The two-time Oscar winner made the remarks in a Oct. 19 discussion with Rome Film Festival artistic director Antonio Monda. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Blanchett was speaking to Monda about some of her most beloved roles, including 2004’s “The Aviator” and 2008’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”
By the time the discussion turned to 2015’s “Carol,” Blanchett revealed she’d never been asked more about her sexuality than in interviews for that film. She played the titular character, who gets involved in a secret affair with another woman (played by Rooney Mara) in 1952.
The “Blue Jasmine” and “Ocean’s 8” star told Monda she felt many journalists questioned whether or not having a lesbian experience was essential to her inhabiting the role, an implication she shrugged off.
“I will fight to the death for the right to suspend disbelief and play roles beyond my experience,” she said. “Particularly in America, I think we expect and only expect people to make a profound connection to a character when it’s close to their experience.”
LGBTQ advocacy groups have in recent years been vocal about their frustrations in seeing Hollywood’s few queer characters usually portrayed by heterosexual actors and actresses.
In addition, many straight stars have received accolades for playing such characters. “Carol” nabbed Academy Award nominations for both Blanchett and Mara, while Jared Leto, Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch are among those to get rave reviews for queer roles.
The social media outcry, however, was swift after Scarlett Johansson signed on to play real-life crime boss Dante “Tex” Gill, who identified as transgender, in Rupert Sanders’ “Rub & Tug” this summer. Days later, she withdrew from the movie.
As far as Blanchett is concerned, the less she personally identifies with a given character, the better.
Calling acting “anthropological exercise,” she said, “So you get to examine a time frame, a set of experiences, an historical event that you didn’t know anything about.”
She had nothing but praise for “Carol,” however, calling the film “a real labor of love.”
“The film, I think now would be made in a heartbeat,” she recalled. “But eight years ago, it was a very difficult film to get up. Two women, both of whom are of lesbian-ish persuasion in the 1950s, which is like, ‘Who wants to go and see that? Only 12-year-old boys go to movies.’”
She then added, “For me, if something is difficult to make, it’s like a red rag to a bull. It makes me want to make it more.”