'The Gift'

Little more than three years ago, few people knew who Cate Blanchett was outside of Australia, where her award-winning work with the Sydney Theatre Co. (Caryl Churchill’s “Top Girls,” David Mamet’s “Oleanna”) and the daring Belvoir Street Theater Co. (“Hamlet”) caused many to think she eventually would follow in Judy Davis’ footsteps as Down Under’s next world-class actress.

Today, that global reputation is a reality. Like her fellow Belvoir Sreet colleague Geoffrey Rush (“Shine”), it took one film — in Blanchett’s case, 1998’s “Elizabeth” — to convince audiences that she is a force to be reckoned with.

For that movie, directed by Shekhar Kapur, Blanchett received virtually every nomination that counted, including an Oscar actress bid, and awards from the Hollywood Foreign Press (Golden Globes) and the British Academy of Film & Television Arts.

She has since not only shown an uncanny ability to disappear into her roles, large or small, English (“An Ideal Husband”) or American (“Pushing Tin,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley”), but she repeatedly has imbued her characters with a dignity and intelligence that cannot be taught.

For her most recent role in “The Gift,” as a widowed mother whose psychic powers put food on the table but also prove a terrible burden, she radiates these same qualities while providing solace to her often-troubled clients.

“A lot of psychics I met were incredibly empathetic people,” says Blanchett about her preparation for Annie Wilson. “And one in particular said to me, which I found fascinating, that she took on the energy and the problems of every person who sat in front of her.”

As for Australian actors’ chameleonic gift, Blanchett says it has something to do with the Aussie as outsider.

“We’re also exposed to so much American and English television that maybe our ears are more attuned to it,” she says. “But more importantly, being so far away from the rest of the world, you don’t grow up thinking you’re the center of the universe; you grow up with a healthy curiosity about what goes on elsewhere.”

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