At the height of her movie stardom, Cate Blanchett puts her commitment to the theater center stage—and, writes Adam Green, takes on one of the great dramatic roles of all time.
Cate Blanchett may have her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and appear on a postage stamp as one of four “Australian Legends of the Screen,” but she remains a creature of the stage.
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Now, after a sold-out run in Sydney, she is bringing her acclaimed performance as Blanche Du Bois in Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire to the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater.
On a balmy summer evening in London, I make my way into the lobby of the Royal Court, the legendary theater on Sloane Square that, since its ruckus-making 1956 production of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, has been a fervid incubator for boundary-pushing playwrights.
Blanchett and I are meeting here, at her suggestion, to see Grasses of a Thousand Colors, a three-hour-long dystopian fable by Wallace Shawn.
I find Blanchett, who has come straight from the Robin Hood set, sitting in a chair by the box office, her head buried in a book of Tennessee Williams’s collected letters.
She looks up, gives me a crooked smile, and we say hello.
As we make our way down the aisle to our seats, I imagine our fellow audience members trying not to point and stare as they whisper, “Who is that dashing chap with Cate Blanchett?
” I quickly realize that either these English are very cool customers or they haven’t noticed just who my date is.
On-screen and on the red carpet, Blanchett is every inch a woman.
Here, waifish in a charcoal Dior Homme suit, a white shirt, and shiny copper Adidas, her hair pulled back to accentuate her unadorned face—the wide, high cheekbones; the almond-shaped, diamond-blue eyes; the ripe lips; the slightly squidgy nose; the pitcher-of-cream complexion—she looks more like a girl. Too young, in any case, to be getting ready to play a flighty spinster of fading charms whose “delicate beauty,” as Streetcar‘s author puts it, “must avoid a strong light.” I suggest as much to Blanchett, who touches my arm and says, “You’re so darling,” before pointing out that Blanche is actually described in the text of the play as being about 30.
“Of course, you could say that at the time Streetcar was written, once you hit 30 you were beginning to be past your use-by date,” she says.
“But Tennessee Williams doesn’t really operate on that level.