When it comes to an actress of Cate Blanchett’s caliber (i.e. the highest caliber there is), it is startling to realize that she becomes so absorbed in her characters, so written into their DNA, that we know everything about the myriad of people she has played – and almost nothing about the woman herself.
She launched to fame as Queen Elizabeth I, astonished the world with her chameleon-like performance as Bob Dylan, won over fantasy fans as icy elf queen Galadriel, and evoked pure terror as the menacing nemesis Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. She won her first Oscar in 2005 with her depiction of Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator, and won again in 2014 as the bleary-eyed socialite stripped from grace in Blue Jasmine. She is possibly her generation’s finest thespian, and yet she is notoriously humble and extremely private.
Blanchett was born in 1969, and she and her three siblings were raised by her father (a Texan who worked in advertising) and mother (a teacher and property developer) in Melbourne, Australia. Comfortably installed in suburbia, Blanchett experienced a tragic loss when she was ten years old; her beloved father left for work one morning, only to suffer a heart attack and die later that day. On a gap year abroad in Egypt, she met her destiny. Sort of.
In an interview with The Guardian, she explained the origins of her acting career, saying, “So I was in this fleapit in Cairo, which has probably long since burned down, called the Oxford hotel. They printed passports and money in the foyer. And this random Scottish guy came up and said they were looking for English-speaking extras, and that I’d get paid five Egyptian pounds and a falafel. At the time, I didn’t have enough money to pay my room for the week. I went along, and there was an Arab guy with a megaphone, like something out of a silent movie, and it was so hot and so boring that I left.”
Although nothing came of playing an extra in an Egyptian film, it did spark something in Blanchett. She returned home to attend drama school, where she soon landed roles on the Sydney stage in Sophocles’ Electra and David Mamet’s Oleanna. After coming to see her perform, her sister remarked, “I can’t see you any more on stage – I can only see the character.” It was the encouragement that prompted Blanchett to consider acting as an actual career.
In 1998, Blanchett’s breakout role in Elizabeth landed her on every major director’s radar, and the actress proved adept at choosing ideal projects to exercise her onscreen prowess. A scroll through her long list of roles on IMDb yields a treasure trove of fantastic films and mesmerizing performances. She played a supernatural clairvoyant who uncovers a nasty secret in The Gift, herself as well as her own cousin in Coffee and Cigarettes, a scrappy reporter-turned-love-interest in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and a whopping 13 distinct characters in Manifeso. Most recently, she played the schemer behind a jewelry heist in Ocean’s 8.
Although Blanchett’s CV reads like a Who’s Who of famed directors, writers, and producers, her body of work represents an actress who is going about things part-time. That’s right. Blanchett tries to take on as few projects as possible in order to devote time to her marriage to screenwriter and director Andrew Upton and their four children. In fact, for ten years, she took a significant step back from acting, only accepting the projects she was most passionate about in order to help her husband run the Sydney Theatre Company. After a decade in the Australian city, Blanchett and her family have relocated to Brighton, England.
Blanchett is also a passionate humanitarian, activist, and advocate for women. She is an ambassador for and life member of the Australian Conservation Foundation, and a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Recently, that meant her traveling to Myanmar to confront the Rohingya refugee crisis. After an eye-opening visit to the perilous region that the refugees currently occupy, which threatens to be swallowed by a landslide – a common occurrence during the region’s monsoon season – Blanchett appeared before the United Nations to plead for the Rohingya people. In her impassioned speech, she called for the refugee population to receive full citizenship rights, education, and healthcare.
Blanchett is a regular fixture on the red carpet and, when it comes to her style, she is as experimental with her wardrobe as she is with her roles. In consistently favoring avant-garde designs, she has managed to become an undeniably influential global style icon. The actress tends to favor sharp tailoring, vibrant prints, and unexpected details, and she remains particularly loyal to the likes of Alexander McQueen, Armani Privé, and Louis Vuitton. In celebration of her 50th birthday, today, we’re taking a trip through Blanchett’s style file in the gallery, below.