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Cate Blanchett backstage at the 2014 Spirit Awards

Cate Blanchett at the 2014 Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, Calif.
Cate Blanchett at the 2014 Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, Calif.WireImage

The 29th Annual Film Independent Spirit Awards took place on March 1, 2014, at the beach in Santa Monica, Calif. Here is what this Spirit Award winner said backstage in the Spirit Awards press room.

CATE BLANCHETT

Best Female Lead

(“Blue Jasmine”)

What is “Blue Jasmine” director Woody Allen like on the movie set?

Ninety-nine percent of the direction is in the script. And then, I think the hallmark of his career as a filmmaker is the casting. When I heard the extraordinary cast that was being assembled, it felt like 99 percent of my work had been done for me. It’s a bit of benign neglect. He lets you go, and he wants to see what you’re going to throw at the material, so there’s a lot of invention and play, obviously, with the other actors.

Matthew [McConaughey] was talking about not having a lot of takes. We certainly did not have a lot of takes … He also doesn’t cover, so you know he’s not going to get in the editing room being able to away to cut away from things.

So, for me, it was quite theatrical. I certainly couldn’t have approached the role without working in the Sydney Theatre Company. So I think there’s a theatricalized sense to Jasmine, as a character, that ignited with his style of filmmaking.

“Blue Jasmine” was one of the biggest hits in Woody Allen’s career. Why do you think his independent movies have such mainstream appeal?

He constantly does that with his films. He’s got a ready-made audience, in a way. The actors can’t take credit for that. He always works on a shoestring [budget]. That Birkin [handbag] I was carrying [in “Blue Jasmine”] was worth more than [“Blue Jasmine” costume designer] Suzy Benzinger’s entire costume budget. And I kept throwing it on the ground, and she was having conniptions while I was doing it.

That’s where you need really smart distribution and really smart producers. He’s had a longtime relationship with his producers, but also to have Sony Classics behind him that helped it get out and find the audience that it did. It’s a film led by a woman. Why are we still saying this in 2014, but people are interested.

What advice would you give to your 17-year-old self?

Being 17 is so far away from where I am right now. Probably “Brush your hair and your teeth.”

How did you bring the Jasmine character to life on screen?

Suzy Benzinger was absolutely instrumental. My relationship with the costume designer both in theater and in film is crucial. There’s no such thing as rehearsal, really, on film most of the time. It’s just staving off anxiety. So you get to stand in front of the mirror and try out things. I love the process, with the costume designer, of charting a character’s journey through the way we express ourselves, because we all do.

I thought about what I was going to wear today. It doesn’t look like it, but you obviously thought about what you were going to wear today. I had someone helping me. I don’t know. Maybe you have people at home helping you brush your hair. A 44-year-old woman who needs someone to help brush her hair. It’s a bit sad.

It’s an absolutely crucial relationship, but the process is revealed by the material … that is given to you. And you’ve just got to work with the other actors. It has to happen between you, particularly in a Woody Allen film, and the cast was extraordinary.

For more info: Spirit Awards website

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