Michele Manelis talks to Cate Blanchett about casting her spell in family movie The House With a Clock in Its Walls.
Your new film, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, is about a mysterious house. How do you feel about magic?
Magic makes me scream. Literally. If a magician was to walk in here now and cut open a lemon and find the card that I'd guessed, I would scream uncontrollably like a 5-year-old. I'm a total sucker for magic, levitation, whatever, card tricks.
So, is that what attracted you to this movie?
A huge draw, apart from loving the book as a child, was to work with [director] Eli Roth. It's those unusual unexpected juxtapositions that I find really enticing. And given his history as a horror director, the fact that he was asked to make a family film, I thought that was going to be something. I like magic, and the idea of playing a witch whose magic was broken I found quite touching.
This is not your first movie which addresses otherworldly creatures.
True. I made a movie years ago with Sam Raimi called The Gift, a little film, which was really special for him to make. It was set in Savannah and Savannah has definitely got some uga buga going down there. I was playing a psychic, a clairvoyant. And so I met a lot of clairvoyants in Los Angeles for research.
Did they tell you anything interesting?
One of them said to me: "You're going to play a writer who's ahead of their time. She has short hair; she gets killed for what she writes. Her name is something like Guaven, Gueven, and you're going to have two bodyguards." And I went, "Me? Bodyguards? You've got to be kidding." And I found myself two years later on the set of Veronica Guerin, who was a journalist who got shot for what she wrote about the underworld. And because the John Gilligan case had opened up (the man who was convicted of her murder), the producers had put bodyguards on set. And so, I was coming from set, covered in blood, having just shot the scene where she was killed. I had short hair and I was walking to the car and I turned around to talk to someone and there were two bodyguards there. I had a flashback, thinking "She said this two years ago!" Creepy! She also said I'd have four kids when at the time I had no kids. And that came to pass as well.
You've been outspoken about the #metoo movement. What is your assessment of where things are now?
I've been reading a lot lately about the women's movement in the 70s and the lead up to the election of Reagan and it does seem a little bit like Groundhog Day. I think the important thing is that we're not having the same conversation in 30 years time. And some changes will happen and have happened very quickly and some changes will take longer. And I think the media has an enormous responsibility in the way they use language around this conversation and how it's reported on. And that this is not seen as being an isolated issue just for women, or for women in this industry, but it's in every industry.
You're bringing up children in an affluent environment. How will you make sure they're not spoiled?
Unfortunately money is an issue. We live in a very capitalist world, capitalism is rampant and the centralisation of wealth, the divide between the haves and the have-nots is growing, and that trend is going deeper and deeper by the day. So, I think the kids are very aware of their relative privilege. And on the couple of missions that I've been on with UNHCR, I've taken the children with me, obviously not in dangerous situations, but I think it's important to expose them to current events, to expose them to other people's experiences and to not bring them up in an isolated bubble.
After raising three boys, how did the dynamic change with adopting a little girl?
I wasn't a girl who grew up thinking I would love to have kids and it wasn't because I didn't like children. But then I met my husband and we had a child and we talked about adopting after our first child and then we had another child and talked about adopting. So it wasn't about having a little girl. We felt like we had space in our lives and I am so proud of my three boys for the way they have welcomed her into their lives and she is so lucky to have them and they are very lucky to have her. She is a blessing.
• Cate Blanchett's The House with a Clock in its Walls is in theatres now.