She is no less of a juggler now, but at least she’s more stationary. Her day job at the STC keeps her in Sydney, except for short stints on the occasional film set—she will film her role in Hanna at breakneck speed in order to fit it into her kids’ three-week school vacation—and last year’s tour of Streetcar. (Discussions of taking the production to Broadway halted, in part so that Blanchett could return to directing the company in Australia.) She sounds relieved to be back in the theater, particularly behind the scenes. “The camera gets sick of looking at you, and you get sick of looking into the lens,” she says. “I’ve seen plenty of me.” Blanchett and Upton have lured some big-screen names Down Under: Steven Soderbergh was recently at the STC to direct Tot Mom, a sort of stage documentary he conjured using transcripts from Nancy Grace to tell the bizarre real-life story of the murder of Florida toddler Caylee Anthony. (While in town, Soderbergh also made a film—tentatively titled The Last Time I Saw Michael Gregg—with the cast of his play that’s supposedly a fictionalized portrait of Blanchett and Upton. At the moment, however, none of the players will talk about it.)
Maybe because she never aimed to become a movie star, Blanchett is the rare actress who does not lament the lack of good film roles for women. “I didn’t go into the industry expecting to be wholly nurtured by it. I thought of it as a bit of an experiment,” she says. Before entering drama school, she’d half expected to become a theater director. “But it didn’t happen, and I didn’t push it.” Now, after helming a few stage productions, she reluctantly admits that she is entertaining the idea of directing a film. “I find the offers to do it, um, curious,” she says slowly, obliquely adding that she has “been approached” with opportunities. “But that’s the thing about working with Scorsese and David Fincher and Steven Soderbergh: Their understanding of the technical aspects of it is mind-boggling. It is a different language, and I understand a few strands of it, but I don’t know if I understand the whole possibility. So you think, Who am I to do this? I honestly hadn’t thought about directing film until somebody approached me about it, but now it’s like, Oh, that’s interesting. It sounds like the thinking of a dilettante, doesn’t it?” she adds, leaving no conversation untouched by a dose of self-deprecation.
Ullmann, who knows something about transitioning from screen legend to director, is confident Blanchett will succeed because, she says, “she understands people. When you saw Blanche on the stage, you also saw things there that Cate knows about life, that are a part of Cate that we don’t see, things that she fears or that she’s happy with.” Ullmann objects to the common tendency to label Blanchett a “chameleon.” “I don’t think she changes colors,” she says. “She’s not good at mimicking. She’s good because her soul is there.”