Cate Blanchett in ‘Veronica Guerin’

This week we go back to Cate Blanchett’s early career and another one of her “titular” roles, playing Irish journalist Veronica Guerin (2003). To discuss Joel Schumacher’s film, Murtada welcomes illustrator and designer Dash Silva to the podcast. This wide ranging conversation also covers Blue Jasmine, The Aviator, the accent work of Meryl Streep and a few of this year’s best actress awards contenders including Lady Gaga, Jessica Chastain and Kristen Stewart.

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What is the film about?

From Wikipedia: The film’s about Irish journalist Veronica Guerin, whose investigation into the drug trade in Dublin led to her murder in 1996, at the age of 37.

Who does Cate play? Veronica Guerin – another one of her “titular” roles.

How is Cate introduced? 2 mins in court defending herself as a reckless driver. It’s an exciting prelude before the film goes back 2 years to tell the story.

What year did it come out? 2003

Box Office: US $1.5MM, rest of the world $ 7.8MM Critical Response: Metacritic: 55 RT: 53

Ciaran Hinds and Cate Blanchett in Veronica Guerin

Topics Discussed:

  • Guerin is a major figure in Ireland, the film came just a few years after her murder and tries to capture the legend.
  • A clear good vs. evil narrative. Does it get at the complexity of the story?
  • The portrayal of Guerin as dogged, focused, intimidating and intimidated, brave and frightened. Many notes for Cate to play.
  • An odd choice for Joel Schumacher or is it? He seems to make many different genres of film. Best known for Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, he also directed a musical (The Phantom of the Opera), thrillers (8MM and Falling Down), melodramas (Dying Young and Flawless) and even a rom-com (Cousins). This is his Erin Brockovich.
  • Since Cate does an Irish accent here let’s pit her against the Accent Queen; Meryl Streep. Irish (Dancing at Lughnasa), Italian (The Bridges of Madison County vs. Cate actual Italian in Heaven ), English (Plenty vs. Notes on a Scandal).
  • Brief interlude about Cate’s performances in The Man Who Cried, The Aviator and Blue Jasmine.
  • Oscar winner Brenda Fricker (My Left Foot) and current Oscar hopeful Ciaran Hinds (Befast) are in the cast. Plus a Colin Farrell cameo ( a meta joke since they talk about Eric Cantana who’s in Elizabeth). 
  • Brief mentions of Cate’s two films out now in release; Nightmare Alley and Don’t Look Up.
  • This year’s best actress hopefuls; Lady Gaga in House of Gucci, Kristen Stewart in Spencer and Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

What critics said at the time:

Cate Blanchett plays Guerin in a way that fascinated me for reasons the movie probably did not intend. I have a sneaky suspicion that director Joel Schumacher and his writers (Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue) think of this as a story of courage and determination, but what I came away with was a story of bone-headed egocentrism. There are moments when Guerin seems so wrapped up in her growing legend and giddy with the flush of the hunt that she barely notices her patient husband, who seems quite gentle, under the circumstances, in his suggestions that she consider the danger she’s in and think of their child.Roger Ebert.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

  • 2003 was a busy year for Blanchett, see also The Missing, Coffee and Cigarettes and her 3rd time as Galadriel in LOTR:The Return of the King.
  • 2003 was the last year of her wilderness era post Elizabeth (1998) when her movies didn’t seem to connect. The year after she appears in The Aviator and for the next 4 years she’ll have a great run.  

Further Reading:

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‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’

Well the time has come. This week we have a hurricane in us and we are going to command the wind. It’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), the movie that contains that most famous monologue in Cate Blanchett’s filmography. We discuss the film, that iconic scene and delve into that year’s best actress Oscar competition. Plus we nominate younger actors whose screen work remind us of Blanchett. For this conversation, Murtada Elfadl welcomes back Izzy from Be Kind Rewind

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Follow along the film is available on Amazon prime.

What is the film about?

