Cate Blanchett

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Her Oscar-nominated portrayal of the virgin queen in 1998's Elizabeth put Cate Blanchett at the top of every casting director's wish list. The actress admits to being intimidated by the task, though. "I just thought, well, Glenda Jackson played it. Bette Davis played it. And who the hell was I to come along from Australia and try to carry off the role of the monarch who completely transformed British culture?" she recalls.

She obviously needn't have worried, however, as almost ten years on she was invited back to reprise the role in 2007's Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Following her original outing as the legendary queen Cate had little trouble in convincing her audiences of her worth. And it's not just her critics who have heaped praise on her. "She's the best actor working today," said George Clooney in 2006. "Intimidating, in a way, to work with an actor that good."

Cate was born on May 14, 1969, in Melbourne, Australia, to schoolteacher June, and Bob Blanchett, a Texan naval officer who came ashore in Melbourne and never left. Her father died when Cate was just ten years old, resulting in her growing up fiercely independent.

After spending time travelling - during which she was an extra on a boxing film in Egypt - Cate enrolled at Australia's National Institute Of Dramatic Arts. Within a year she had appeared in Timothy Daly's Kafka Dances and a production of Oleanna by David Mamet. She went on to become the first actor to win Sydney's Theatre Critics Circle's Best Newcomer of the Year and Best Actress of the Year awards concurrently.

And when director Gillian Armstrong was looking for someone to star opposite Oscar-nominee Ralph Fiennes in Oscar And Lucinda, it was Cate who sprang to mind. Elizabeth director Shekhar Kapur saw the result, and knew he'd found his queen.

Wary of being typecast and reluctant to take the traditional Hollywood path marked out for ingenues, Cate afterwards opted instead for supporting roles in Pushing Tin and The Talented Mr Ripley. "I'm in revolt against the expected or the obvious," she said at the time. Despite her relatively minor role in Ripley, many believe she provided the emotional centre of the film. Back-to-back films followed, including Bandits, Charlotte Gray and The Shipping News, alongside Kevin Spacey.

It was her portrayal of Katherine Hepburn in Martin Scorcese's The Aviator which finally earned her an Academy Award. In 2005 she took home the best supporting actress gong, becoming the first person to receive an Oscar for a role which had brought an Academy Award for her predecessor. Cate's ability to embody a character continually impresses directors. When she played an amoral villain in 2006's The Good German Steven Soderbergh was duly impressed. "There was nothing we could say. What she had done was perfect. It is not easy to play someone so evil with such immense subtlety," he said.

In 1996 she met her future husband, screenwriter Andrew Upton, while performing in a stage production of The Seagull. It was hardly love at first sight, however. "He thought I was aloof and I thought he was arrogant," Cate remembers. "It just shows you how wrong you can be. But once he kissed me that was that." The two were married in 1997 and welcomed Dashiell John in December 2001. Their second son Roman Robert followed in April 2004.

In November 2006 she and Andrew, who had been living in London and Brighton, made the decision to return to Australia in readiness for taking up full-time jobs as co-artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company in January 2008.

Since moving back to her native Australia Cate has continued to star in several films including The Hobbit and most recently the Woody Allen film Blue Jasmine in which she played the title role. Her role as the deeply troubled Jasmine was highly acclaimed and earned her several awards and another Oscar nomination.
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