Last Monday I had the pleasure to sit down in a conference room at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills with 24 other amazing bloggers waiting for our moment with the beautiful Cate Blanchett. After seeing her at the World Premiere, I was excited to see her and hear about her role as Lady Tremaine in Cinderella.
Cate Blanchett entered the room with her tea and a warm smile greeting us with, “Good morning” in her wonderful Australian accent!
Did you go after this role?
“Yes, like a rabid dog.”
…and I didn’t get the Cinderella role, [we all laughed], though I had so many friends who asked me what I was doing in the summer, and I said, oh, I’m in a live-action version of Cinderella, and there was a big kind of awkward pause. And they didn’t quite know how to ask me, [LAUGHS], are you a little old to be playing Cinderella? Yeah. A bit Bette Davis, so yes. No, it sort of landed in my lap, actually.
I was very lucky, and when Sandy Powell and Dante Ferretti were on board, and they’re two of the greats. That they’ve created such extraordinary visuals in modern cinema. And then Ken Branagh came on board who’s so fantastic with actors and with language, so it was kind of a perfect storm.
What’s your favorite scene?
I think the chemistry between Lily and Richard is palpable, and I wept like a baby, completely inappropriately and out of character when they waltzed for the first time. The music is beautiful, but also it was a real. It was a really big feat because Lily was cinched in so tightly, and that dress was like an armored tank, and he was in seven hundred layers of wool, and the dance was really athletic, and they acted like a dream…
“I wept because it was beautiful to watch.”
I think maybe being the mother of sons, I found it very, very moving, and every time I see it, I do cry a lot, [Cate laughed]. But I love the scene between, Derek Jacobi as the king, and Richard Madden as the prince. You know, because that’s the wonderful thing about the film, I think is that we try and shield our children from moments of grief and I know it from having lost a parent at the age of ten children are resilient, and they can, in a way, it’s harder, I think, to lose a parent the age the way that we are. Well I’m might be a thousand years older than you all, but I found that really moving.
Cate may have thought she was older than us, but in reality I am only 5 years younger than her. I have to agree that the scene between the king and the prince was extremely moving. It was such a moment of grief for a son losing his father.
I thought, for him as a man to be curled up like a young boy… and I’ve had a lot of friends recently lose a parent, and whether you’re eighty or eight and you lose a parent, you’re always the child, and so I find that move-that scene very moving.
How much fun was it to play a Disney villain?
“There’s a lot of great Disney villains, and a lot of them are women and they always have fabulous frocks and fabulous hairdos… so it was an enormous amount of fun.”
You know the wonderful message in the film, of course, is to have courage and to be kind. You know, kindness is a super power, and we try to teach our children, you share, you be respectful, you be generous, you be thoughtful, put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and to play someone who can’t do any of those things… to have that as your avatar during the day was quite fun.
“Kindness is a super power.”
In the movie you do hear a little about the stepmother’s story…her loss of her first husband, then the loss of her second husband (Cinderella’s father). Lady Tremaine and Cinderella dealt with grief in two completely different ways.
And the way that the stepmother has dealt with grief and hardship is to close down and to become bitter and jealous and there’s a sense of entitlement. And Cinderella’s experienced those things, but she’s remained open-hearted and good. She’s much more glass half full. And I think that whether you’re a man or a woman, you know that tragedy does define- can define your character. So,hopefully, you don’t necessarily like what the stepmother does, but hopefully you understand her.
And I don’t necessarily think it’s just about older women. There’s a lot of different female characters in there. There’s Cinderella’s mother, there’s the daughters, there’s the people at the court and then there’s the stepmother, as well. But I think there can be like professional jealousy, between men. You know, the same thing can exist between women and I think it’s interesting to see them onscreen.
How did you prepare for your role?
Often on film, we don’t get a lot of rehearsal time. We got a little bit of time with Ken on the script. But actors come in at various different times, and so for me, the most creative two parts of the process early on are your costume fittings and so working with Sandy who I’ve worked with before, but also, Morag Ross who is doing my makeup, and Kay Georgia who is doing my hair, and the four of us have worked together quite a lot.
We get to try things out, because before you even utter a syllable, what you wear- I mean, we do it, we do this on a daily basis. You, we form unconscious judgments of people, the way they smell, what they choose to wear, how you choose to present yourself… it’s a big part of who we are, and particularly on film because it’s so visual. Once I knew what silhouettes were, I knew which bits I didn’t have to act because the costume was revealing those things.
Cate told us that she liked to read her lines during camera tests, because “no one’s looking at you.” It gave her the opportunity to try out things and make mistakes. She said, “That was a big part of the preparation.”
Did you have any input on what you wore? What was your favorite look?