From imdb: “A mature Queen Elizabeth endures multiple crises late in her reign including court intrigues, an assassination plot, the Spanish Armada, and romantic disappointments.” Directed by Shekar Kapur; also starring Clive Owen, Samantha Morton, Abbie Cornish, Geoffrey Rush, and in a tiny part as an assassin Eddie Redmayne (in 2015 Blanchett presents Redmayne with his Oscar). 

What year did it come out?


Who does Cate play?

Duh – top billed.  


Box Office: Domestic = $16MM, Int’l = $59MM.

Metacritic: 45 RT: 34, definitely not a stellar reception.

Topics Discussed:

  • Starts in1585 and charts the latter years of Elizabeth I reign. Still plays with marriage as one of the main plots. As with the previous film, it takes the broad strokes of history to tell its story. There’s scant historical accuracy.
  • Love when Cate is at the center of the filmIn this film she either is at the center or the scene is about talking about her.
  • Unlike the first movie, she brings humor to this performance. Sometimes commenting n the script’s simplistic notions of female power – like when she repeats the line ”men have needs.”
  • What is the thesis of this film? It tries to say something about the loneliness of power, about aging… but what exactly? It’s all muddled.
  • Unlike the first film Elizabeth (1998), which was celebrated for its visceral athletic, this one was dismissed as another middling costume drama.
  • Works best as a series of scenes that are entertaining… and not always for reasons that the creaters intended. 
  • Fertile ground for upcoming talent. Eddie Redmayne, Abbie Cornish .. like Kelly McDonald and Emily Mortimer in the first film.
  • Elizabeth literally imagines Bess as her young self. Did they get the casting right? Who of the younger actors remind us of Blanchett?
  • Did Elizabeth believe in astrology? 
  • The “I have a hurricane in me” starts at 38. We discuss why this scene ebdures.
  • Other scenes to discuss:
    1. The speech at Tilbury before going off to fight the Spanish armada.
    2. Flirting with Clive Owen.
    3. Dismissing the attentions of the Austrian duke… back to my note above about bringing humor to the performance.
  • Reprising a signature role is not always successful. See Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment (1983) / The Evening Star (1996). Though it worked for Paul Newman in The Hustler (1961) / The Color of Money (1986). Other examples include Peter O’Toole as another monarch in Beckett (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968).

Costumes we loved:

Looks amazing in cream white in the assasination scene. Intricate eye catching design of most of Elizabeth’s costumes. Though I found many comments in my research that they were not historically accurate. Doesn’t matter, they were noticeable. 

The film must’ve won the Oscar because of the 360 shot of Elizabet’s costume after she wins the war.It’s main competition was Atonement which everybody expected to win because of Keira Knightley’s iconic green dress.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

  •  Released the same year as I’m Not There; she got a lot of notices about her range, “she can play both Elizabeth and Bob Dylan,” which added to her allure as the “best of her generation.”

Awards:  Won Oscar for costume design, nominated for best actress at all the usual awards ceremonies. For such a critically derided film, Blanchett didn’t miss out on any nomination.

Other best actress nominees:

Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose – the winner.  

Julie Christie, Away from Her. 

Elliott Page, Juno.

Laura Linney, The Savages – surprise nominee.

Missing out – Angelina Jolie A Mighty Heart, Keira Knightley Atonement, Amy Adams Enchanted, Tang Wei Lust and Caution.

Cate gave us two priceless reaction shots while best actress was presented at the Oscars:

1) revulsion at her “command the wind” clip, and 2) elation at Cotillard’s win.

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‘Elizabeth’ and the 1998 Oscar for Best Actress

