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After a rapturous reception from Saturday night’s critics screening of “Carol” at the Cannes Film Festival, stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara attended a press conference for the film on Sunday afternoon.

They were joined by the film’s director Todd Haynes, producers Elizabeth Karlsen and Christine Vachon, and screenwriter Phyllis Nagy.

The script, based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 scandalous novel “The Price of Salt,” is the rare lesbian love story on the big screen. “There are 70 countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal,” Blanchett said, when asked about the increased acceptance of gay rights in the culture. She added: “We’re living in deeply conservative times.”

Blanchett prepared for the role by reading erotic fiction from the time period, but added that Carol wouldn’t necessarily identify as a lesbian. “Her sexuality is a private affair,” she said.

The actresses said they weren’t shy about pushing the envelope with the film’s steamy love scene. “I’m nude quite often, so it wasn’t a big deal for me,” Mara said. And Blanchett noted that “a lot of strangers” saw her naked when she gave birth. “It’s an important scene,” Blanchett said.

Nagy spent 15 years working on the script, as various directors came and went during that time. “Nothing has changed and everything has changed,” Nagy said. “We can have this movie now.”

The Weinstein Co. will release “Carol” in the United States on Dec 18.