One of the world’s most respected and admired performers, Cate Blanchett, has received Australia’s highest screen honour – the AACTA Longford Lyell Award.
Previously named after great Australian film pioneer Raymond Longford, as of this year the Award’s name has been changed to honour not one but two great Australians: Longford, plus Longford’s partner in filmmaking and in life, Lottie Lyell. (Hence, the AACTA Longford Lyell Award).
“I applaud AACTA for expanding this award to acknowledge Lottie Lyell’s rich creative legacy,” said Blanchett, who co-hosted last year’s AACTAs with Deborah Mailman. “The paths we forge in this great film industry of ours are rarely linear and Lyell’s astonishing achievements as an actress of stage and screen, as a writer, producer and director stand as an inspiration for us all.”
Blanchett was presented the award by her frequent co-stars on stage and on screen Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh (most recently, the trio starred in Sydney Theatre Company’s Uncle Vanya together). Tributes poured in on the night from director Gillian Armstrong (who first worked with Blanchett on Oscar and Lucinda) while filmed versions arrived on screen via Blanchett’s former colleagues: Martin Scorsese (The Aviator), Robert Redford (Truth), Ridley Scott (Robin Hood) and Ron Howard (The Missing).
Blanchett is of course one of NIDA’s most famous alumni, graduating in 1992, before embarking on an extraordinary career in theatre. One of her earliest performances was opposite Geoffrey Rush in David Mamet’s Oleanna for the Sydney Theatre Company, where she won a Best Actress award.
After briefly popping up in ABC crime drama Police Rescue, Blanchett’s first major screen time was in 1994 as Elizabeth Ashton in Australian drama mini-series Heartland, followed by Bordertown with Hugo Weaving in 1995.
Then came her transition into feature film, heralded by AFI-nominated turns in the late ’90s in Gillian Armstrong’s Oscar and Lucinda with Ralph Fiennes, and Thank God He Met Lizzie with Richard Roxburgh and Frances O’Connor.
A year later she had an Oscar nomination under her belt too, for her BAFTA and Golden Globe award-winning performance in 1998’s Elizabeth (controversially losing the Oscar to Shakespeare In Love‘s Gwyneth Paltrow that year).
Since then, Blanchett has steadily ascended the Hollywood ladder with notable roles in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Talented Mr Ripley, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Veronica Guerin, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, Charlotte Gray, Robin Hood, I’m Not There and Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella. A six-time Oscar nominee, Blanchett won her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (2005), and upgraded to a Best Actress gong in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine in 2013. She will soon be seen in another Patricia Highsmith adaptation, titled Carol, which has just earned her Golden Globe and SAG nominations (surely an Oscar nod is just around the corner too) and she recently appeared opposite Robert Redford in Truth.
Did I mention that amidst all these juicy Hollywood roles, Blanchett never gave up her theatre career? Even during her five-year stint as co-artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company with her husband Andrew Upton? (Upton has only just departed the company himself as the couple prepare to move back to the US.)
And – oh yes, should have mentioned this sooner – but the Oscar winner has also been busy raising four kids. FOUR. Not that you’ll ever hear Blanchett talking much about her private life in magazine interviews. The most she ever gives away is a smattering of enchanting stories about her children growing up as theatre kids and life backstage.
In case you didn’t pick up on my subtle hints, I think she’s absolutely incredible.
Geoffrey Rush sums it up best when talking about her AACTA Longford Lyell Award:
“Cate Blanchett will be celebrated for generations to come as one of the finest performers of our times. She is in the company of but a few performers in this world whose ownership of their craft has redefined it for the rest; taking performance to new levels of excellence to which many aspire.
“But as much as Cate is the master of her craft through classical training, she has that rare thing of innate talent. She has intitution and intelligence in spades, and a willingness and ability to be raw and vuneralbe in performance, through to fierce and challenging.
“From the very first time I saw Cate perform as an undergraduate student at NIDA, to today when I have had the honour of working with this exceptional talent, I along with so many others have tracked her bright star rising. Today it is a pleasure to see Cate honoured as one of our best, alongside so many of Australia’s great men and women of screen. I couldn’t be more proud of, or more pleased for, this exceptional woman and performer.”
First presented in 1968, the AACTA Longford Lyell Award is the highest honour that the Australian Academy can bestow upon an individual in recognition of a person who has made a truly outstanding contribution to the enrichment of Australia’s screen environment and culture.