For the 2nd season finale of the podcast, we return to 1998. Elizabeth was Cate Blanchett’s international breakout and the first time many people saw her on screen. Hence it deserves a revisit. To discuss the film again, along with Blanchett’s first Academy Award nomination and the 1998 best actress Oscar race, Murtada Elfadl welcomes Izzy from Be Kind Rewind Click to listen: Logo - Lizzy copy Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts   /   Stitcher   /  Spotify  /   iHeart What is the film about? From imdb: The early years of the reign of Elizabeth I of England and her difficult task of learning what is necessary to be a monarch. Directed by Shekar Kapur; also starring Richard Attenborough, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Emily Mortimer, Kelly McDonald. What year did it come out? 1998. Who does Cate play? Duh – top billed.  How is Cate introduced? 7 Minutes in, dancing in a field among her ladies in waiting. Box Office: Domestic = $30,082,699 (36.6%), Int’l = $52,067,943 (63.4%).
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Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth I
Topics Discussed:
  • Why was this performance so well received? It was considered such an arrival of a major star. How much is the role? How much is Cate? She charts a whole journey and character arc from young woman to monarch to stateswoman to almost deity, getting the chance to play innocent, cunning, in love, betrayed; the whole gamut of emotions.
  • So many actresses played this part: Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson, Anne-Marie Duff, Helen Mirren and Margot Robbie. Why is it so attractive to storytellers?
  • What is the Cate moment that sealed her stardom and Oscar nomination? Basically what’s this film “I have a hurricane in me” from Elizabeth: The Golden Age?
    • Ominously surrounded by men as Elizabeth is interrogated in the tower early on the film. Vacillating between fear and trying to hold it together while answering a barrage of questions.
    • Her scene with Kathy Burke as Mary “I see you are a consummate actress.” 
    • Preparing and delivering her speech to the bishops.
    • Lamenting the defeat of her troops in Scotland by Mary of Guise.
    • The finale “I’ve become a virgin.
Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth and Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. Both won Golden Globes, Paltrow won the Oscar
Other 1998 Oscar Best Actress Nominees: Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love – the winner. She and Cate both won at Golden Globes. Meryl Streep, One True Thing – Nomination #11 out of 21. Only nomination for film. Great monologue, “I’m tired of being shushed.” Fernanda Montenegro, Central Station– won best actress at the Berlinale, LAFCA and NBR. She and Cate were runners up to Ally Sheedy (High Art) at NSFC. Runner up to Cameron Diaz (There’s Something About Mary) at NYFCC. This tweet is funny! Emily Watson, Hillary and Jackie – forgotten film, more of an afterglow nomination 2 years after Breaking the Waves. Interesting career trajectory with Blanchett as she was considered for Elizabeth.
Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 4.45.12 PM
The other 1998 Oscar nominees were Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station, Meryl Streep in One True Thing and Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie
Did Paltrow win because she played a romantic lead, something academy members are prone to award —Roman Holiday, Moonstruck—while Blanchett was playing a more traditionally male role as a monarch? More from Murtada and Izzy: Elizabeth was previously discussed on the podcast. Don’t miss Be Kind Rewind on how Shakespeare in Love won its Oscars. Note on the headline: This Oscar year is sometimes referred to as “the 1999 Oscars” since the ceremony took place in March of 1999. However I prefer using the year of the film’s release, 1998. Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts   /   Stitcher   /  Spotify  /   iHeart Like? Rate and Review. Have a question? Leave us a comment.

Cate Blanchett in ‘Heaven’

That heart wrenching closeup. That iconic buzzcut. That performance many think is one of Cate Blanchett’s best. This week Murtada welcomes Kyle Stevens to discuss Heaven (2002), directed by Tom Tykwer.


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What is the film about?

From IMDB: A woman takes the law into her own hands after police ignore her pleas to arrest the man responsible for her husband’s death, and finds herself not only under arrest for murder but falling in love with an officer.

What year did it come out?

October 2002.

Who does Cate play?

Philippa an English teacher living in Turin, Italy who carries out a vengeful act.

How is Cate introduced?

A few minutes in as Phillippa prepares for her quest.

Box Office: Domestic = $784,399 Int’l = $3,462,690

Metacritic : 68 RT: 74

Get that buzzcut, Cate

Topics Discussed:

  • Conceived as a  new trilogy: Heaven, Purgatory and  Hell from director Krzysztof Kieslowski and his writing partner, Krzysztof Piesiewicz who made Blue, White and Red.
  • What could’ve been if Kieslowski didn’t pass on before making it?
  • The first few minutes Blanchett body movement looks nothing I’ve ever seen from her. Usually she glides into the frame, here she awkwardly walks, sometimes even waddling. 
  • Beautiful visuals… the look is sometimes breathtaking …
  • Jarring to native Italian speakers? I trust Cate with accents 
  • The plot is facile, easy but is that part of the fable , the unreality of it 
  • The ending – did they ascend literally to heaven?
  •  Ribisi – yay or nay?
  • Revisiting Elizabeth (1998)

