Born on May 14, 1969 in Melbourne, Australia, Blanchett grew up in suburban Ivanhoe near the Yarra River. Her mother, June, a native Australian, was a schoolteacher and her dad, Robert, a Texas-born Navy seaman who wound up Down Under when his ship broke down, put himself through night school and had a career in advertising. But when Blanchett was only 10, her father died from a sudden heart attack at age 40. Meanwhile, she developed a passion for films and putting on performances for her friends, which were later translated during her second year at the University of Melbourne. Originally an art history and economics major, Blanchett got her first real taste for acting after appearing in Kris Hemensley's "European Features." On a whim, she auditioned for a spot in the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, where she studied from 1990-92 and where, with her performance as Clytemnestra in a production of Sophocles' "Electra," she developed an early reputation as a gifted actress.
Although Blanchett left drama school with a solid reputation, she was by no means the hot go-to actress. But in 1993, she generated waves with her win for Best Newcomer at Sydney's equivalent for the Tony Award with her graceful turn in "Kafka Dances." That same year, she went on to earn accolades, as well as another award win - this time for Best Actress - for her turn as a female college student who brings charges of sexual harassment against her professor (Geoffrey Rush) in David Mamet's electric play "Oleanna" (1993). She later added the Shakespearean roles of Ophelia and Miranda to her credits, before playing Nina in Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull" in Australia in 1997. Blanchett made her London stage debut in 1999 with a revival of David Hare's "Plenty," playing protagonist Susan Traherne, whose life post-World War II is trapped in a permanent state of ineffectual dissent against the ensuing peace. Reviews on the play were scathing against both the play and Blanchett's performance. Even years later, Blanchett refused to read another review of her work.
Blanchett shortly made her film debut in the short "Parklands" (1996), but soon landed her first feature role as one of the females interned in a Japanese camp in Bruce Beresford's WWII-era drama Paradise Road (1997). She further garnered attention - and the 1997 Australian Film Institute Best Supporting Actress Award - as one leg of a romantic triangle (completed by Richard Roxburgh and Frances O'Connor) in the darkly comic Thank God He Met Lizzie (1998). Her rising star status was confirmed when she landed the leading role of the Tudor monarch in the biopic "Elizabeth." Holding her own in a cast that included Geoffrey Rush, Richard Attenborough, Joseph Fiennes and Christopher Eccleston, Blanchett delivered a brilliant turn as the young woman who grows into the stature of her office. By turns an emotional girl and a driven women, her Elizabeth was a multi-dimensional creation that earned numerous accolades including an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
After carrying a major film, it perhaps came as a bit of a surprise that her follow-up roles were predominantly supporting ones, such as with Blanchett exhibiting her comic side, replete with a New Jersey accent as the wife of air traffic controller John Cusack in Pushing Tin (1999). Later that same year, she was back in period clothes, first as the wife of a titled man being blackmailed in Oliver Parker's adaptation of Oscar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband;" then as Meredith, a character created especially for the film "The Talented Mr. Ripley," a 1950s-era drama about a slick American (Matt Damon) who plots to kill a playboy (Jude Law) in order to assume his identity in Anthony Minghella's adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel.
Blanchett continued to alternate between showy supporting roles and strong leads. She demonstrated her chameleonic abilities essaying a Southern widow with psychic abilities in the gothic thriller The Gift (2000), and on the heels of that film, was terrific as a gold-digging Russian chorus girl in The Man Who Cried (2001). The former was co-written by her "Pushing Tin" co-star Billy Bob Thornton, who based Blanchett's character on his own mother. The actress remained busy and consistently employed, reuniting with Thornton in the comedy "Bandits," followed by a turn as Kevin Spacey's ex-wife in "The Shipping News" and the titular role in "Charlotte Gray" (all 2001). Meanwhile, Blanchett had a small, but significant part as the elf queen Galadriel in the epic "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy: "The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001), "The Two Towers" (2002) and "The Return of the King" (2003). Additionally, she acted opposite her "The Gift" co-star Giovanni Ribisi in Heaven (2002), Tom Tykwer's English-language debut.
