The actress talks about the latest of her three films in theaters now

Cate Blanchett continues her box office blitz with Notes on a Scandal. Her third film released this winter; Cate can also be seen in Alejandro Inarritu's Babel and Steven Soderbergh's The Good German. Notes on a Scandal is a high-octane drama about an art teacher's affair with a student and their outing by a fellow teacher (Judi Dench). The film is written by Patrick Marber (Closer) and has his signature prose throughout. Here are some choice excerpts from our few minutes with Cate, including her comments on "Cancer Vixen"; a comic she's optioned with Working Title productions.

What does your character initially feel for Judi Dench's character in this story?

Cate Blanchett: She feels quite sorry for Barbara (Judi Dench), and has no idea the length's she'll go to attach herself. I think Barbara completely underestimates how lonely my character is. She just sees the trappings of her life and the people in her life. She doesn't realize how isolated she is.

Is she too absorbed in the affair to realize what's happening?

Cate Blanchett: We're all absorbed in our own lives. We are the heroes of our own narratives.

Why does she engage in the affair?

Cate Blanchett: That's a common problem isn't it? Anyone who embarks on a destructive relationship, there's an enormous cry for help. What I like about the film is that it doesn't explain or attempt to justify why she does what she does. I liked how fragile she was.

Could you justify her actions?

Cate Blanchett: I think it's important to ask these questions, but not necessary to answer them. The ambiguities need to breathe. Once she dives in, she jumps off the cliff. Once she does that, there is no way back. The wound is open and there's no closing it, no matter if the affair stops. The damage to her children, her husband, herself, you're on the public hit list. She describes herself as a good wife and a good mother, but there's a sense she just wants to fuck it all up. I think a lot of people are that way. Sheba herself married her teacher. There's a mirror held to herself.

Did you have a hard time relating to her?

Cate Blanchett: Yes, absolutely. I think it was very important for me to suspend my own moral judgment. There's no way to defend what she has done and I don't think the film attempts to. The main thing is that the relationship with the boy is the catalyst that propels her into Barbara's arms. That is the true drama. Once I understood that Sheba was incredibly lost...enormously fragile...a time bomb, then there was a way in for me.

Did you talk to any women who had affairs with their students?

Cate Blanchett: It's pretty hard to find anyone who will openly discuss that. (laughs) Sheba is not someone who will write her life story. She's not Mary Kay Letourneau. We did talk about what would happen if the secret hadn't been exposed. I sort of think it would have petered out.

Did you read the novel beforehand?

Cate Blanchett: The novel was a great source, but it was from a very unreliable narrator. It's all from Barbara's viewpoint. I think the great thing that Patrick did was liberate Sheba from Barbara. I think that's really important and enables the film to be it's own entity.

What can you tell us about "Cancer Vixen", the graphic novel you've optioned?

Cate Blanchett: Working Title has optioned it. It's finding the right form, finding the right director with a little inventiveness, the ability to tap into the panic and anxiety, the underpinning black humor. It's an astonishing way to tell that story. The title, Cancer Vixen, the account is in cartoon; it's an exhilarating read, fantastic.

Will you keep it in the style of the comic book?

Cate Blanchett: It's very much a work in progress. I think the first challenge is to find the form. You're not just optioning someone's experience with cancer; it's the way it's been expressed.

How was shooting that fight scene with Judi?

Cate Blanchett: She can hold her own. We had to do that quite a lot and she had this ninja turtle hand. I had to thrust her into the bookshelf. We were both dreading it actually. It reaches a level of absurdity, the stuff they're saying to each other. The stakes are so high; it's kind of thrilling to hear the words that Patrick [Marber, the writer] has written.

Notes on a Scandal opens in select cities on December 27th and is rated 'R' for language and some aberrant sexual content.

Cinemark Movie Club
Julian Roman