Cate Blanchett on 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette' and Locking Herself in the Bathroom (Exclusive)
By Desiree Murphy
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Cate Blanchett delivers a seriocomic performance in her latest film, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, that will have you laughing, crying and searching for that inner spark to go after your wildest dreams.
The two-time Oscar winner plays titular character Bernadette Fox, a former renowned architect with a MacArthur "Genius" Grant who becomes reclusive and anxiety-ridden after abandoning her career and moving to Seattle with her tech billionaire husband, Elgie (Billy Crudup), and their daughter, Bee (newcomer Emma Nelson). Avoiding social interactions and leaving the house at all costs, Bernadette, for the most part, only communicates with her family and an India-based virtual assistant named Manjula Kapoor.
"The problem that Bernadette has is that she's so stuck, creatively and emotionally blocked, and what her daughter has to help her do is kind of help her find her mojo again," Blanchett explains in a candid phone interview with ET.
Following an intervention (that unsurprisingly doesn't go over so well), Bernadette mysteriously disappears from her family days before a planned vacation to Antarctica, all in an attempt to reconnect with her creative side and rediscover her passion. The film is a beautiful portrait of marriage, family and the journey to self-discovery.
Directed by Richard Linklater and based on Maria Semple's best-selling novel of the same name, the charming dramedy is stacked with A-list talent, with stars like Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live, Bridesmaids), Judy Greer (13 Going on 30, Arrested Development), Troian Bellisario(Pretty Little Liars, Feed) and Laurence Fishburne (Black-ish, Hannibal) rounding out the cast.
Ahead of the film's Friday release, ET spoke with Blanchett about working with the all-star team, the "special" accessory she received from Semple and how, as a mother to four of her own kids (Dashiell, Roman, Edith and Ignatius with husband Andrew Upton), she can hilariously relate to Bernadette's need for solitary moments.
ET: Bernadette, she's such an amusing character. I feel like it was probably a lot of fun for you to play her...
Cate Blanchett: Yes! I mean, she's so conflicted and confounding and socially dysfunctional, and restless in a kind of hilarious way. So yes, it's always great to play someone complicated who's placed in a very absurd situation.
Absolutely! As a mother yourself, what was it like portraying a mom like Bernadette, going through all of those internal hardships?
Well, I think a lot of parents, mothers, in particular, will kind of relate to Bernadette. The great thing about Bernadette is that she's honest about what it is that she is feeling. Like, she doesn't hide anything from her daughter. They have a really great, open, honest relationship. They're almost like best buddies.
When your kids watch, do you think they'll find any similarities between mom and Bernadette?
I don't know, maybe they will [laughs]. I don't know if I can answer for my kids.
You somehow do it all. We see you juggling your career, motherhood, appearances. Where do you go and what do you do when you feel the need to escape from reality?
I lock myself in the bathroom [laughs]. I think I'm like most people! There is no balance between parenthood and work and your personal aspirations. There is no balance. It's ridiculous saying that there is; the wheels are constantly falling off. Life is confounding and confusing and absurd and the great thing for me about having kids is they really keep you humble.
So, yeah. I think like most mothers, my alone time is locked in the loo.
I think a lot of moms that go see this will connect with this story. I also want to shout-out your young co-star, Emma, considering it's her feature film debut. She's adorable and a star in her own right now. Did you offer her any career tips?
No, no. I think the worst thing you can do for someone that's entering the film industry is to give them advice because people have to find their own way. Emma's her own person and she's really mature and she and [Billy], in particular, had a really great relationship. It's a really important relationship in the novel, but also in the film. The center of it is this mother-daughter relationship, and then the mother disappears, you don't know what happened to her, so the daughter then has to reconnect with her father.
I agree, and the movie seems to follow along with the book quite closely. How involved was the author, Maria, with production? It sounds like you were a genuine fan of the book beforehand.
I'm a huge Maria Semple fan. My first interface with Bernadette was obviously in the novel, just as a fan. And then I went and met Maria and I adore her; I absolutely adore Maria. One of the most special things that happened was she gave me her dark glasses that she actually wore when she got to Seattle. So they're the ones that I'm wearing in the film. That was really a very special little verb of trust from Maria.
Do you have those in your possession now? Did you get to keep them?
Yeah, it was very loving of her to do.
That is sweet, I love that. Going back to working with the cast, everyone in this was great. There are so many amazing people involved. What was your favorite part about working with everyone as an ensemble?
I think you just said it. I mean, I've always wanted to work with Kristen, I'm such a huge fan of hers. I just wish we had more to do together in the movie. And I worked with Billy years ago on a movie [2001's Charlotte Gray], so it was great to reconnect with him and with Emma for the first time.
The intervention scene [with Billy and Emma] was really fun, and all of the mudslide stuff with Kristen. I loved doing that.
Those were some of my favorite scenes too. I have to say, I was also very jealous seeing all the places you guys got to travel for this, [Greenland as a stand-in for] Antarctica especially. How was that experience, and did you have a favorite day on set?
It would have to be, selfishly, going out in that kayak amongst the icebergs. It was one of, apart from the births of my children and the day I married my husband, it was probably one of the most happiest days of my life. The sound of being amongst those icebergs and, you know, how fragile they are and how big their holes are underneath them. It's just -- if people would go there and see them, they would instantly become advocates for protecting the environment there.
The earth is so magical. Why do we want to go to Mars? I don't know. I think there are so many weird and wonderful places on the earth that need protection and the ice is certainly one of them, but yeah. Also, I'm obsessed with whales and so many of my friends have actually just been out surfing or on a boat and they've seen one, but I've never seen a whale. And as I was heading out on the kayak towards the bergs, a whale and her calf just breached the water.
Oh my gosh, to see that up close!
Yes, it was amazing. So they were literally, I would say, about 6-7 meters away from me. It was incredible.
Switching gears for a minute, we had some big news out of Comic-Con recently, Natalie Portman announced as female Thor [Jane Foster] in Thor: Love and Thunder. How did you react and how ecstatic are you to see her in this role?
Oh, totally! I'm so, so excited. And with Taika [Waititi as director], it'll be, I'm so looking forward to seeing it. You know, because I absolutely loved seeing them all with my kids, but I really, really loved Captain Marvel.
Yes, that was so good. Brie Larson was amazing!
Yeah, no offense, Taika, but it was probably my favorite. And then to know that Natalie is going to have such a pivotal role is really exciting.
We were talking to Scarlett Johansson at Comic-Con as well. She believes the future is female for Marvel and you helped pave the way for that to happen in a way by playing Marvel's first female villain in Thor: Ragnarok. What's it like for you, personally, to see where the MCU is now, creating even more powerful roles for women?
I think one of the people that's actually paving the way for that is Victoria Alonso. She's the only female executive at Marvel and she has been an incredible advocate for feminizing that universe. And also, I think that often, quite political stuff happens in comic books. So it's right and true that those franchises should be actually cutting-edge, because that's what comics do, traditionally what they've done. They've always explored things and mentioned films that picked up and so I think it's fantastic.
Is there any chance that you would ever return to the franchise? Could we maybe see you in Love and Thunder? What are the chances of that happening?
Oh! Well, I think that's probably a Marvel question. I'm here...
So if they asked you, would you be down?
Where'd You Go, Bernadette hits theaters Friday, Aug. 16.