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Cate Blanchett doesn’t mince words, particularly when it comes to her skin.
“I am a practical girl, and I don’t really like using things unless they work,” said the Oscar-winning actress — who is up for two more Academy Awards later this month — during an interview with WWD at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel here. “A makeup artist friend of mine introduced me to SK-II about seven years ago — and then I fell pregnant and saw big changes in my skin. I’ve been a little evangelical about it since then.” She’s pregnant again — this time with number three, due in April.
Blanchett began working with the Procter & Gamble-owned brand a little over three years ago in her native Australia, around the time the beauty giant launched the luxury brand in the U.S. Last October, Blanchett was named global ambassador for SK-II, and her first American ads for the brand will break in Elle magazine tomorrow.
It is her first — and only — beauty endorsement. She admits there was a learning curve involved with the products, however. “When I got my first bottle of Facial Treatment Essence [one of the brand’s best-selling moisturizers] I wasn’t quite sure what it was because the instructions were in Japanese,” she said, joking that she didn’t know whether to apply it or drink it. “But once I tried it, it unlocked the rest of the brand for me. There is a myriad of products, and within that, you can make your own ritual catered to your needs, which is what I do.”
Part of Blanchett’s ritual involves caring for skin that often takes a beating, depending on what role she happens to be working on at any given time. Her role as the elf Queen Galadriel in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy was one that presented cosmetic challenges for Blanchett and several of her costars, due to the prosthetics involved. “Prosthetics are really tough on your skin…there have been times when I was in makeup for six or seven hours,” she said. “You have this chemical glue on your face — you have to use alcohol to remove it —and you have to be careful, because it’s really like taking a layer off your skin. I’d put the Essence on and leave that on for an hour and then put another moisturizer on top of it. Artistically it was worth it, but I needed to make sure that I had a strong regime to counteract it. I was literally passing out the [SK-II Facial Treatment] masks and Essence to everyone. But I don’t know if I’ll be jumping into a project with prosthetics again.”
Not that she needs another project. Blanchett’s got plenty to keep her busy these days — in addition to preparing for her new baby, she is nominated for two Academy Awards, as Best Actress for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” and Best Supporting Actress for her role in the Bob Dylan biopic, “I’m Not There.”
“That was another skin-taking-a-beating moment,” she said with a laugh. “I moved right from The Golden Age and flew to Montreal with the children to do the Bob Dylan thing. The film is so unusual, so unique, that a lot of distributors and financiers didn’t get it, so it took awhile to get it financed. And when it did, it had — for financial reasons — to go right after I did ‘The Golden Age.’ But it was one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done. Being cast against type is one thing, but being cast against gender?”
For the record (literally) “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” is her favorite Dylan tune, although, “it shifts, depending on my mood,” she said with a laugh. “Dylan is a real chameleon, but not self-consciously so. His creative life is utterly inspiring. Would I want to go out with him? Hmmm….” she said, shaking her head. “But I’m really happy he exists.”
Upcoming projects? Blanchett and her husband, producer/director Andrew Upton, have taken over the artistic direction of the Sydney Theatre Company, with Giorgio Armani as a patron. “We are inheriting the rest of the previous director’s season [as far as programming] and ours will start in October 2008,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
One of Blanchett’s first directing projects for the company is Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking,” a one-woman show based on Didion’s life. The Australian production stars Robyn Nevin — with Armani costumes — and begins previews on March 25.
In terms of her film work, Blanchett is in preproduction on “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” due out in 2009, and in postproduction on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” both due out later this year. After that, she says, she’ll take a break. “I’m not returning to acting until 2009, when I’m back on stage at the STC. We’re doing a Shakespeare cycle, which should be fantastic.”
And there’s one more thing she’d like to set the record straight on: She’s been famously quoted as dying her hair so often she couldn’t remember its natural color.
“I let it grow out a bit, and a friend said, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were a swampwater blonde.’ And I said ‘not anymore!’ and went straight and had it colored.”