Scenes we liked:

  • The interrogation scene. Long, fantastic,  The emotions on her face as she realizes the truth. That perfect fall to the floor as she’s overwhelmed… the polar opposite of getting up from the floor on Carol. Yet both show us how remarkable she is at using her to act and give us beautiful images at the same time.
  • The confession in the church scene specially her reaction to Ribisi saying “I love you.”

What seemed off:

Did the film successfully mix the grounded visceral elements of its story with the dreamy metaphysical ending?

Cate Blanchett in a scene from Heaven

Film within context of Cate’s career:

  •  From all the early 2000s films she made, this is the only one remembered fondly.

Film within the context of year it’s been released:

  • This was a Miramax release in the year of The Hours, Gangs of New York and Chicago – so we assume it got lost in the shuffle.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“In ”Heaven” the Australian dramatic chameleon Cate Blanchett gives the most compelling screen performance of her career as a principled terrorist whose desperate act of violence tragically backfires, leaving her broken and reeling with despair and self-loathing.

As her character, Philippa, a recently widowed young English teacher living in Turin, Italy, disintegrates, Ms. Blanchett registers a wrenching series of quick emotional changes. Upon learning that her carefully plotted act of vigilantism has resulted in the deaths of innocent people, her defiance gives way in seconds to shock, then to horror, then to self-realization so painful that she doubles up and crumples onto the floor, unconscious.

Although Ms. Blanchett’s face has always registered emotion with a mercurial fluidity, the immediacy of feeling she conveys in ”Heaven” is astonishing. It also allows her to carry off the seemingly impossible feat of making us care passionately about a woman who has committed an unforgivable crime.” – Stephen Holden, NY Times.

“Blanchett’s performance confirms her power once again. She never goes for an effect here, never protects herself, just plays the character straight ahead as a woman forced by grief and rage into a rash action, and then living with the consequences.” – Roger Ebert

Promotional work:


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Cate Blanchett in ‘Oscar and Lucinda’

One of Cate Blanchett’s earliest films, Oscar and Lucinda finds her working in Australia with Gillian Armstrong and Ralph Fiennes. It’s an odd, eccentric but very feminist tale.

HostMurtada Elfadl, some of Murtada’s film writing can be found here.

Guest : Andy Stewart.

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What is the film about?

 From imdb: In mid-1800s England, Oscar, a young Anglican priest, and Lucinda, a teen-aged Australian heiress, are both passionate gamblers. Lucinda bets Oscar her entire inheritance that he cannot transport a glass church to the Outback safely, and this leads to the events that will change both their lives forever.

What year did it come out?

December 1997.

Who does Cate play?

Lucinda, an heiress obsessed with glass and gambling and who has an almost desperate desire to liberate her sex from the confines of the male-dominated culture of the Australia of that time.

How is Cate introduced?

13 minutes in the pond speaking French. 

Box Office: Domestic = $1.8M   Int’l = Unknown.

Metacritic : 66. RT: 66.


Topics discussed:

  • Chemistry with Ralph Fiennes. Funny that their paths never crossed again.
  • Cate in love stories. Always weird, this is one and Benjamin Button was another. Why?
  • Costumes by Oscar nominated Janet Patterson (The Piano, Far From the Madding Crowd).
  • Lucinda as a feminist character to be admired.
  • Gilliam Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career – another headstrong feminist heroine. Role was originally meant for Judy Davis.
  •  Has a strange combination of b plot themes and tones:  rape and murder of indigenous Australian people, religious themes. It starts as a love story, becomes a grim sorta war story  while telling the from cradle to grave life story of the titular characters.
  • The whole Oscar trip without Lucinda was weird and tried my patience.
  • They meet almost 40 minutes into the film, then they are separated for the last 40, it is a strange conceit for what is a maybe love story.
  • Cate and Richard Roxburgh – who plays the villian – have acted together many times on stage.