Sandy’s got very, very strong ideas. I mean, that’s what makes her Sandy Powell. But we talked really early on. We started emailing each other pictures that we found inspiring, lighting references, hat references, drapes, fabrics, and we sort of found this pool of images that we were both drawn to and the big offers that Sandy began tomake, which I found really exciting is when she pulled out the color swatches.
My favorite, well, there was a lot of green- my school uniform was green, so I tend not to wear a lot of green in everyday life, and I call that dress that I wore at the ball “the gherkin,” that was my least favorite, but everyone seems to like that one.
Cate’s favorite costume to wear was the blue one, with poppy gloves, and a blue hat. She wore it in the scene where the stepmother goes to see the Grand Duke.
“The detail in Sandy’s costumes are just extraordinary.”
Was there a difficult scene for you to shoot?
I’m not in the film all the time, so I wanted to sort of try and chart a journey that was an exquisite exterior- with a sort of affected grace that the stepmother became increasingly brash. And so it was just trying to calibrate that. The costumes, some were slightly more difficult to maneuver.
How much input did you have on the script?
A lot. I mean, I think there’s a sense that actors are sort of puppets that get moved around. I’m always interested in input. My husband’s a writer and I come from the theater, so I have a great respect for the script.
“The line that you want to change is the line that you need to make work, and that once you make that line work, then you’ve actually- you’ve shifted from yourself, the line you find hardest to say.”
So without getting too kind of complex, it’s quite a difficult neurolinguisic process to actually make someone else’s words sound like they’re your own. And so the one I find that you may find most difficult to make your own is often the one that will unlock the character.
But it was really important to me, and it wasn’t the case when I first read the script that Cinderella had the final line of the film. And I said to Ken, so it’s a really great message. She comes in and says, well, I’m not gonna be rescued. If this relationship is gonna work, he has to accept me for who I am, which I think is wonderful for young girls to say. I think it’s fantastic. And then there was a line at the end where he said, shall we go, and she didn’t say anything. And I thought, it’s not his story- it’s her story. And so then we added in this sense of forgiveness. I forgive you, and I feel like that’s a wonderful kind of conclusion to her, her super power. Ella, she has an incredibly generous spirit and she also closes out the film which I think is great.
Did you kind of draw from anybody (former Disney Villains) to really get into that role? You’re not a villain, but you’re a mean person in the movie.
Cate Blanchett made us giggle with her immediate response because she thought the blogger said she was a mean person in real life… she said jokingly, “You’d hardly know me, [Cate laughed]. Am I that transparent?”
I never consciously try and emulate – although, I will steal from anything – anything I see that works. I have no shame. I have no pride. I will steal from any other actor’s performance. You know, I’m a bowerbird that way. But I think as human beings, we do absorb those stories that are read to us, the films that we see growing up, the pieces of art that we get taken to see, the music that we listen to, and somehow I really do have early onset dementia.
But I can’t consciously remember anything. That cultural wellspring, it does come up. I love Bette Davis, I love Lucille Ball, I love Gena Rowlands. I don’t consciously try and reference any of that stuff…
“The people that you’re inspired by will obviously influence you.”
Where did you draw the inspiration for that laugh?
Well, I was mucking around with a friend of mine on set and we were talking about what makes people ugly. And I said, it’s interesting, you can go out with somebody and think, oh my gosh, you’re so attractive, and then he or she eats, and you think, oh my god, you’re a pig, [bloggers laughed]. Or someone is amazing and you think, your politics are reprehensible, or you know, there’s something about them will give them away, and we were talking about dirty laughs. And so I just did it, and she laughed, and then there was a scene where we were at the gambling scene, I think, and I laughed, and Ken’s face was so revolted. He was really worried. He said, you’re not gonna do that, are you? And I said, oh yes I am…so I think his reaction made me wanna keep it. And it was a way where she’s got exquisite dresses, perfect makeup, and then she opens her mouth and that comes out. And so I thought that that was a bit of a red flag about what was to come.
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Cinderella and Frozen Fever will be in theaters March 13th!
Have you been following my #CinderellaEvent journey? Just last weekend I had the pleasure of going to The Glam Ball by JCPenney, got a sneak peek at the costumes and props at the JCPenney Pre-Premeire Party, then walked the Red Carpet for the first time! Keep an eye on the blog for more Cinderella/Frozen Fever interviews…coming soon: Lily James, Richard Madden, Kenneth Branagh, Sandy Powell, and Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee!
Disclosure: I was invited on an all expense paid Disney press trip in exchange for my honest opinion and coverage of the #CinderellaEvent red carpet premiere, press junket, and movie review. All opinions are my own.