So… they split-screened him? Or was it one of those director’s commentary things?” Cate Blanchett is having some trouble wrapping her head around Shia LaBeouf’s latest stunt. The actress hasn’t heard about the #ALLMYMOVIES project, in which her Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull co-star spent 58 hours screening all of his films, as the world watched a close-up of his face via live-stream. “God,” she exhales, placing her fork on the breakfast plate in front of her as her eyes widen. “The idea of sitting and watching all the movies I’ve done over again sounds like a nightmare!”
A marathon viewing of her film career would double as a crash course in the most indelible and transporting performances of the last 20 years. Her range is astonishing: She’s an actress capable of portraying both English and Elvish royalty, as comfortable inhabiting Katharine Hepburn (The Aviator) as she is Bob Dylan (I’m Not There). And as the titular character in Todd Haynes’ new film, Carol, Blanchett takes on yet another layered, complex role — the Platonic Ideal of a posh New Jersey housewife circa 1950 who’s thunderstruck by a young Manhattan shopgirl named Therese (Rooney Mara). The heart-stopping romance born from their chance encounter is as touching and real as any the movies have ever seen.
A long-in-the-making labor of love for the actress, Carol has been a part of Blanchett’s life for so long that she naturally slips into the socialite’s cadence when reflecting on its journey to the screen: “It’s been on and off and up and down,” she says, waving a limp hand through the air. “Normally, when things take such a long time to happen, everyone’s so desperate to get it made that they’ll just do it in whatever way they can. [But] there hasn’t been any creative compromise here, and that’s pretty rare.” Rolling Stone met with Blanchett in a hotel suite overlooking Central Park, where we spoke to the actress about her new film, forbidden love, and the power of her celebrity.
Your character almost seems like a synthesis of several of your previous parts, from Galadriel’s impenetrable aura to Katharine Hepburn’s pluck. Did the role feel like something you’d been working towards?
Every actor has a bag of tricks, but I think you really have to leave that in the trailer as much as you can. I’d been sitting with the idea of playing Carol for a long time; there were [enough] layers of sediment collected about the character that by the time we shot I didn’t have to think about it. What Rooney and I both loved — and it was in-built into the script — is that there are all these pregnant silences between Therese and Carol. Every word, every situation is incredibly loaded.
There were so few words available to these women to describe their feelings for one another.
I guess it was “perversion.” Homosexual love was illegal, but love between two women was considered a byproduct of hysteria. It wasn’t even accorded the place of being a criminal act, in a way. Because the love story here is between two women, I think the audience feels like they’re seeing something dangerous and uncharted, in the same way that anyone — whether they’re transgendered, bi, straight, lesbian, gay — does when they fall head over heels for someone for the very first time. But I think what Todd was interested in bringing out was the sensation of being in love profoundly for the first time. It feels as if you’re inventing the wheel.