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Hedda Steam

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As a bona fide Hollywood entity, Blanchett, now 36, professes disdain for gossip-driven journalism, calling it “a smoke screen to stop us thinking about other things. I think when people get depressed, they eat junk food. And when people get depressed, they consume junk ideas.” Scandal, she swears, bores her—except within the context of Hedda Gabler, where it becomes an interpretative problem.

“The notion of scandal for Hedda is almost beyond our understanding. It’s a feeling of her spirit, the very core of her being being exposed.” And conveying that is perhaps the greatest challenge of playing Hedda: “It’s like the Shakespearean ‘O’ that every actor struggles with. To invest that notion of scandal with as much weight and import when these days a scandal is actually welcomed by a lot of people for bumping up their careers to another level.”

Blanchett’s scandal-free career is largely where she’d like it. She stars as George Clooney’s lover in postwar Berlin in Steven Soderbergh’s forthcoming The Good German, and will appear in Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There, in which she and other actors of both genders play various incarnations of Bob Dylan. And she plays a recovering drug addict in Little Fish, in cinemas this week, along with her Lord of the Rings co-star Hugo Weaving, who’s also in the Gabler production as Hedda’s confidant, Judge Brack. (There are no trips down Lothlòrien lane with Weaving, however. Recently, before throwing a party with lots of kids in attendance, “I said to everyone, ‘Oh, we’re going to get a flower fairy and an elf!’ And I raised my eyes at Hugo when I said ‘elf,’ and he just looked at me blankly like, What are you talking about?”)

Blanchett’s role in Rings was small, which could be why it’s one of the few parts (onscreen or onstage) in which she doesn’t see flaws she’d like to fix. “As soon as you’re finished you think, Ah, now I understand it! If I could just start again! But that’s the seductive thing about being an actor—you think, Next time I won’t make that mistake. It’s all about rectifying what you’ve done.” And in the case of Hedda, she gets another chance to master (or submit to) the “wild ambiguities” of a woman she calls mythological, destructive, and “a time bomb.”

“I hope you enjoy it,” she says of her performance. “Well, enjoy is not really the right word.”


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