of people, um, you know, the way they smell, [LAUGHS], by the way- what they choose to wear; how you choose to present yourself, you know, it’s a big part of who we are, and particularly on film because it’s so visual, obviously. Um, you, once I knew what those silhouettes were, I knew which bits I didn’t have to act because the costume was, was re- revealing those things.
You could- you could play against it. Um, so that was an incredible amount of fun and, um, and then obviously, it gives you a sense of how the character might move, and you try those things out because the camera’s not rolling- no one’s looking at you, and the other thing I find very creative is the camera tests. Because obviously the cinematographer and the director, uh, um, are looking for lighting effects and, you know, how will it affect on your skin or the hair- with wig color. They’re not looking at you, and I always like to see the camera tests because you can try, try things out.
You can fuck things up, and think, oh, [AUDIENCE LAUGHS], I won’t, I won’t do that. Um, so that was a big part of the preparation.
Q : Hi. Um, I wanted to ask you, um, did you have any input on what you wore, and what was your favorite look of what you wore?
CB : Oh, gosh, yes, it’s been a Sophie’s Choice moment isn’t it? Um, yes, I mean, Sandy’s got very, very strong ideas. I mean, that’s what makes her Sandy Powell. Um, but we talked really early on. We started emailing, um, each other pictures that we found inspiring, you know, lighting references, hat references, drapes, fabrics, um, and we sort of- we found this pool of images that we were both drawn to and, um, and the, the big offers that Sandy began to, to make, which I found really exciting is when she pulled out the color swatches.
Okay, we’re going for chartreuse, we’re going for green, we’re going for hot pink, and we’re gonna mix them all together. Um, and so there’s a, um, yeah, that was an enormous offer- that you, you take those offers from, from Sandy.
Q : And your favorites?
CB : My favorite, well, uh, there was a lot of green- my school uniform was green, so I tend not to wear a lot of green in everyday life, and I call that, that dress that I wore at the, um, the ball, the gherkin, you know, that was my least favorite, but everyone seems to like that one.
Um, I like the blue one. There’s a scene where the stepmother goes to see the archduke, and yeah, the poppy gloves and, um, uh, and a blue hat. It was sort of, I think for memory, it had a bird on it. I mean, the detail in Sandy’s costumes are just extraordinary.
Q : There was a notably difficult scene for you that was really hard to shoot?
CB : Um, well, it was all this, you know, obviously, I’m not in the film all the time, so you have- I wanted to sort of try and chart a journey that was, um, you know, from an, an exquisite exterior- the, um, you know, with a sort of affected grace that the stepmother became increasingly brash. And so it was just trying to calibrate- calibrate that. Um, you know, the, the, the costumes were- some were slightly more difficult to maneuver. Um…
Q : You just spoke about, um, trying things out on the camera test. How much input did you have- the script or anything?
CB : A lot. I mean, I think there’s a sense, um, that actors are sort of puppets that get moved around, um, but no, I’m, uh, no, I’m always interested in input. I, my husband’s a writer, you know, and I come from the theater, so I have a great respect for the script, and oftentimes, you know, the line that you want to change is the line that you need to make work, and that once you make that line work, then you’ve actually- you’ve shifted from yourself, the line you find hardest to say.
It’s actually- so without getting too kind of complex, it’s quite a difficult neurolinguisic process to actually make someone else’s words sound like they’re your own. And so the one I find that you may find most difficult to make your own is often the one that will unlock the character. Um, but it was really important to me, and it wasn’t the case when I first read the script that, um, that Cinderella had the final line of the film. And, uh, I said to Ken, so it’s a really great message. She comes in and says, well, I’m not gonna be rescued.
If this relationship is gonna work, he has to accept me for who I am, which I think is wonderful for young girls to say. I think it’s fantastic. And then there was a line at the end where he said, shall we go, and she didn’t say anything. And I thought, it’s not his story- it’s her story. And so then they- we added in this sense of forgiveness. I forgive you, and I, I feel, I feel like that’s a wonderful kind of conclusion to her, to her, her super power. Ella has an incredibly generous spirit and, um, and, and she also closes out the film which I think is great.
Cinderella is in theaters March 13th.