- Cate Blanchett is nominated for best actress for Tar at the Academy Awards on March 13 AEDT.
- She has previously won Oscars for The Aviator and Blue Jasmine and had nominations for Elizabeth, Notes On A Scandal, I’m Not There, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Carol.
- If she wins, Blanchett will join Meryl Streep, Ingrid Bergman and Frances McDormand with three Oscars for their acting. (McDormand has a fourth as a producer of Nomadland). Only Katharine Hepburn, who Blanchett played in The Aviator, has more acting Oscars with four.
In just over three decades since graduating from drama school, Cate Blanchett has built up a body of work that few other actors can even approach.
She has classed up many blockbusters for leading directors, including the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Robin Hood, Cinderella, Thor: Ragnarok and Don’t Look Up.
An actress who has always taken creative risks: Cate Blanchett at the Costume Designers Guild Awards in Los Angeles last month. Credit:AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
She has taken on more challenging roles in such memorable films as – take a deep breath because there are a lot – Oscar and Lucinda, Elizabeth, The Talented Mr Ripley, Charlotte Grey, The Shipping News, Veronica Guerin, The Aviator, Babel, The Good German, Blue Jasmine, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Carol and Nightmare Alley.
But the two-time Academy Award winner, who is widely tipped to win a third Oscar this month, has always taken creative risks. She played 13 different characters in the art film Manifesto, a recovering heroin addict in Little Fish, a redback spider who climaxes then kills her mate in the short Red, a version of Bob Dylan in I’m Not There, a teacher who has an affair with a 15-year-old student in Notes On A Scandal, a cult leader in the series Stateless, and voiced a screeching monkey in Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.
Between film and TV roles, she has been acclaimed on stage for the likes of Oleanna, Hedda Gabler, A Streetcar Named Desire, Uncle Vanya and The Maids.
So what are Blanchett’s greatest performances? Based on what she uniquely brought to a role, its impact and the degree of difficulty, here’s our ranking of her top 10.
10. Mrs America (2020)
Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly in Mrs America.Credit:FX/Foxtel
Just as she was on the Australian series Stateless, Blanchett was an executive producer for this American series about the political battle to improve the lot of American women in the 1970s. She played conservative American activist Phyllis Schlafly with a subversive edge. The character is formidable, ambitious, immaculately dressed and articulate, but her hardline opposition to feminism runs counter to how she is constantly diminished as a woman.
9. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003)
Cate Blanchett and Elijah Wood in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.Credit:New Line
Though Peter Jackson’s masterful trilogy won 17 Oscars from 30 nominations, there was surprisingly little awards recognition for the cast – just a best supporting actor nomination for Ian McKellen who played Gandalf. But in among the epic fury of the battle scenes and the intimate emotional dramas of the hobbits, Blanchett brought a regal, ethereal calm to playing elf queen Galadriel. It was not her most demanding role, but it is certainly one of the most fondly remembered.
8. Little Fish (2005)
Blanchett was already a Hollywood star when she took the gutsy decision to play a former heroin addict trying to set her life straight in Sydney’s Cabramatta. In a gritty drama directed by Rowan Woods, she made Tracy Heart feel desperately real as she tried and failed to rustle up the cash to buy a share in a video store, help her junkie stepfather (Hugo Weaving) and get back with a former boyfriend (Dustin Nguyen).
7. I’m Not There (2007)
Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There.Credit:MGM
Blanchett had to lose weight to join five other actors playing versions of Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ inventive biopic. She was the great singer-songwriter in the mid-1960s when he was under siege from fans and the media after playing electric guitar at a folk festival. Constantly smoking and fuelled by amphetamines and self-doubt, her Dylan is an enigmatic character with just the right rebelliousness, voice, nonchalance and wit. Full of contradictions, it’s the toughest role in a mosaic portrait and she was perfect for it.
6. Elizabeth (1998)
Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth.Credit:Universal
After making Paradise Road, Thank God He Met Lizzie and Oscar and Lucinda in Australia, Blanchett’s international breakthrough came in Shekhar Kapur’s lavish biopic of Queen Elizabeth I, which earned a first Oscar nomination. Her Elizabeth went from a pale, young free spirit to a steely queen who navigated Europe’s brutal politics and sanctioned the murder of her opponents, then declared “I have become a virgin. I am married to England”. Blanchett played the queen again for Kapur in 2007’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age – for another Oscar nomination – but the story arc of the first instalment really showed the range of her talent.
5. A Streetcar Named Desire (2009)
Cate Blanchett and Joel Edgerton in A Streetcar Named Desire.Credit:Lisa Tomasetti/STC
Among Blanchett’s stage performances, the landmark was playing Blanche DuBois in director Liv Ullmann’s version of this Tennessee Williams play for Sydney Theatre Company, which later toured to Washington and New York. With Joel Edgerton also brilliant as Stanley Kowalski, Blanchett went from brittle southern charm to raw blazing emotion. Meryl Streep called the performance “as naked, as raw and extraordinary and astonishing and surprising and scary as anything I’ve ever seen”.
4. Carol (2015)
Cate Blanchett with Rooney Mara in Carol.Credit:Wilson Webb
Reuniting with director Todd Haynes after I’m Not There, Blanchett played an elegant society woman – the title character – who has an affair with a young aspiring photographer (Rooney Mara) in a restrained and moving movie about desire. Set in the 1950s, when a gay relationship was scandalous, their romance is threatened by Carol’s looming divorce and the prospect of losing custody of her daughter. Blanchett is magnetic as a woman who, having carefully constructed one reality as a wife, boldly goes after another because she no longer wants to be “living against my own grain”.
3. The Aviator (2004)
Leonardo Dicaprio and Cate Blanchett in The Aviator.Credit:Warner Bros
“How mahhvellous!” Playing Hollywood legend Katharine Hepburn just after her death would have been daunting for any actress, even with Martin Scorsese as director. In this biopic of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), Blanchett left such a vivid impression that she won her first Oscar.
While clearly aiming more for the spirit of Hepburn than her look, she captured the blueblood manner that was so familiar from her movies … the voice, the angle of the jaw, the athletic stride, the outspoken wit. She also made Hepburn seem human.
2. Blue Jasmine (2013)
Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine.Credit:Focus Features
Blanchett played a New York socialite reduced to slumming it with her sister (Sally Hawkins) in small-time San Francisco after the financial collapse of her crooked billionaire husband (Alec Baldwin) in this Woody Allen tragicomedy. It was a study in psychological and physical deterioration that had Jasmine going from a Chanel, Hermes and monogrammed luggage lifestyle to popping pills, guzzling vodka and mumbling to herself in the street. Blanchett’s raw emotion and lack of vanity made Jasmine feel frustratingly human and elevated the movie.
1. Tar (2022)
Cate Blanchett in Tar.Credit:Focus Features
On screen for virtually all 159 minutes of Todd Field’s drama, Blanchett is darkly mesmerising as world-famous composer-conductor Lydia Tar, whose life is imploding. Having learnt to conduct, play piano and speak German for the film, she played Tar with moments of haughty brilliance, shocking behaviour, disturbing obsessiveness, undeniable charisma, unthinking callousness and tragi-comedy – all without a false note. Some actors would have baulked at having a woman as a lesbian sexual predator in a #MeToo drama; others would have sought more warmth for the character or a redemption scene. Field wanted a film that was more ambiguous and unsettling. Blanchett served the art rather than playing the Hollywood star.
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