CANNES – There's nothing like a Cannes Film Festival press conference to stir things up a bit. This year we've already had Tom Hardy publicly apologize to director George Miller for his behavior during the filming of “Mad Max: Fury Road” and on Sunday none other than Cate Blanchett stoked the flames. Something tells us she's been waiting for the opportunity.
Blanchett returns to Cannes for the second year in a row with Todd Haynes' critically acclaimed “Carol.” The 1950s period romance finds her and Rooney Mara as lovers during a time when it was almost unheard of for lesbians and gay men to display their affections openly. In a recent interview in Variety, the trade magazine says it asked Blanchett if this was her first turn as a lesbian. The two-time Oscar winner is quoted as “coyly” responding, “On film – or in real life?” The outlet then noted, “Pressed for details about whether she”s had past relationships with women, she responds: 'Yes. Many times,' but doesn”t elaborate.”
This created worldwide headlines proclaiming Blanchett had experienced numerous lesbian affairs during her life. During the “Carol” press conference, a member of the media asked her if she would elaborate.
“From memory the conversation ran, 'Have you had relationships with women?' And I said, 'Yes, many times. If you mean I've had sexual relationships with women the answer is no.' But that really didn't make it to print,” Blanchett said as the assembled media laughed.
She continued: “In 2015, the point should be, 'Who cares?' Call me old fashioned, but I thought one's job as an actor was not to present one's boring, small, microscopic universe, but to raise and expand your sense of the world and make a psychological and empathetic connection to another character's experience so you could present something other than your own world to an audience. My own life is of no interest to anyone else. It is, I know, but I'm certainly not interested in putting my own thoughts and opinions up there. Why I love being an actor and working is what you refer to before, the research. It's finding other people's experiences and making those beautiful, intangible [connections] that will communicate something.”
Considering the esteemed actress' recent experience with Variety, we thought it best to include her entire response.
Variety has not formally responded as yet to Ms. Blanchett's assertion, but it's hard to believe an actress of her sterling reputation would make this clear clarification if she did not believe their assertion was inaccurate. Moreover, her response shows that as much as she wanted to set things straight – for lack of a better term – she personally feels it shouldn't be an issue in the first place.
It's worth noting that the author of the article, Ramin Setoodeh, is standing by it.
When I asked Cate Blanchett if she'd had lesbian relationships in real life, she said: “Many times.” She was accurately quoted. #Cannes2015
– Ramin Setoodeh (@RaminSetoodeh) May 17, 2015
As for the film itself, there was a significant amount of discussion among the panel regarding how, in certain respects, little has changed in regards to gay rights since the time period when “Carol” takes place. Frankly, that seems like a stretch to this writer. In many ways it's night and day. That being said, the movie occurs when a legal system was in place to deny a mother custody of her child simply because of her sexuality. This may not be as significant a problem for gay and lesbian parents in many western nations today, but universal acceptance across the globe has a long way to go.
“There are still many, many countries around the world where it is still illegal,” Blanchett said. “We are living in deeply conservative times and if we think otherwise we're really foolish.”
Added Rooney, “Certainly in America, where the film takes place, there has been great progress made from when this story takes place. But like Cate said, I think we'd be foolish to think it ends there. That's not the case everywhere in the world. We still have a lot of headway to make/ We still have a long way to go until we'll not be talking abut it.”
While the social benefits of the film may not make news, you can expect lots of discussion regarding the intimate and beautiful love scene between both women. Blanchett has rarely stripped down to the bare essentials and joked that this will be the most people to see her naked since she last gave birth. More importantly, she noted how that it would make no difference if the scene had been with a man and a woman.
“I have such respect and admiration for Rooney and it was quite hilarious in a lot of ways,” Blanchett said. “I think it's always great when it's not titillating for a particular reason. It was a really, really important scene in the structure of the film and the telling of the story. And Todd was really fantastic in really explaining how it was going to be shot. So it was a scene like any other scene. Yes, there was a bit of apprehension going in, but not because it's between two women in any way.”
When Mara was asked to follow up, she deadpanned, “I'm nude quite often so it was no big deal for me.”
Haynes didn't seem worried about the MPAA slapping the picture with an NC-17 because of the sex scene.
“No it hasn't come up in our process,” he said. “It really hasn't been a concern and I don't think it will be. Harvey Weinstein is distributing the film in the United States and we'll forge ahead and see what happens.”
A little over a year ago, Blanchett won her second Academy Award, for her leading role in “Blue Jasmine.” She took that moment to deliver one of the most memorable acceptance speeches in recent memory. In less than two minutes she took Hollywood to task for continuing to believe films with female leads are “niche.” “Carol” may not be the financial success “Jasmine” was and clearly isn't a studio movie, but does the fact that its screenwriter and five of its six producers are women mean things are looking up?
“Well, it needs to be very much the center of conversation,” Blanchett said. “There was an article in the International New York Times that it was the 'year of the femme.' You hope it's not the year. That it's not some sort of fashionable moment, but the more rich and diverse the stories are, the better it serves audiences both male and female.
“It's not a niche experience. Yeah, I think it's important to keep talking about it. It fell off the agenda and I think we lost a lot of ground. But I think it's wonderful to be working with female producers who want to make great, entertaining and intelligent films.”
As you'd suspect by the raves coming from la Croisette, “Carol” is one of them.
“Carol” opens in limited release on Dec. 18.