Cate Blanchett, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’

Classy Aussie ages gracefully in pic

In the past year or so, shape-shifting Cate Blanchett has successfully channeled such diverse characters as Queen Elizabeth and Bob Dylan while still finding time to dress up in Agent Irina Spalko’s dominatrix outfits and kick some serious ass in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

Now the versatile Aussie actress, who won the 2004 supporting actress Oscar for her flawless take on Katharine Hepburn in “The Aviator,” stars opposite Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” David Fincher’s dark retelling of the sci-fi-tinged short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. She plays the title character’s beloved Daisy, a beautiful woman who tragically — and normally, natch — grows older while Pitt’s Button ages in reverse from 80 years old to infancy.

“Cate fits both requirements of movie star and extraordinarily gifted actress,” says producer Frank Marshall. “When Fincher approached her to play Daisy, we were thrilled when she immediately responded to the script. I think she was not only attracted to the chance to play a character going the normal way through a lifetime of experiences, but to play off a character going the other way. The relationship with Benjamin would be very complicated, and she loved that challenge.

“In the story, although they had met when she was young, when she and Benjamin finally meet again in the middle, their chemistry creates an incredible love story, which then has its own consequences because of his situation.”

Hardly surprisingly, given the central premise and highly unconventional storyline, the filmmakers had their work cut out tracking the characters’ various ages, and Marshall has high praise for Blanchett’s unerring sense of continuity.

“Cate was extremely committed to the part of Daisy and the story of Button, and so eloquent and smart in her understanding of the story that the rest of us would often go to her if we got confused,” he admits. “She was always exploring the character.

“For example, the way she played Daisy’s hospital scenes. Some people don’t even realize it’s her. She asked David, ‘This person is dying, right? Well, her breathing is going to be very shallow,’ and she demonstrated how Daisy would talk, this guttural, laborious rasp. She was in a hospital bed and on her back the whole time, and it wasn’t easy. There were even times it was painful to listen to her. But, as Fincher says, it was just right.”

“She and Brad were great friends, and he often commented on how she inspired and elevated everyone’s performances,” Marshall adds. “She’s just an exquisite actress who has such an amazing talent and internal grace.”

Coming attractions

Blanchett will offer up voice work in Wes Anderson’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” and will perform on the Sydney stage in “The War of the Roses.”