A week after our meeting in Berlin, Blanchett is reminiscing on the phone about the year of shoestring-budget traveling she did after her first year at university. There are tales of being penniless in Istanbul and of fraternizing with sketchy characters in Egypt. “I’d love to see if the Oxford Hotel in Cairo is still around—some pretty dodgy things were going on there!” she says, laughing loudly. “There was one guy there who’d been in bed for three years just waiting for a package to arrive from Pakistan.” Her giggling becomes uncontrollable. “I don’t know if the package ever came! He had to have gotten bedsores!”
It’s fun to picture Blanchett as a 19-year-old backpacker. I recall a moment during our earlier meeting when she told me that she’s very silly in private but pulls it together in public because, she said, that’s what being an adult means. “Don’t you find that people are always diametrically opposed to what you think they’d be when you get to know them?” she had asked.
I ask her now whether she thinks there’s a public perception of her that is somehow inaccurate. “I’m so misunderstood!” she shrieks dramatically, sounding, for the first time in our conversation, slightly silly. “I’m not focused on what other people think of me,” she continues, her voice again silky and measured. “Some people get you and some people don’t, and to spend your life trying to make people understand how deep and complex and varied you are—I think that way lies madness.”