Personal detailsName: Cate Blanchett
Born: 14 May 1969 (Age: 44)
Where: Melbourne, Australia
Height: 5' 8"
Awards: Won 1 Oscar, 2 BAFTAs and 2 Golden Globes
All about this star
The term Meteoric is often used to describe the career paths of film actors. It's usually inaccurate, ignoring a plethora of dodgy TV shows and unwatchable B-movies made while the subject gradually and painfully learned their craft. With Cate Blanchett, though, Meteoric is absolutely on the nail. Within a mere two years of her feature debut, she had become one of the most sought-after actresses in the world. More importantly perhaps, she is already one of the most compelling, convincing and adaptable players of the last 30 years, matching the celestial standards set by the holy trinity of Streep, Pfeiffer and Lange.
She was born Catherine Elise Blanchett on the 14th of May, 1969, at the Jessie McPherson Hospital in Melbourne (popularly known as the Jessie Mac, now - like so many hospitals - a vacant lot). Her father, Bob, was a Texan and ex-US Navy man who'd met Cate's mother, a teacher named June, and moved into advertising in Melbourne. There were two siblings: older brother Bob, now in computers, and younger sister Genevieve, a theatre designer. Cate claims there's some French ancestry in there somewhere, one antecedent being Louis Bleriot, the first aviator to fly across the English Channel. Or La Manche, depending on how you look at it.
As a kid, Cate recalls herself as "part extrovert, part wallflower". The extrovert part was fuelled early when, at a friend's birthday party at age 6, she was hugely impressed by a magician and began to dream of life as a performer. Her parents encouraged her, particularly in the field of music. She has an abiding love of classical music, even now guesting regularly on ABC Classic FM radio in Sydney, both playing and discussing.
The biggest event of her young life was a terribly sad one, her father dying of a heart attack when she was just 10. "The day dad died", she said in Joan Sauer's Brothers And Sisters "I was playing the piano and he walked past the window and I waved goodbye . . . and he died. After that I thought I would have to kiss everybody goodbye before I left the house. It was like I had an obsessive-compulsive disorder. I'd just be going down the street to get some milk, and I'd do it. If I had to come back in the house because I'd forgotten something, I'd have to go through the whole ritual again". At the hospital, she was left in a room with one of her dad's co-workers who told the kids "This is going to be a very, very hard time for your mother. You have to be very, very good". Cate believes that this "framed my whole relationship with the family". Crucially, it also made her a perfectionist.
So, dreaming of living in a haunted house, so she might meet her father again, young Cate was raised by the brave and resourceful June, and began to pursue drama. Attending Melbourne's Methodist Ladies College, she became the school drama captain, appearing in many shows, including The Odyssey Of Runyon Jones, and even directing her fellow students in a production of They Shoot Horses, Don't They? From here, she moved on to Melbourne University to study Fine Arts and Economics, but left to travel, hoping to gain experience before deciding upon a career.
Visiting England, she was forced to leave when her visa expired, and she moved on to Egypt. Here she was spotted by a fellow-guest in her cheap hotel and asked to appear as an extra in an Egyptian boxing movie. She didn't enjoy it but she needed the money. Acting, it seemed, was not something she could escape. Coming to realise that actors have the power to genuinely move people, she chose to take to the boards.
Returning to Melbourne, she enrolled at the National Institute of Dramatic Art. She was an outstanding student, quickly rising to prominence. In her final year (she graduated in 1992), she starred in a production of Sophocles' Electra and made one very important fan. Her drama teacher and director, Lindy Davies, was then sharing a house with another actor, Geoffrey Rush, and urged him to come see this "astonishing young woman". He did, she was, and he didn't forget.
After NIDA, Cate joined the Sydney Theatre Company for a production of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, then moved on to play bride Felice Bauer in Timothy Daly's Kafka Dances. Her spectacular work was noted immediately as she won the Best Newcomer of 1993 Award from the Sydney Theatre Critics Circle. Keen to challenge herself in a wide variety of roles, she next played Carol in David Mamet's controversial and demanding Oleanna, where a university professor is accused of sexual harassment by a student. Initially believing the play to be "a misogynist piece of crap", she did it because it made her so angry - moving people was, after all, what she wanted to do. It worked. Cate was named Best Actress, becoming the first to ever win Best Newcomer and Best Actress in the same year.
In the meantime, there were screen roles too. After a couple of TV appearances, she took on Heartland. Here the mysterious death of an Aborigine girl in a small coastal town brought bigotry into the spotlight. As divorcee Beth Ashton, conducting an affairwith an Aborigine Liaison Officer (played by Ernie Dingo), Cate stirred up all manner of controversy. But she was wildly acclaimed for her performance, and Heartland was described as ABC's "most significant production to date". Next came another well-received role, in the shortlived series Bordertown, set in a 1950's migrant camp peopled by European immigrants.
Despite this TV success, Cate continued onstage.