Whether playing Queen Elizabeth I or Katharine Hepburn, Bob Dylan or Middle Earth’s storied elf queen, Blanchett reigns supreme on screen with that rare power to completely embody any role. Yet her appeal far transcends the iconic characters she has brought to life on film—indeed, it is her work as a champion of the arts that has made her one of the country’s most admired figures. Specifically, her tireless support for the Australian theatre industry in her five-year tenure as co-artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company (STC) alongside husband Andrew Upton.
“[It’s] probably the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us, apart from marriage and children, of course,” Blanchett told InStyle of the gig in 2009, in an interview accompanying her Women of Style cover shoot (Blanchett took out the Readers’ Choice and Arts & Culture categories). In her first season at the STC, she staged a critically acclaimed production of the Tennessee Williams classic A Streetcar Named Desire. Never one to shy away from complex parts, the actor portrayed Blanche DuBois—a performance Meryl Streep said was "as raw,extraordinary and astonishing and surprising and [as] scary as anything I’ve ever seen”.
On finding inspiration for her often-challenging dramatic roles, Blanchett mused, “It’s not women who succeed in a conventional sense [who] I find inspiring but the women who move through failure and mistakes and just keep going."
Ten years on and success for the 48-year-old mother of four is represented by much more than her many acting accolades (though it should be noted that Blanchett has two Academy Awards, including the coveted Best Actress for Blue Jasmine in 2014—making her the only Australian to have won dual acting Oscars).
Last year, she was made a Companion of the Order of Australia with a special mention of her contributions to both humanitarian and environmental causes. Determined to help create a greener world, Blanchett is a long-time ambassador for the Australian Conservation Foundation, which promotes ecological sustainability. She has also made it her mission to bring attention to the global refugee crisis, and in 2016 was appointed a global Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
As an icon of style, Blanchett is known for her daring and fashion-forward choices—from Givenchy and Christian Dior to the sharpest of Armani suits. “It’s not every day you get to wear couture, so I do relish the chance to dress up,” she told InStyle. This month, Blanchett steps into the international spotlight as jury president of the 71st Cannes Film Festival—and no doubt she will be dressed for the occasion. Reflecting on her red carpet duties, she’s typically jovial: “It’s got to be fun, otherwise you’re just wasting your time."