Blanchett received rave reviews for her turn as the real-life crusading Irish journalist whose life is endangered by criminal elements when she pursues her mob investigation too far in "Veronica Geurin" (2003). In 2004, she was nominated as Best Supporting Actress at the Independent Spirit Awards for her dual performance as "herself" and a jealous relative in Jim Jarmousch's anthological riff, "Coffee & Cigarettes." Blanchett - who Leonardo DiCaprio referred to as "the female Daniel Day-Lewis" for her chameleon-like qualities - tackled two wildly different roles in 2004. First, she played a pregnant female journalist caught in an off-kilter romantic triangle between an undersea explorer (Bill Murray) and his possible son (Owen Wilson) in Wes Anderson's comedy "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou." Next she captured the coltish, often haughty charisma and unforgettable New England cadences of Hollywood superstar Katharine Hepburn, one of Howard Hughes' (DiCaprio) more serious paramours in director Martin Scorsese's impressive Hughes biopic "The Aviator." Blanchett was widely recognized for her performance and earned several awards for Best Supporting Actress, including, at last, the Academy Award. Blanchett's victory gave her the unique distinction of becoming the first actress to win an Academy Award for playing an Oscar-winning actress.
Blanchett was little-seen on the big screen for most of 2005, though she did star in the Australian-made thriller "Little Fish," playing a recovering drug addict trying to get her life back in order when a criminal kingpin (Sam Neill) forces her to confront her greatest fear. She next starred in Alejandro González Iñárritu's complex Babel (2006), a dense and heartbreaking look at confusion, fear and the depths of love. Set in Asia, Africa and North America, "Babel" told three separate stories brought together by a single random act of violence. Blanchett played an American tourist traveling with her husband (Brad Pitt) in Morocco when a stray bullet from a rifle crashes through their bus window, seriously wounding her and touching off a series of events, including the couple's Mexican housekeeper (Adriana Barraza) trying to cross the border, a neglected Japanese girl (Rinko Kikuchi) scouring Japan for love in all the wrong places, and two Moroccan boys (Said Tarchani and Boubker Ait El Caid) dealing with their culpability in the shooting.
She next starred in The Good German (2006), playing the former lover of a U.S. Army war correspondent (George Clooney) in post-war Berlin who is trying to escape the war's aftermath and her own dark past before being discovered. Blanchett next co-starred in Notes on a Scandal (2006), playing an attractive new art teacher at a London high school engaging in an illicit affair with a 15-year-old student (Andrew Simpson) whose secret is guarded by the school's obsessively voyeuristic history teacher (Judi Dench), a role that earned her a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. Though she lost out to newcomer Jennifer Hudson, Blanchett earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In 2007, Blanchett returned to familiar territory with "The Golden Age," Shekhar Kapur's sequel to "Elizabeth" that focused on the Virgin Queen's relationship with Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen). Even more impressive, Blanchett essayed singer-songwriter legend Bob Dylan in the unique film chronicling Dylan's life, "I'm Not Here." So impressive was she morphing into a man that she won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, paving the way to an Oscar nomination.
Hot off the critical praise she received for "I'm Not There," Blanchett fulfilled a long-time ambition to play a villain when she was cast as a Soviet agent with psychic abilities and karate skills who battles Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) for the mysterious crystal skull in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). From there, she returned to more upscale drama with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), where she played the lifelong love of a man (Brad Pitt) who mysteriously ages backwards. While Pitt received the lion's share of critical praise, Blanchett did earn several critics award nominations. She followed up with a leading turn as Lady Marian to Russell Crowe's Robin Hood in director Ridley Scott's traditional take on Robin Hood (2010), which fared well at the global box office despite tepid reviews from critics. Meanwhile, Blanchett relished the opportunity to again play the villain, this time portraying a double-crossing CIA officer trying to hunt down and kill a 16-year-old girl (Saoirse Ronan) trained by her CIA agent father (Eric Bana) to be a ruthless assassin in the kinetic action thriller Hanna (2011). She followed up by reprising Galadriel for the highly-anticipated adaptation "The Hobbit," a two-part epic prequel to "The Lord of the Rings" set to be released in late 2012 and 2013.
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