By and  on March 8, 2002

Cate Blanchett's offbeat sense of style comes straight out of her inner life -- and from trusting in her own feminine and very Australian whimsy.

"I'm curious about how people express themselves," Blanchett says over the phone from Dublin, where she recently started filming "Chasing the Dragon: The Veronica Guerin Story," about the Irish journalist killed in 1996 by an assassin hired by the drug dealers she exposed. "What excites me is the image people think they present with what they're wearing. Observing that helps me work on my characters.

"I guess I've spent my whole life dressing up," she says, "whether it's as an actor or the masking up you do when you go to an event. My absolute credo is: You must have fun with it. And then there's the incredible life experience of getting to chew the fat with people like John Galliano or Alexander McQueen."

Blanchett has seared her image onto the public's consciousness ever since she appeared in her first major film, "Oscar and Lucinda," opposite Ralph Fiennes. Yet she has the ability to disappear into her varied roles with the relish of a Meryl Streep. It's somehow appropriate that Blanchett played the elfin queen Galadriel in this year's hit "Lord of the Rings," since she has the ability both to seemingly glow and yet disappear into thin air.

She's always been more than a little fashion conscious -- but it's never been simply clothes for clothes' sake. Her fascination with clothes and style has been fueled by her constant devouring of books, poetry, plays and music. She laughs when talking about her beauty now, remembering what a nightmare it was growing up in sunny Australia with such white skin. "I desperately wanted a tan, but could never get one," she once said, chuckling. "I'd lie up on the roof for hours slathered in oil, and all I'd do was burn."

But Blanchett's God-given graces are now almost iconic: her pale skin, piercing blue eyes, long aquiline nose that looks different at various angles, her fluidity of movement that comes from years of dance class -- and her burning enthusiasm that comes through even when she's calm.

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