It’s been nearly 10 years since Cate Blanchett slipped into those heavy and confining Elizabethan period gowns worn by Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century. But even though she’s not donning a wig with stiff curls or wearing one of the aforementioned gowns, there’s something naturally regal about Blanchett.
The Australian native, who also played the role in 1998’s “Elizabeth,” is grateful to have the opportunity to do it all over again in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” which hits theaters on Friday.
“I’ve revived characters on stage before and toured with characters,” Blanchett said. “I’ve played them repeatedly for a long time, but I had never done it in film and certainly never done it with such a length of time between it. So, you’ve got enough time to decompress and regret every single choice you’ve ever made. So, frankly, the chance of returning to it seemed to be that I could repair some things (laughs)!”
According to her costars there wasn’t much that needed to be fixed. Blanchett’s performance is already generating significant Oscar buzz.
“She’s an actress who takes enormous risks in her investigation of the scene and the evolution of how she discovers what happens within that scene,” said Geoffrey Rush who plays Sir Francis Walsingham. “She will take a journey of discovery to see what surprises might come out of that. That’s why she’s so very good.”
“I think when you watch Cate in this film, there’s so much going on,” added Abbie Cornish, who plays Bess, Elizabeth’s top lady in waiting. “You can feel the wind and you can feel the fire and the earth. She’s incredible.”
Blanchett, 37, however, grimaces when the O-word is mentioned. Perhaps it’s because she already has the one that she won for her supporting role playing Katharine Hepburn in 2003’s “The Aviator.” Additionally, Blanchett has received two other nominations, a supporting nod for last year’s “Notes on A Scandal,” and a best actress nomination for the original “Elizabeth.”
Awards season can be extremely stressful, even for those like Blanchett who apparently don’t get caught up in all of the hype.
“I don’t have an opinion,” she said flatly. “I’m not campaigning for anything. I hope the film connects with people and that’s all you can hope for. I don’t really have any say beyond that.”
‘I’m fascinated by the period and by the woman’But the quick-witted actress, with a low tolerance for questions about Lindsay Lohan or what it would be like to be a queen for a day, was more than willing to chat at length about the monarch who still commands a captive audience more than 500 years after her death.
Blanchett is a walking, talking Wikipedia when it comes to deciphering Elizabeth I, who during this period of her life was struggling with her affection for Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen); the betrayal she felt after learning that Bess was carrying Raleigh’s child; the Holy War; and her conflicted feelings toward her cousin, Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton), who wanted the queen dead.
When faced with the choice of kill or be killed, the daughter of Henry VIII took her cousin out by putting her head on the chopping block. While this brutal slaying actually did happen, director Shekhar Kapur took some dramatic liberties when it came to other events occurring during the monarch’s nearly 45-year reign. For example, “Golden Age” suggests that there might have been more than friendship going on with Bess and Elizabeth, and that the “virgin” tag might have been inaccurate.
“I’d done a lot of research the first time around and I dipped into it obviously because I’m fascinated by the period and by the woman,” Blanchett said when asked if she had uncovered any new information on fifth and final ruler of the Tudor era. “There have been some books written in the last eight or nine years about her, and more letters and poems found.
“I think the difference for me was how internal the turmoil was — the demons that were revisited and unearthed by her really accepting the entry point into the next phase of her life. So, I think that’s what I found most surprising — given even the active, epic backdrop that Shekhar gives the film.”
Kapur credits Blanchett with taking an ethereal approach to the character and making Elizabeth more mythic than regal.
“She did that somewhat in the first film, and she’s certainly done it in this film,” Kapur said. “She’s taken the part and pushed it beyond the realms of mundaneness. She’s made this part totally iconic.”
Exploring Elizabeth’s ‘private self’One of the things Blanchett was keen on doing was figuratively infiltrating the queen’s private chambers.
“There is definitely a difference between the public self and the private self,” she said. “And also even when you meet the current queen, she has a very different speaking voice in person than when she speaks in public.”
And although Blanchett doesn’t subscribe to the theories that Elizabeth I could have been quite mad, she does think the queen had issues with intimacy. It’s no wonder with her family history.
“Her mother died when she was incredibly young — killed by her father,” Blanchett said. “And she grew up not even knowing if she was going to live and had to beg for her life from her sickly brother who ascended the throne. And then her sister wanted to kill her. So, I think her notion of intimacy was incredibly violated from a very early age. And the notion of ever forming a marriage with anybody was kind of a dangerous and unattractive prospect. I think that was an interesting thing to play.”
There’s already talk that Blanchett, who is currently appearing as another icon, Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There,” might have yet another opportunity to revise this character in a third installment that could possibly focus on the later years of her life, including her complicated relationship with Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex.
“Shekhar has talked about it but he’s very provocative,” Blanchett said. “So whether or not it will happen, I don’t know. But I’ve got plenty of time. I think it would be a fantastic journey once again.”
Miki Turner is an entertainment columnist for MSNBC.com. She welcomes your comments at