Cate Blanchett ages with grace in "Benjamin Button"

Sun Dec 21, 2008 2:20pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - If movie fans didn't know she was co-starring with Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," they wouldn't recognize Cate Blanchett when the film opens with a close-up of her in a hospital bed, as a withered old woman.

The 39-year-old Australian actress, an Academy Award winner for her 2004 portrait of Katharine Hepburn ("The Aviator") and a two-time Oscar nominee last year as Queen Elizabeth ("Elizabeth: The Golden Age") and Bob Dylan ("I'm Not There"), disappears into another challenging role in "Benjamin Button," which opens Christmas Day.

She undergoes a striking transformation as the life of her character, Daisy, unfolds over eight decades, blossoming from a sprightly girl into a beautiful ballet dancer, then growing old while the love of her life inexplicably gets younger.

Blanchett says much of the credit for her metamorphosis goes to the "unbelievable" talent of makeup artists.

But the actress says her own performance was informed largely by experiences from her youth -- from childhood ballet lessons, to a close relationship with her grandmother and to her first job, at 14, serving meals in an old-age home.

"I would go in after school ... and the cook would have prepared the meal, and I had to dish it all up and take it around to the guys, have a little chat with them ... and I'd have to clean up after them and put everything away," she recounted in a recent interview.

In a memory that seemed to come straight from the movie, she recalled one of the home's matrons expressing consternation at having a patient move in to take the place of newly deceased resident so quickly that "the bed's still warm."

"For a 14-year-old to hear that, you think, 'Wow. That person's gone and someone else has come in?' Life really is a car park," she said.   Continued...

<p>Australian actress Cate Blanchett waits before accepting a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California December 5, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>