Cate Blanchett on finding peace in her Crowborough home

Cate Blanchett walks the red carpet at last year's Venice Film Festival (Matteo Chinellato/Shutterst

Cate Blanchett walks the red carpet at last year's Venice Film Festival (Matteo Chinellato/Shutterstock.com) - Credit: Matteo Chinellato / Shutterstock

From her native Australia to the Hollywood Hills, Cate Blanchett’s nuanced acting has rendered her one of cinema’s most acclaimed stars – but away from the cameras she has found peace in her new Crowborough home

As one of Australia's finest acting exports, Cate Blanchett has made her mark on modern cinema in ways both large and small, from parts in sweeping epics such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, to dark comedies like Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, for which she was awarded an Oscar.

Indeed, over the course of her half-century of film roles to date, Cate has proved beyond doubt there is very little she is unable to turn her hand to. Appearances as monarchs (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), comic book goddesses (Thor: Ragnarök), and even Bob Dylan (I'm Not There), can attest as much.

"I like the unknown factor when it comes to choosing a role or a project," the 50-year-old explains. "I usually rely on my instinct in the sense that if I know right away how I can interpret a character, I'll usually turn it down because I find it too predictable or I feel like I've been there before."

Fans of the Victoria-born actress will once again see this willingness to test herself evident in Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, Richard Linklater's adaptation of the best-selling 2012 novel by Maria Semple. Cate stars as the eponymous Bernadette, an architect once heralded for great things, but having lost her career momentum. Having devoted herself to raising her child, her world threatens to implode when her teenage daughter prepares to leave home to begin school - a theme that the star believes will resonate with those who have spent time raising children at the expense of personal ambition.

"There's a universal aspect to her that men and women can both relate to," she nods. "We all have a certain image of ourselves and we're all clinging to a particular perception of ourselves that is different from the reality.

"In Bernadette's case, she's been postponing that reckoning that often comes at 4am when you're replaying your life in your head and struggling with your failures. She has poured so much of herself into her role as a mother and thrown herself into doing everything for her daughter, so when she sees her daughter leaving home, she's forced to deal with that dreaded space of what comes afterward."

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It is territory that director Linklater, who made the sprawling, highly acclaimed Boyhood, has explored before: "As a filmmaker, Rick is really interested in parent-child relationships and in portraits of marriage," she says. "And his films often deal with people leaving adolescence into adulthood and that kind of terrain, so he had his own, very personal stuff to pour into the film."

For all the luxuries afforded by virtue of her red-carpet career, Cate still manages to retain a level of relatability that sets her apart from the sometimes-vainglorious world of Hollywood. The real-life parallels between herself and Bernadette are no less obvious for her as a mother to three sons and a daughter with husband of more than 20 years Andrew Upton: "My God, I'm up all night traipsing around the corridors of my house," she laughs. "It's often where mothers do most of their thinking."

That "house", incidentally, provides yet another buffer between the spotlight of the film industry and her desire for a private life. Staunchly eschewing a life in Los Angeles, she and her husband have stayed close to their respective roots instead, with a decade-long stint in Brighton having given way to a return to Australia, which in turn ended recently with the couple's acquisition of a £3.25m home in Crowborough.

It was formerly owned by another of the county's famous former residents, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the family's return to the bucolic British landscape after their time in the suburban sprawl of Sydney will allow Cate to indulge in a long-held ambition to get up close and personal with what she describes as Sussex's "verdant countryside."

"I'd love to become better at gardening," she says.

"My mother was a wonderful gardener; she had a fabulous green thumb. I would like to cultivate one of my own!"

The house's leafy surroundings may offer an ideal escape from the lenses of the world's paparazzi, but Blanchett is still thankful to have mostly missed out on the modern pressures exerted on up-and-coming stars by way of social media and the internet.

"I don't pay attention to it," she explains. "I'm busy with my life with my husband and our four children and with my work.

I don't get involved in that other side of things and that's why I'm not part of social media and I try to stay removed from the interest the public might have in my life. I enjoy meeting people in person and I'm grateful that people might appreciate my work but it's not something I think about at all."

That's not to say, of course, that Cate has shied away from the social media campaigns that have prompted huge changes in Hollywood over the past two years. A vocal advocate of a more supportive industry environment - "For profound, lasting change to occur, it has to take place through specific actions" - she hopes to pass on a semblance of this social activism to her children.

"I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I try to teach my children about things they need to reflect about as they make their way in life," she nods. "Our eldest son Dashiell is a teenager, and he usually rejects everything I tell him. But at least we've taught him how to look at the world and to have a critical perspective on what he reads in the media.

"I've been lucky to have four very strong characters to look after and a husband who has been there to help me with that task. It's a wonderful responsibility but there's a lot of work involved in handling the logistical as well as the emotional chaos!"

Come awards season, Cate's name will surely be bandied about as usual off the back of Bernadette.

And she seems to have found a balance in her own life that has eluded the character she plays. "I love spending as much time as I can watching my children, playing with them, and being surprised by how fast they learn things and how they're growing up," she says.

"It's very important to me to be able to enjoy taking them to school or making their lunches or cooking dinner at home for my family.

"I also like being able to be the kind of mother who is not only there to take care of them and love them very dearly but also one who has a career. I think it's important to set an example and show how the two can work together quite well."

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