Cate Blanchett: Third Female ‘Modern Master’
by Megan Barnes


Stephanie Smyth | The Bottom Line

Amid pouring rain and flashing cameras, Australian actress Cate Blanchett, up for two Oscars for her performances in Elizabeth: The Golden Age and I’m Not There, arrived at the 23rd Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Saturday, where she accepted the Modern Master Award and provided insight into realities of being a female in the film industry.

Blanchett is among only three women to receive the festival’s highest honor, which has previously been awarded to George Clooney, Jodie Foster, Sean Penn, Anthony Hopkins and Diane Keaton among others.

“I guess that the title ‘master’ dictates or lends people to give it to a man,” Blanchett said of the title. “Traditionally in film men have had the longer, more active careers. Women generally tend to work through their twenties into their early thirties and then the roles drop off and I think that trend is actually changing, whereas men don’t really hit their straps until they’re in their thirties and then they just go on until they die. I hope I go on until I die.”

Film critic Leonard Maltin conducted an hour and a half interview with Blanchett on the Arlington Theater stage, mixed with clips from her film career featuring Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth, Katherine Hepburn, an enraged pottery teacher, a courageous Irish journalist, an Australian heiress, a holocaust survivor with a dark past, and even Bob Dylan.

“It’s a little daunting to think that all those women are sitting here; are all you,” said Maltin.

Blanchett said being an actress has enabled her to be “a jack of all trades” since she can experience life from multiple perspectives and contexts. Pregnant with her third child, Blanchett said she sees motherhood as no reason to inhibit her acting career. “Having children has made me much more focused and less neurotic as an actor because you just don’t have the time to do what I previously thought was preparation but is just anxiety really,: she said. “It did take all of that neurosis out of it.”

Prefacing the award’s presentation, the festival’s Executive Director Roger Durling said he was particularly thrilled to have Blanchett as a Modern Master. “I’ve always wanted a woman to get this award and I’ve always wanted Cate Blanchett to get it,” he said. “Any actress that does Elizabeth and Bob Dylan in the same year is pure alchemy. I couldn’t think of a more modern master than the alchemist herself.”

Todd Haynes, director of I’m Not There, was the Modern Master Award presenter. In his 2007 film, Blanchett along with Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Marcus Carl Franklin, Ben Whishaw and the late Heath Ledger all play the role of Bob Dylan. “I don’t know of another filmmaker who could’ve conceived of that idea,” said Blanchett.

Haynes reflected on working with Blanchett and said she brings extraordinary talent to the silver screen. “I hope her body of work and contributions broaden the limitations faced by women in the industry.”

During her acceptance speech, Blanchett gave a special tribute to Australian actors and directors who have shaped her career. “I have to thank the cultural context I grew up with. I have to give a special tribute to Heath Ledger who I think was extraordinary and was well on the way to being a modern master himself.”

Cate Blanchett has appeared in over 30 films and has been nominated multiple times for Academy Awards including a win for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Katherine Hepburn in 2004’s The Aviator.