The Big Break: Cate Blanchett’s Acting Success Predicted with First Film Role in ‘Parklands’

Parklands Cate Blanchett First Film
Courtesy of Youtube

Everybody has to start somewhere. Cate Blanchett — long before her two Oscars and starring roles in film, TV and on stage — had an oddball beginning in showbiz.

On March 28, 1994, Variety mentioned “Police Rescue,” a big-screen version of the hit Aussie TV series, in which she appeared. It’s sometimes listed as her film debut. It’s not.

After studying theater in her native Australia, she traveled; running out of money in Cairo, she worked briefly on the 1990 Egyptian film “Kaboria,” dancing in a party scene (which is visible on YouTube).

Variety wrote about other projects in which she appeared, like the TV series “Heartland” and “Bordertown.” But she was not mentioned by name until the 1996 review of the 51-minute film “Parklands.” Variety critic David Stratton disliked it and said Blanchett had “little to work with,” but he noted that she “is on the road to becoming Australia’s next prominent actress, with a number of upcoming bigscreen assignments.”

Stratton was right, of course. That year, Variety’s production chart listed “Paradise Road,” in which she was fourth billed, behind Glenn Close and ahead of Frances McDormand.

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In 1997, Variety’s Emanuel Levy hailed her as a “luminous newcomer” in his review of “Oscar and Lucinda” with Ralph Fiennes. Her next film put her on the worldwide map: “Elizabeth,” as England’s monarch, which earned her the first of her seven Oscar nominations.

In the quarter-century since then, she played Galadriel in Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies; played Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ “I’m Not There” (2007); and has worked with, alphabetically, Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, Terrence Malick, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg an Edgar Wright, among others. TV work includes the FX 2020 miniseries “Mrs. America.”

In 2021, she starred for Guillermo del Toro in “Nightmare Alley” and Adam McKay for “Don’t Look Up.” Upcoming projects include Pedro Almodovar’s first English-language film, “A Manual for Cleaning Women.”

First Film: “Kaboria” (1990)

First project mentioned in Variety: “Police Rescue” (1994)

Breakthrough film: “Elizabeth” (1998)

Accomplishments: Two Oscars, seven nominations

Stage work: In Sydney, New York and London, playing Blanche DuBois, Hedda Gabler, Electra and Ophelia, among others; in 2018, she and husband Andrew Upton became artistic directors of Sydney Theatre Company