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Photo- Louise Manning Bishop of MomStart.com
When I heard Cate Blanchett was playing in the new Cinderella movie, opening March 13th, my first thought was “she would make an excellent Fairy Godmother!” With her grace and beauty, I totally pictured her in such a role. Imagine my surprise when I learned she was playing Lady Tremaine, Cinderella’s Evil Step-Mother. Cate Blanchett playing an EVIL role?! I’ve got to see this!
Photo- Louise Manning Bishop of MomStart.com
After screening Cinderella at the World Premiere in LA last week and watching Cate as the wicked Stepmother, I’m not going to lie, I was so mad at her. As she walked into the room to be interviewed, I wanted to ask her questions like, “How could you? How could you be so cruel to Cinderella?!” That’s just how believable she was in the part, I couldn’t get her as the Evil Stepmother out of my head! However, once the interview began and her charm shone through, all memories of the evil Step-Mother were forgotten and she was once again the beautiful, graceful and incredibly talented, Cate Blanchett. Here are some highlights of the interview:
So did you go after this role?
Yes, like a rabid dog (Cate laughs) and I didn’t get the Cinderella role, though I had so many friends asked me what I was doing in the summer, and I said, “Oh, I’m in a live-action version of Cinderella” and there was a big kind of awkward pause. They didn’t quite know how to ask me, “Are you a little old to be playing Cinderella?” Yeah. A bit Bette Davis.
It sort of landed in my lap, actually. I was very lucky. When Sandy Powell and Dante Ferretti were on board, two of the greats who’ve created such extraordinary visuals in modern cinema and then Ken Branagh came on board, who’s so fantastic with actors and with language; it was kind of a perfect storm.
What’s your favorite scene?
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 music is beautiful, but also it was really big feat because Lily was cinched in so tightly and that dress was like an armored tank. He (Richard Madden) was in seven hundred layers of wool, and the dance was really athletic. They acted like a dream. And the chemistry was palpable, I wept because it was beautiful to watch.
How did you prepare for the role?
Often on film, we don’t get a lot of rehearsal time. We got a little bit with Ken on the script. But actors come in at different times, so for me, the most creative two parts of the process early on are your costume fittings, with Sandy (Powell) who I’ve worked with before, as well as makeup and hair.
We get to try things out because before you even utter a syllable, we form unconscious judgments of people. What they choose to wear; how you choose to present yourself, it’s a big part of who we are and particularly on film because it’s so visual. Once I knew what those silhouettes were, I knew which bits I didn’t have to act because the costume was revealing those things.
You could play against it. That was an incredible amount of fun, 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. The other thing I find very creative is the camera tests. Obviously the cinematographer and the director are looking for lighting effects and how it affects your skin or the hair. They’re not looking at you, and I always like to see the camera tests because you can try things out.
Did you have any input on what you wore and what was your favorite costume?
Oh gosh, yes. It’s been a Sophie’s Choice moment, isn’t it? Sandy’s got very strong ideas, that’s what makes her Sandy Powell but we talked really early on. We started emailing each other pictures that we found inspiring, you know, lighting references, hat references, drapes, fabrics and we found this pool of images that we were both drawn to. The big offers that Sandy began 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. So there’s an enormous offer, you take those offers from Sandy.
My favorite. There was a lot of green- my school uniform was green, so I tend not to wear a lot of green in everyday life. I call that dress that I wore at the ball, the gherkin, you know, that was my least favorite but everyone seems to like that one. I like the blue one. There’s a scene where the stepmother goes to see the archduke in the poppy gloves and a blue hat, I think it had a bird on it. The detail in Sandy’s costumes are just extraordinary.
How much input did you have in the script?
A lot. I think there’s a sense that actors are sort of puppets that get moved around but no, I’m always interested in input. My husband’s a writer and I come from the theater, so I have a great respect for the script, and oftentimes the line that you want to change is the line that you need to make work. Once you make that line work, then you’ve shifted from yourself.
Without getting too kind of complex, it’s quite a difficult neuro-linguisic process to actually make someone else’s words sound like they’re your own. So the one you find most difficult to make your own is often the one that will unlock the character. It was really important to me, and it wasn’t the case when I first read the script, that Cinderella had the final line of the film. 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.
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 we added in this sense of forgiveness. I forgive you, and I feel like that’s a wonderful kind of conclusion to her super power. She has an incredibly generous spirit and she also closes out the film, which I think is great.
Your laugh in the movie, I found that very iconic. Where did you draw the inspiration for that laugh?
I was mucking around with a friend of mine on set and we were talking about what makes people ugly. I said, it’s interesting, you can go out with somebody and think, oh my gosh, you’re so attractive, and then he or she eats, and you think, oh my god, you’re a pig. Or someone is amazing and you think, your politics are reprehensible. There’s something about them will give them away.We were talking about dirty laughs and so I just did it, and she laughed. Then there was a scene, we were at the gambling scene, I think, and I laughed, and Ken’s face was so revolted. He was really worried. He said, “You’re not gonna do that, are you”? And I said, “Oh yes, I am now.” So, I think his reaction made me wanna keep it. She’s got exquisite dresses, perfect makeup, and then she opens her mouth and that comes out. I thought that was a bit of a red flag about what was to come.