The one benefit to interviewing Cate Blanchett on the phone, rather than in person, is not having to stare at her luminous lit-from-within skin, penetrating feline eyes, and sky-high cheekbones and feel utterly inferior. Of course, just talking to her offers its own lessons in humility. Her resonant, surprisingly husky voice—her accent leans toward BBC English, with only sporadic appearances by nasally Aussie vowels—drips with intelligence, and she’ll almost always choose a four-syllable word over its simpler cousin. She answers in paragraphs, not short sentences, and you get the feeling she could go on about Chekhov for hours—which she might if she weren’t at home in East Sussex, England, on a Friday night, fielding questions from her three boys, ages 15, 12, and 8, and worrying that her nearly-2-year-old daughter might wake up.
This month, Blanchett makes her Broadway debut in The Present, a reimagining of Chekhov’s first play, the sprawling, unpublished epic Platonov. The playwright Andrew Upton, Blanchett’s husband and frequent collaborator, adapted it for the Sydney Theatre Company in 2015, and the entire cast—including Richard Roxburgh, who plays Platonov—have made the transfer to New York. Blanchett and Upton served as co–artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company from 2008 to 2012, producing dozens of critically acclaimed works, including four others that played off-Broadway in New York with Blanchett in starring roles: A Streetcar Named Desire, Uncle Vanya, The Maids, and Hedda Gabler. Upton stayed on as artistic director until 2016, while Blanchett filmed Blue Jasmine, Cinderella, and Carol, and this production of The Present serves as the final act from their tenure in Sydney. “I’m excited to see what New York audiences make of it,” Blanchett says. “Hopefully there’s an appetite for it.”
Obviously, there will be. Blanchett’s name has been synonymous with quality since her star-making turn in Elizabeth in 1998, and theatergoers who have been lucky enough to score tickets to her prior New York productions still brag about seeing her in the flesh. It’s obvious that she loves performing in any arena, but being on stage is different. “Theater is not just the presentation of some work of literature,” she says, the passion rising in her voice. “It’s this living, breathing, bastard form, and that beating heart of the work comes alive when you have a full house.” Read More