Memorable quotes:

In order that I exist, two gamblers, one obsessive, one compulsive, must meet.” 

Costumes we loved:

They look right for the period though not memorable. More memorable is that they are roughed up and tousled, don’t look pristine like stuffy costume dramas.

Fiennes, Blanchett and Armstrong on set

 Scenes we liked:

The confession scene where Oscar and Lucinda “lay their cards on the table” is exhilarating and fun. Played for comedy and both actors are playing several notes.

What seemed off:

Mash up of tones which made it interesting if not entirely successful.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

  •  Her second film post Paradise Road (1997).
  • Shekhar Kapur saw stills or scenes from it and cast her in Elizabeth (1998), ultimately leading to her breakout and huge career.
  • Seems to have a small passionate following among Cate’s fans, though not broadly remembered in the culture.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

Ms. Blanchett, whose strength and vivacity recall the young Judy Davis ”My Brilliant Career,” is appealingly well teamed with Mr. Fiennes, who manages to make Oscar as bashfully likable as he is quaint. ’ – Janet Maslin, NYTimes

Ralph Fiennes plays Oscar, an odd Anglican minister addicted to the thrills of wagering; Cate Blanchett is his soul mate, Lucinda — the kind of warm-blooded feminist that may be Armstrong’s most important contribution to the image of women on screen.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum EW

Press coverage other than reviews:

Armstrong to NYTimes on why she chose Cate for the part: “We were looking for someone who wasn’t quite conventional. Cate has this slightly magic quality, as if she can be transported into other worlds.’

Promotional appearances:

New York premiere December 1997.

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Elizabeth’

For our first episode of the podcast, we review Elizabeth (1998), directed by Shekar Kapur. This film is considered to be Cate Blanchett’s international breakout and the first time many people have ever seen her on screen.

Host: Murtada Elfadl, some of Murtada’s film writing can be found here.

Guest : Teo Bugbee, some of Teo’s film writing can be found here.

ep1 logo.jpg

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What is the film about?

From imdb: The early years of the reign of Elizabeth I of England and her difficult task of learning what is necessary to be a monarch.

Directed by Shekar Kapur; also starring Richard Attenborough, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Emily Mortimer, Kelly McDonald and Daniel Craig.

What year did it come out?

1998 – first played at Venice in September. US limited release in November 1998, wide in February post Oscar nominations.

Who does Cate Blanchett play?

Duh – top billed. 

How is Cate introduced?

7 minutes in, dancing in a field among her ladies in waiting.

Box Office: Domestic = $30,082,699 (36.6%), Int’l = $52,067,943 (63.4%).

Coronation time for Blanchett as Elizabeth I

Topics discussed:

  • Then vs now. Seen then as a new transformative dynamic violent and sexy take on history; different spin than usual polite masterpiece theater drama. That take doesn’t hold as much now since we’ve seen many other historical dramas and of that story in particular.
  • Historical veracity :  “I had to make a choice whether I wanted the details of history or the emotions and essence of history to prevail,” said Kapur.
  • Cate made a point in interviews at the time that this was an interpretation of English history made by outsiders from the commonwealth; an Indian and an Australian.
  • Elizabeth growing up into a wily politician; does the performance get us there? Are the behind the scenes political machinations the reason this film was resonant at the time?
  • The tone of the other performances e.g Vincent Cassel.
  • Joseph Fiennes vs Ralph Fiennes.
  • Is it camp? 
  • The Godfather (1972) comparison – many reviews pointed that out, and Kapur himself admitted that he modeled the ending after it. 
  • The gestural quality of Cate’s performance particularly in the quiet scenes where she thinking or wistfully looking at the distance. 
  • The ending is memorable and plays well with the image we know of Elizabeth.
  • Anne Hathaway on Cate – “It changed my life (Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth). There’s a scene where she does this little nose sniff and, I swear to God, I spent the first 6 years of my on-camera career trying to reproduce it. I never succeeded. People kept saying ‘Do you need a tissue?’
  • How the film compares with another film about European royalty, Queen Margot (1994).
  • There’s a lot of conversations about Elizabeth being a woman in a man’s role. What is the film trying to tell us?

