Cate Blanchett – modern day screen goddess

blanchett galadrielA few days after seeing the latest in the Middle Earth saga, The Hobbit, I realised a particular scene involving Blanchett had burrowed its way firmly into my subconscious.

Taking place in Rivendell, it focused on a tender moment between Gandalf and Galadriel, as they discussed the rise of a potential necromancer.

As it had been quite a few years since the LOTR trilogy I’d half forgotten how ethereal and captivating Blanchett had made Galadriel. Few actresses could have portrayed the elven queen the way she did.

This got me thinking of other characters she’s played that have had a similar impact on my subconscious, albeit for various different reasons. Galadriel aside, here’s my list:

Katharine Hepburn – The Aviator (2004)

Playing such an iconic individual was never going to be easy. Blanchett, though, made it look effortless, with a captivating and compelling performance. She clearly revelled in the part too, adding layers to Hepburn that delighted and surprised in every scene. So much so, that the results deservedly won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

life aquatic cate blanchettJane Winslett-RichardsonThe Life Aquatic (2004)

Securing a part originally written for Kate Winslet, hence the character’s name, she played a reporter who draws both the affections of Owen Wilson’s Ned and Bill Murray’s Zissou.
Her character’s relationship with Ned was wonderfully sweet and affecting and gave the film a lot of heart.

Irina SpalkoIndiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Granted her character is a one-size-fits-all, clichéd Russian baddie, but this type of adventure action movie is a guilty pleasure, so surely that’s the point? That said, in a role that could’ve been one-dimensional, Blanchett gave Spalko depth and intensity. Her climactic ‘I vant to know’ scene cemented a place on this list.

marissa weigler cate blanchett hannaMarissa WeiglerHanna (2011)

Directed by Joe Wright, this dark, intelligent, fairy tale-esque action film played like a Brothers Grimm version of a Bourne film. Or a thinking person’s Kick-Ass. Here, Blanchett played an immoral and ruthless CIA agent, bent on chasing down Saoirse Ronan’s teen assassin Hanna. Another over-the-top villain? Possibly, but still a great performance.

Daisy FullerThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

To say this film divided people is an understatement. From two reviews I read earlier – both well-respected critics – one gave it one star and one gave it five. Love or hate the story, it’s difficult to fault Blanchett’s beautifully nuanced performance, as the love interest to Brad Pitt’s increasingly youthful Benjamin Button.

Who are the top 20 most intense actors of recent times?

charlie bronson

I do like an intense character and performance when I’m watching a film. Someone who literally rivets and welds you to the screen, look away at your peril. Some people probably like their films bright and breezy. I don’t mind those too, but there’s something about intensity that leaves a lasting impression. You remember those performances.

As such I thought I’d offer a couple of lists of actors and actresses that have had me mesmerised, entranced and – at times – a little frightened. I’ve most likely left off a lot of vintage performances and characters, but this is MY list so I’m allowed. Let me know your thoughts. Who would you have liked to have seen included?

In these lists I’ve put links to clips from some performances you might not have seen before, or maybe just want to revisit. Remember though, best not watch alone though, these lot are intense!

The guys

  1. charlie bronsonDaniel Day Lewis (Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting, Gangs of New York; Daniel Plainview, There will be Blood)
  2. Heath Ledger (The Joker, The Dark Knight)
  3. Tom Hardy (Charles Bronson, Bronson)
  4. Christian Bale (Patrick Bateman, American Psycho; Batman, The Batman Trilogy)
  5. Kevin Spacey (John Doe, Seven)
  6. Christopher Walken (Vicenzo Carcotti, True Romance; Frank White, King of New York)
  7. Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men)
  8. Christopher Waltz (Col. Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds)
  9. Vincent Cassel (Jacques Mesrine, Mesrine)
  10. Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills, Taken)
  11. Jeremy Renner (Sergeant William James, The Hurt Locker; Jem Coughlin, The Town)
  12. Gary Oldman (Drexel, True Romance)

The gals

  1. helena bonham carter harry potterHelena Bonham Carter (Red Queen, Alice in Wonderland; Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter)
  2. Cate Blanchett (Galadriel, Lord of the Rings)
  3. Marion Cotillard (Mal, Inception)
  4. Angelina Jolie (Lisa Rowe, Girl, Interrupted)
  5. Melanie Laurent (Shosanna Dreyfus, Inglourious Basterds)
  6. Charlize Theron (Aileen Wuornos, Monster)
  7. Famke Janssen (Xena Onotopp, Goldeneye; Jean Grey, Xmen: The Last Stand)
  8. Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

So, there’s my list. You’ll notice there’s more men than women, I’m not sure why. I think, perhaps, there’s a tendency – particularly in Hollywood – for studios to shy away from films with intense, female leads. I wonder if they are more of a risk commercially? I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s more to do with a lack of decent scripts for women, ones that don’t play to stereotypes.

One thing I’ve noticed is how top actors portray intensity – for me – it’s in the eyes. I think it’s what separates great actors and actresses from the rest. If you allow yourself to be drawn into their gaze, there’s so much depth there. Depending on the character they’re playing, it can be equally exciting, captivating and terrifying. Watch Pacino in The Godfather, making the decision to kill with his eyes. A lesson in intensity.

Right, I need to go watch some comedy now to level out. It’s all got too much. I’ll finish with artwork of Marion Cotillard, not because it’s intense, but because it’s simply beautiful – and that’s all the reason you need.

Marion Cotillard artwork