Cate Blanchett on 'bringing the system down' as a 'contemporary' femme fatale in 'Nightmare Alley'

Cate Blanchett digs into what makes her #NightmareAlley character so different from more traditional femme fatales. See more on EW's #Awardist:

Nightmarealley, Awardist

1/24/2022 10:00:00 PM

Cate Blanchett digs into what makes her NightmareAlley character so different from more traditional femme fatales. See more on EW's Awardist :

In the latest episode of EW's The Awardist podcast, the two-time Oscar winner opens up about her roles in two awards hopefuls, 'Don't Look Up' and 'Nightmare Alley.'

of the film describes her as "a purring blond puma in a skirt suit," but Blanchett is quick to point out the unconventionality of this particular femme fatale."I think there's a richness and a texture to her, in a way that perhaps there's not in traditional femme fatales," she tells EW's Joshua Rothkopf.

"Femme fatales, to me, often are sirens who — and it's always men — draw men into the rocks, but for destructive reasons. Whereas I think Lilith is interested in bringing the system down. And that feels a very contemporary thing for a woman who's suffered extreme pain to want to do. And it's all pouched in the buoyant, strange, and unique humanity in which Guillermo makes his movies."

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EW's review of the film describes her as "a purring blond puma in a skirt suit," but Blanchett is quick to point out the unconventionality of this particular femme fatale. "I think there's a richness and a texture to her, in a way that perhaps there's not in traditional femme fatales," she tells EW's Joshua Rothkopf. "Femme fatales, to me, often are sirens who — and it's always men — draw men into the rocks, but for destructive reasons. Whereas I think Lilith is interested in bringing the system down. And that feels a very contemporary thing for a woman who's suffered extreme pain to want to do. And it's all pouched in the buoyant, strange, and unique humanity in which Guillermo makes his movies." Blanchett describes Lilith as "deeply ambiguous and unknowable and mysterious," so, to get a handle on portraying her, she says her director encouraged her to create a backstory for the character. "Guillermo is very, very big on backstory," she explains. "So even though a lot of the characters never explicitly mention who they are, what motivates them, what their history is, he absolutely wants all of those characters to be rich and full the minute they walk in the door, and also for them to have a secret that is only shared with him." DON'T LOOK UP, NIGHTMARE ALLEY Cate Blanchett in"Don't Look Up" (L) and"Nightmare Alley" (R) | Credit: NIKO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX; Kerry Hayes/Searchlight Pictures Her experience working on the neo-noir psychological thriller could not have been more different from filming McKay's disaster flick, both due to COVID protocols and a significant difference in directing styles. McKay is known for having an improvisatory set, and while Blanchett says she feels that all acting has some improv involved, Don't Look Up was a unique experience. Likening the film to "silent movie-making," Blanchett says, "It was a bit hard because [McKay] was masked and behind his PPE, so you couldn't always understand him, but he would often throw lines in from the side or let the take run and run and run." She adds, "What was great about it is that, after a few takes, you realized you could go really off-piste because you might end up somewhere useful. And particularly because the absurd became increasingly realistic and possible. We were all living it. We're living the ridiculousness as a species. So with every passing day, it felt like things that were happening out there in the so-called real world could be not necessarily directly referenced but definitely fed into the way we were working." Nightmare is in theaters now, and Don't Look Up  is streaming on Netflix. Listen to the full interview on EW's  The Awardist  podcast below or available wherever you listen to podcasts. Subscribe for new episodes every Monday. Our new season covers the road to the 2022 Oscars with in-depth analysis and interviews with