Like Martin Scorsese, who cast Blanchett as Hepburn, Soderbergh was astute enough to see Blanchett's diva potential, but she may be living in the wrong movie era. Set her down among the emaciated twigs who pass for starlets these days, and she's enormous in every sense. She has the charisma, the unorthodox beauty and the dramatic intensity of a 1940s superstar. She doesn't "disappear" into her roles—that would be mere proficiency—but puts her own stamp on them, and she's way too versatile to be pegged as a character actor. That wide, mobile mouth promises infinite possibilities of strength and vulnerability, and there's a goofy screwball comedian in her who doesn't get used nearly enough. Yet more often than not, she finds herself in subordinate roles that may help sell a movie, but sell her capabilities short. In Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel, as Brad Pitt's troubled wife, who's shot by a sniper in the first few minutes, Blanchett has little to do but writhe filthy and half-naked on the dirt floor of a Moroccan hovel. Blanchett reveled in the intensity of working with Iñárritu, and she shrugs off charges that the director bit off more than he could chew with a huge ensemble and a global reach. "Things that are different always come in for criticism," she says matter-of-factly. "You just have to brace yourself for it." She's less thick-skinned about the mixed reviews for Richard Eyre's Notes on a Scandal, an atonal melodrama in which Blanchett plays a disoriented high school art teacher who allows herself to be drawn into an affair with a 15-year-old pupil, then further entangles herself with a manipulative closet lesbian played by Judi Dench. It's true that Blanchett and Dench's overwrought dialectic wrings whatever fun there is to be had from a movie that feels like a cheap parody of a Muriel Spark novel. But when I tell her that Notes on a Scandal has already raised hackles among women who found both characters pathetic and demeaning, Blanchett bridles. She doesn't lose her cool, but she's clearly not amused, and shoots back with a prickly "I think its purpose is to raise everyone's hackles. It's a very spiky, difficult subject, about two women who are deeply, deeply lonely, and utterly isolated in their loneliness. It's always disappointing when you make something and people take it on the s... More >>>