Cate Blanchett Talks Woody Allen, ‘Blue Jasmine’ at Variety Screening Series

Cate Blanchett at the "Blue Jasmine" screening on Jan. 9 during the Variety Screening Series.
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There’s a reason they call her the “Great Cate.”

Cate Blanchett was warmly embraced by a fawning audience prepared to (rightfully so) hang on to every word she uttered during Thursday’s Variety Screening Series Q&A following a showing of her latest drama, “Blue Jasmine.” Blanchett received a standing ovation while entering and leaving the ArcLight Hollywood theater. One audience member was even moved to tears while asking her a question. “Everyone who’s seen this knows that this is the best performance of the year,” she said in between sobs. “We knew it six months ago before we had seen so many other performances. There’s no competition.”

While viewers lauded the actress, Blanchett praised her “Blue Jasmine” director Woody Allen. The Oscar winner said she put aside hero worship in order to be able to work fruitfully with Allen and other legendary auteurs.

“There’s a certain reverence that you bring that is unhealthy,” she said. “In a way, if you can break that down as quick as possible and get on with it, then you can ask the difficult questions because you know Martin Scorsese wants to do something new every time. He’s not interested in people lying at his altar, nor is Woody. He wants it to be alive and he wants it to be fresh. The hardest thing for me, and speaking to a lot of the other actors on set, is to break through that reverence and to simply get on doing the work.”

Although Allen is a man of few words, Blanchett said his script spoke volumes.

“97 percent of his direction is in the writing,” Blanchett said. “All those clues, and there’s so many of them with a part like this, they’re all in the writing. And even though, of course, every day he’d say, ‘You don’t have to say what I’ve written. Say whatever you want, do whatever you want.’ And then you’d say whatever you want and do it, he says, ‘No, you can’t say that. Don’t do that.’ He does direct you. There’s incredible rhythm to the way he writes and you really have to be quite sure about changing a word because you break that rhythm.”

In order to maintain that rhythm and understand their back stories, Blanchett and costar Sally Hawkins had to flesh out the damaged family history between their characters.

“Even though you talk to Woody about the fact that they’re adopted and what would that mean, he just looks at you like you’re speaking Swahili, like, ‘Why would that be interesting to anyone?’” Blanchett said. “And so you pursue that with Sally rather than pursuing it with Woody.”

In fact, Blanchett and Hawkins, who bonded for two weeks before filming, were the only two cast members with copies of the full script.

Peter (Sarsgaard), true to his character who he’s playing in a way, and I, we’re in the car,” she said. “That’s one of the first scenes that we shot was he and I in the car. And he said, ‘What’s going on with you?’ And I said, ‘You haven’t read the script?’ This is in between takes. He went, ‘No.’ He said, ‘What’s going on?’ He said, ‘Actually don’t tell me.’ He said he didn’t want to know so it wasn’t ‘til he’d seen the film that he realized, in fact, how damaged I was.”

Despite her character’s monumental faults, Blanchett said there’s an honesty in her delusion that’s almost redeeming.

“A lot of people, their delusion is more socialized so therefore perhaps it’s more palatable,” she said. “This is where Woody has a screenplay that’s so bold and brave. He’s written someone — in the wake of what we’ve seen in the media over the last two, three years — with all the signposts, is morally reprehensible. But yet in a way perhaps she’s the most true because she’s the one who’s falling apart. Everyone still seems to be functioning with their delusion.”