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Rome: Cate Blanchett Defends Straight Actors Playing Gay Characters

Rome: Cate Blanchett Defends Straight Actors Playing Gay Characters

Cate Blanchett at Rome Film Fest

The actress said she will "fight to the death for the right to suspend disbelief."

Cate Blanchett came to the Rome Film Festival on Friday to participate in a “Close Encounter” discussion with the fest’s artistic director Antonio Monda.

Blanchett talked about her life’s work, joking that she had to act to find Brad Pitt sexy in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and admitting that she was so nervous to receive a phone call to work with Martin Scorsese in The Aviator, that she accepted the role without even understanding that she had committed to play Katharine Hepburn.

When looking at footage from Todd Haynes’ Carol, based on Patricia Highsmith's novel about a forbidden love affair between two women, she said she had never been asked more questions about her sexuality than when she played a lesbian character. Many interviewers during the Carol junket seemed to imply or question whether having a lesbian experience was essential to understanding such a role.

For Blanchett, she believes this defies the whole point of acting. “It also speaks to something that I’m quite passionate about in storytelling generally, but in film specifically, is that film can be quite a literal medium,” she said.

“And I will fight to the death for the right to suspend disbelief and play roles beyond my experience. I think reality television and all that that entails had an extraordinary impact, a profound impact on the way we view the creation of character,” she continued.

“I think it provides a lot of opportunity, but the downside of it is that we now, particularly in Amer ica, I think, we expect and only expect people to make a profound connection to a character when it’s close to their experience,” she said.

Outside of acting ability, Hollywood has been criticized by multiple human rights groups in recent years for giving its limited gay roles to straight actors, as well as giving transgender roles to cisgender actors.

As Sir Ian McKellen has pointed out, no openly gay man has ever won a best actor Oscar, whereas many straight actors have taken home the trophy for playing gay parts: Charlize Theron in Monster or Sean Penn in Milk, among others. The Advocate has pointed out 52 straight people who received Oscar nominations for playing gay characters, including both Blanchett and Rooney Mara for Carol.

“Part of being an actor to me, it’s an anthropological exercise. So you get to examine a timeframe, a set of experiences, an historical event that you didn’t know anything about,” said Blanchet t. “But also I'm about to play a character whose political persuasions are entirely different to my own, but part of the pleasure is trying to work out what makes her tick.”

Blanchett is hopeful that more gay films are being greenlit today, saying that Carol was difficult to get off the ground when it was in development, even with her and Mara attached as leads.

“Carol was a real labor of love for me. I’d read the Patricia Highsmith story ages ago, when I was in high school. And the film, I think now would be made in a heartbeat, but eight years ago, it was a very difficult film to get up,” she said.

“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.' Thank goodness we’re changing the demographic of the critics who write for Rotten Tomatoes.”

“For me if something is difficult to make,” she said, “it’s lik e a red rag to a bull. It makes me want to make it more.”

Rome Film Festival continues through Oct. 28.

Source: Google News Hollywood

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