Emotional shades of 'Gray' revealed

OSCAR QUOTIENT

PROS: World War II-themed films always given a serious look.

CONS: Massive 2001 body of work may dilute her accomplishments.

Judging from the activity in Cate Blanchett’s life over the last 18 months — working on seven films and culminating in the birth of her son Dashiell John in December — a career break seems understandable, at the very least.

Now, with a Golden Globe nomination for her comic turn in “Bandits” and acclaim for her title role in “Charlotte Gray,” Blanchett can concentrate on motherhood, which she describes as “the most extraordinary, unpredictable miracle.”

Her status as one of the most in-demand actors on the planet is a far cry from four years ago when “Oscar and Lucinda” signaled the arrival of yet another highly cultivated talent from Australia.

“She was an unknown then and really hadn’t much film experience at all,” says “Oscar and Lucinda” director Gillian Armstrong, with whom Blanchett reteamed on “Charlotte Gray.” “But you could see that she was an incredible talent.”

In fact, it was Blanchett — her stock having risen with an Oscar nomination for “Elizabeth” — who brought “Gray” to Armstrong’s attention. The actress had been researching her 1999 London stage debut in “Plenty” which, like “Gray,” also featured a character who fought with the French Resistance during WWII before coping with life in post-war England.

“The characters are so different,” says Blanchett of “Plenty’s” Susan Traherne and Charlotte Gray, “but I found that they tempered one another. There’s a refusal to be defeated by experience and trauma, which is so incredibly optimistic in Charlotte, which I guess really broke my heart.”

Blanchett was also drawn to the conflict — both political and psychological — in reconciling what took place in wartime; “the quintessential moment of heroism and nobility,” as Blanchett puts it, and a life more ordinary during the war’s aftermath.

“Any war, when you’re distanced from it, truly reveals the machinations of what went on, which is what Charlotte experiences at the time,” says Blanchett. “But she’s able to rise above that and still maintain her sense of hope, which I think is incredibly uplifting.”

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