Film within context of Cate’s career:

  • International breakout. Probably the first time many people – including me – saw her. 
  • Cemented her reputation as somebody to watch, someone who will have a long career and is a star actor. Don’t think anyone would watch it now for any other reason.

Awards: Nominated for 7 Oscars: Best Picture, Cate, Makeup ( Jenny Shircore won), Cinematography, Costumes, Production Design, Score. 

  • Cate won Golden Globe and Bafta.
  • It was the Oscars of 2 Elizabethan movies (also Skakespeare in Love).
  • Whoopi Goldberg came out dressed as Elizabeth at the Oscars “I am the African queen, some know me as the virgin queen… I don’t know who.”

More on Elizabeth and the 1998 Oscar race for best actress.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

Blanchett’s triumph is to create a thoroughly convincing depiction of the journey from canoodling girlhood to the threshold of an imperial monarchy, battling her fears, shedding illusions, absorbing pain, learning judgment, turning anxiety into resolution, acquiring steel and sinew.”- The Guardian.

the captivating Cate Blanchett rules England in “Elizabeth” as if the monarch’s principal responsibilities were being bejeweled, choosing consorts and saying “Leave us!” with a wave of the hand.” – Janet Maslin NY Times.

More from Maslin “Ms. Blanchett, who was marvelous in “Oscar and Lucinda,” brings spirit, beauty and substance to what might otherwise have been turned into a vacuous role. Still, it’s jarring when the Queen dances in the midst of admirers as if this were “Saturday Night Fever” or sounds an awful lot like Tootsie when she declares: “I may be a woman, Sir William. But if I choose, I have the heart of a man!” Ms. Blanchett’s flouncing Elizabeth is bolstered by an impressive supporting cast, though the secondary characters engage in so many schemes that you may wish Bill, that nice new playwright from Avon, would drop into the film and make more sense of the dramaturgy.

Blanchett as Elizabeth delivering one of many monologues in the film

But there’s more hot blood running through the veins of this opulent production than its A&E-style subject matter might suggest. This is a sensual, psychologically modern costume drama influenced by both The Godfather and gals’ guides to empowerment; beneath the finery of these schemers beat hearts as up-to-date as any on a TV drama, assuming a TV story line allows for beheadings.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, EW.

What it gets right is the performance by Cate Blanchett, who was so good as the poker-playing glass manufacturer in “Oscar and Lucinda” (1997) and here uncannily comes to resemble the great monarch. She is saucy and heedless at first, headstrong when she shouldn’t be, but smart, and able to learn. By the end she has outsmarted everyone and become one of the rare early female heads of state to rule successfully without an alliance with a man.” – Roger Ebert

Elizabeth” is superior historical soap opera that shrewdly side steps all the cliches of British costume drama with its bold, often modern approach.”- David Rooney, Variety.

Cate Blanchett at the 1999 Oscars

Press coverage other than reviews; NY Times profile:

Mr. Kapur, speaking on the phone from Delhi, said: ”Cate has a combination of strength and vulnerability, which, for me, is what Elizabeth was all about. She attacks a role with a ferocious intellectuality. You can’t pass anything by her, you can’t sweet-talk her into anything. But inside, she is all emotion.”

This vigor also struck Eccleston, who, as the Duke of Norfolk, plays one of Elizabeth I’s chief adversaries. ”There is a directness and gutsiness about Australian women that is great for the film industry, and that was great for Cate playing the monarch,” he said. ”I think that role would have defeated a lot of our middle-class English roses.”

Not many other in the archive… there’s a lot of coverage in 1999 and 2000; post her big breakout when she was appointed as the next big thing because of Elizabeth.

Closing Quote:

Brenda Blethyn at the Golden Globes where Cate won; she was nominated for Little Voice.

I only went to see Elizabeth (1998) because of Cate Blanchett. I thought she was absolutely fabulous and I was delighted she won. I think she’s a fabulous actress. I’m not altogether sure about the film but I did enjoy it, primarily because of her… she’s fantastic.”

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