Cate Blanchett

The Missing

Interviewed by Stephen Applebaum

“Ron was lying on the ground in the production office, having the tarantula on his groin ”

Whether she is in the fairytale realm of Lord Of The Rings or the gritty urban reality of Veronica Guerin, Cate Blanchett seems at home in almost any milieu. Now the Aussie thesp is tackling the western for the first time, lending a feminine touch to a genre traditionally fuelled by testosterone.

Are you a fan of the western?

I must admit I was not particularly au fait with the genre. My father is from Texas, and I grew up hearing John Wayne films bouncing and shooting away on a Sunday afternoon, but it was a very male-dominated genre for me. What interested me was how much of a departure this was in that you have three interesting, across the generations, female characters, literally riding alongside the male characters. Also the emotional and psychological depth of the characters was, for me, a lot richer than I've seen in a western. But never once did it sacrifice the thrill of the chase. So it was a journey into the unknown for me.

Was it difficult living the country life in the film?

Yes, I'm quite urban. I don't like to be too far away from an espresso machine. But I promised Ron I could do it, and when you make a promise to Ron Howard, you have to deliver. It's very different than going on holiday and thinking you might horse ride. When you know the cameras are going to be rolling in six weeks, you've got to bloody well be able to do it!

Wasn't there also something that you were meant to do involving a spider?

Yes, Ron asked to have a tarantula crawl on me in a scene which he then cut from the film! But when Ron was lying on the ground in the production office, having the tarantula on his groin and saying, "See, it's easy!" you can't say no.

How did parenthood inform your performance?

I'm sure, on a subliminal level, that that mother-child relationship must have been strengthened within me because I'm actually undergoing the experience. However, there is a myriad of different ways of parenting. Because of Maggie's experience and the hardship of her upbringing, her flinty sense of self-protection - which is very different from my own emotional make up - what concerns her as a parent is something very different. I also think the mother-son relationship is a very different thing to the mother-daughter relationship, which is very complicated.