Blanchett goes Southern in Georgia thriller

In the spirit of giving, Cate Blanchett praised the script and helmer, while director Sam Raimi lauded all who worked on “The Gift,” his new pic, at the thriller’s preem Monday night on the Paramount lot.

“Annie’s gift is extraordinary … (but) she’s an ordinary woman,” Blanchett said of her character, whose psychic abilities ferret out a small Georgia town’s dark secrets. Paramount Classics is releasing the pic in New York and L.A. Dec. 20, and plans an 800-screen release Jan. 19.

The Jean Paul Gaultier-clad Aussie actress also said that it was fairly easy slipping into the skin of a Southern woman. “As an outsider, I don’t automatically assume anything about being an American.”

Raimi said he was drawn to the great screenplay by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson. “They lived in this town, knew these people. The screenplay gripped me like a great novella.” The helmer credited the spooky Southern Gothic look of the film to production designer Neil Spisak, saying, “Those cypress trees sell supernatural more than anything.”

The after-party on the lot featured Southern fare such as fried green tomatoes, sweet potato pie, pecan pie and meatloaf. Guests included Par Classics toppers Ruth Vitale and David Dinerstein; Viacom Entertainment Group chair Jonathan Dolgen; Par honchos Sherry Lansing and Rob Friedman; cast members Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank and Michael Jeter; film’s co-editor Arthur Coburn and scorer Chris Young; guests Danny Elfman, Laura Linney, Kenneth Lonergan, Tobey Maguire, Mark Ruffalo, Janel Moloney and Amanda Peet.

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