Cate Blanchett’s unusual new role as Oscars history beckons

Cate Blanchett has taken home numerous awards for playing other unusual characters, including Bob Dylan.

Cate Blanchett has taken home numerous awards for playing other unusual characters, including Bob Dylan. Photo: Getty

Australian actor Cate Blanchett is on the verge of making Oscars history next month – nominated for best actor for her performance in Tar – but it’s another role that is currently making headlines.

In June, an immersive film project starring Blanchett as a tiger in a supermarket will form the centrepiece of Melbourne’s RISING Festival.

Euphoria, by artist and filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt, has just had its world premiere in New York.

Blanchett has been a long-time collaborator with Rosefeldt, starring in more than a dozen different roles for his 2015 project, Manifesto.

In this latest project, she stalks the aisles of a supermarket as an anthropomorphic tiger.

The tiger that Blanchett plays in Euphoria.

The film features six stories and is meant as a surreal take on capitalism and consumption.

It is an immersive experience, so will be shown across 20 gigantic screens in the Melbourne Town Hall.

Blanchett’s CGI tiger features alongside a script of quotes nearly entirely stitched together. The quotes come from the likes of Warren Buffett, Plato and Snoop Dogg.

Audiences can choose to pay between $18 or $32, and screenings on Fridays are free.

Oscars history

If Blanchett wins best actress for her performance in Tar, she will become only the fifth woman to win three Oscars for acting.

The others on three are Meryl Streep, Ingrid Bergman and Frances McDormand, while Katharine Hepburn holds the record at four.

In a wide-ranging interview with Vanity Fair, Blanchett, 53, who plays a fictitious German orchestra conductor in an original Todd Field screenplay, Tar, has been on a global road trip for the film in talkfests, screenings and industry lunches.

“She loves this movie,” the magazine says.

She says her “aggressive promotion of Tár is partly because the film delivers a richly cinematic experience” and should be seen in cinemas before the narrow box office window closes.

So far it has brought in only $13.5 million in receipts.

Despite the film’s poor showing, Blanchett has taken home the top three critics’ prizes – New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association and National Society of Film Critics – for the second time in her career (the first was for Blue Jasmine).

She has won a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award for best actress in Los Angeles and last week won Actress Of The Year for Tár at the London Film Critics Circle Awards (which has lined up with the BAFTAs and the Oscars in four of the past five years).

For the Oscars, Blanchett is up against Ana de Armas for the Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde, Michelle Williams for the Steven Spielberg film The Fabelmans and Michelle Yeoh for Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Rounding out the five is the controversial inclusion of Andrea Riseborough for the little-known film To Leslie, which Blanchett sought to promote during the Oscar nomination period.

For her Critics Choice Award acceptance speech, she made headlines for the wrong reasons after winning best actress.

“I would love it if we would just change this whole f–king structure. It’s like what is this patriarchal pyramid where someone stands up here,” she said.

“Why don’t we just say there was a whole raft of female performances that are in concert and in dialogue with one another?

“And stop the televised horse race of it all,” she said.

‘Blanchett always holds your attention’

The Melbourne-born NIDA graduate Blanchett is regarded as one of the greatest actors of her generation, and says playing Lydia Tar has been her most challenging role ever.

“I found Tár the most all-consuming, confronting, joyous, life-affirming endeavour that I’ve ever been involved in,” Blanchett tells VF.

“I don’t know what exactly it is, but I know it’s something.

“So I want people to tell me what it is because I’m still figuring it out for myself.”

Cate Blanchett found acting in Tár to be an all-consuming endeavour. Photo: Focus Features/AP

Is her ‘love affair’ with acting over?

Much of Blanchett’s preparation for Tar was done over months during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Filmed mostly in Berlin, she had to learn how to conduct, to master the piano and to speak German.

“I was utterly terrified of it. I didn’t know where to start and so I had to just start in an incredibly practical way,” she says.

“But because there was so much to do, it meant that there wasn’t any time for nerves.”

She even talks about quitting acting altogether in her VF interview “on a daily and weekly basis”.

“It’s not occasional – it’s continual,” Blanchett said.

“On a daily or weekly basis, for sure. It’s a love affair, isn’t it? So you do fall in and out of love with it, and you have to be seduced back into it.”

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