“Now you’re just dropping names!” says makeup artist Stéphane Marais, who’s applying Blanchett’s eyeliner. “Now I’m dropping names,” the actress agrees playfully.
Her favorite, and most frequent, costar, though, is Upton. Together they are embarking on a second three-year stint as artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company, Australia’s most prestigious theater group. “Andrew is the one with the—he wouldn’t say this, but it’s true—he’s the one with the big ideas,” Blanchett says. “I help, uh, enact them.” Again she’s selling herself short: She has directed two productions (Blackbird and a stage adaptation of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking), starred in Streetcar, played both King Richard II and Lady Anne in The War of the Roses, contributed to the company’s educational program and fundraised like mad. William Hurt, who costars with Blanchett in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, out on May 14, remembers the first time he met Blanchett, in the makeup trailer. “She was getting ready to do a scene, so I just quickly said, ‘What do you think if I come down and play Lear for you guys?’” he recalls. “And she didn’t blink—she just started rattling off ideas of who could direct. I thought, This isn’t someone who waits for the rain to fall. She makes it happen.” Hurt has since signed on to play James Tyrone Sr. in the STC’s production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, which Upton will direct this summer.
“She challenges, but she’s not aggressive,” Upton says of his wife when asked to describe her as a coworker. “I can tend to be a bit scattergun. She’s quite practical in the end, so I often just fire off, and she’ll sort of pick up the pieces or choose the best bits.” Upton evokes an absentminded professor with a dash of cool (disheveled hair and elbow patches paired with stylish boots), and within minutes of listening to his amiable, literate discourse, you can see why Blanchett fell for him. They have achieved a rare symbiosis in which, creatively and otherwise, they seem to use each other like a second brain. “She would be the first and pretty much the only person I would seriously seek counsel from,” he says. “We’re fairly brutal with each other.”
“We’re really open,” agrees Blanchett, who starred in the STC’s Hedda Gabler under Upton’s direction. “I have friends—she’s an actor-writer married to a director—and she was horrified when we said we were going to work together. She said they don’t talk about work because they don’t want to venture into the territory of being criticized by your partner. But I know what to do with criticism.”