I’m trying to talk to Cate Blanchett at the Toronto Film Festival gala premiere party for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, but I’ve been intercepted by an elf. Granted, this isn’t just any elf — fellow Lord of the Ring-er Liv Tyler (Arwen to Blanchett’s Queen Galadriel) just happens to be seated right next to the spot Blanchett’s chosen for our Q&A. So I happily wait as the two catch up and Tyler gushes over Blanchett’s royal performance in the sequel to 1998’s Elizabeth. (Tyler is in town not to promote a film but to make one; she’s currently shooting The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton.)
Finally, after Tyler notes that even in the bathroom of the theater she could hear Blanchett railing as England’s virgin queen against the Spanish conspiracy to assassinate her and conquer the nation, Blanchett extricates herself from the conversation and pivots back for our interview with the easy poise and decorum of a truly practiced sovereign.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was this the first time you’d seen Elizabeth: The Golden Age?
CATE BLANCHETT: Yes. And last. Once is enough.
So how was that experience, watching yourself revisit your breakout role?
It’s really interesting — they had that moment where [director] Shekhar [Kapur] chose to flash back to the other [Elizabeth] film. I had only seen the first film once — when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival — before we started [Elizabeth: The Golden Age], when Shekar and I and Abbie [Cornish] watched the first one again. It was like a strange vortex, you know. But I think that stuff sits there; I don’t think you have to constantly reference it.
Was it easy watching it for the first time at this big Toronto premiere?
Oh, it’s nerve-wracking! You hope that an audience is going to connect with it, but you’re quite dislocated from your audience in film. I’m used to being up on stage when it’s that many people in an auditorium, so it felt deeply unnatural.
It feels like every single major drama out this fall is at Toronto.
It’s a really packed festival, isn’t it? I really want to see the [Spanish] film The Orphanage. And I want to see Rendition. I want to see the [David] Cronenberg film [Eastern Promises]. I want to see Julie Taymor’s film [Across the Universe].
So why is it so important to bring a film like Elizabeth: The Golden Age to this festival?
I think because it’s a non-competitive festival. It’s not a gauche marketplace. It’s really about filmmakers and filmmaking. And I think for a lot of people, particularly European films … [Liv Tyler interrupts to say goodbye to Blanchett: ”You’re really inspiring!”] … it’s a way into a Western market and an American sensibility, even though it’s in Canada. It’s a testing ground.
NEXT PAGE: ”I’m stepping into [Indiana Jones 4]. It’s a real Zelig moment for me.”
The first Elizabeth did so well, getting all those Oscar nominations.
It was a surprise. I mean, it was a very risky endeavor when we were doing it — it was a part-Bollywood film.
So coming into the fall, are you feeling like people have high expectations for this film because the first did so well?
That’s the nerve-wracking thing. When there are expectations, you get worried that a film’s getting built up.
Meanwhile, congratulations on winning Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival for Todd Haynes’ film I’m Not There.
Oh, wasn’t that cool? I was so thrilled. And I wasn’t there; I was off making the Spielberg [film, Indiana Jones 4]. I’m thrilled that Todd won the jury prize and that Brad [Pitt] won Best Actor.
I’m Not There has multiple actors playing different versions of Bob Dylan, but everyone seems to be focused on your interpretation.
I don’t know why. It’s an ensemble film. I think I probably play the most iconic silhouette, but I think what Heath [Ledger] has done, and Richard Gere, Marcus Carl Franklin, Ben Whishaw — they’re all amazing. We’re all playing facets of the same character. One couldn’t exist without the other. It really is an ensemble.
So you feel more like you’re sharing your award, then, with your other actors?
Oh, absolutely. And it’s Todd’s vision. We’re all there because of Todd I wish I could see how it plays [in Toronto on Tuesday], but I’ve got to go back to work tomorrow.
Speaking of, what can you tell me about the Indiana Jones film?
It’s phenomenal to be working with Harrison Ford and Spielberg and Karen Allen, all of whom were in one of the most amazing experiences of my childhood, watching that film. And then I’m stepping into the frame. It’s a real Zelig moment for me. It was really quite moving when Karen filmed her first entry into the film the other day. You know, Spielberg said, ”I feel so young!” [Laughs] It was fantastic.
And what is the Spielberg experience?
Look, he’s an absolute master. He knows the genre like the back of his hand, and he makes fantastic suggestions. He’s really fast and incredibly creative. Like, if a shot’s not working, he’d completely change it and do something equally as amazing. And it’s weird, because I feel like I know all the movies as an audience [member]. I know all the lighting, I know all the elements. But it’s coming together in a new way. And Harrison looks f—ing great.