But Cate hasn’t been able to stay away for long. Though currently based in New York, Cate has decided to follow her The Talented Mr. Ripley co-star and friend Kate Winslet to the East Sussex enclave being dubbed Oscartown. Once the home to author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Doctor Who’s Tom Baker, the leafy Crowborough, which is just an hour south of London, has become somewhat of a magnet for the stars. Cate has snapped up Highwell House – a 19th-century red-brick manor, which boasts 13 acres of grounds, and is rumoured to have cost around £3 million. Built in 1890, and originally called Higher Steep, the house had fallen into disrepair, but was extensively renovated by designer Paula Barnes and now boasts seven bedrooms, five reception rooms, eight bathrooms and as befits all English manors, a grand, sweeping oak staircase.
The actress, who has won two Oscars and was nominated for one for her recent role in Carol, plans to live there with theatre director husband Andrew Upton and their children Dashiell John, Roman Robert, Ignatius Martin and adopted daughter Edith Vivian Patricia. No doubt they will love the games room, while the family room, greenhouse, and sweeping views will keep Cate’s love affair with Sussex going strong. There’s a private pond with an island, lawns for croquet and picnics, and various outbuildings for the children to explore.
Set just three miles outside the town centre, it’s within easy commuting distance to London, while Kate Winslett lives in nearby West Wittering with her husband Ned Rocknroll and her three children. Heather Mills lives in nearby Robertsbridge and so while the area has long been host to the fabulously rich and famous, Cate is effortlessly its most glamorous new resident. And this sums up the dichotomy of Cate and her enduring allure: is she a glamorous metropolitan starlet or a thespian country bumpkin? Does she thrive better on-screen or live for the stage? Or is she simply an eternally curious artist who never wants to cease learning and discovering?
Well, whatever the truth, passion and intense fervour are two of Cate’s trademarks and they have kept her consistently in the upper echelons of Hollywood’s A-list, as she flits effortlessly from playing steely monarchs to irreparably broken socialites, screen to stage, and from blockbuster smash to arthouse masterpiece. The coming year is set to be another bumper year for Cate: having recently completed work on Ocean’s Eight, the female spin-off of the billion-dollar hit Ocean’s franchise alongside Sandra Bullock and Elizabeth Banks, the hotly-anticipated Terrence Malick film Song to Song – also starring Michael Fassbender, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling and her Carol co-star Rooney Mara – allowed the cast more freedom to interpret their roles, something Cate finds inspiring and refreshing.
‘Working with Terry is a fascinating experience. He often shoots without a script and without any prepared dialogue and he wants his actors to take a journey with him,’ says the 47-year-old. ‘He starts shooting and he wants to see what happens during that process where you as an actor are often in the dark and you’re improvising each scene. He’s very inspiring to work for.’ The film is set against the backdrop of the vibrant music scene in Austin, Texas, and explores the complex and emotional channels running through two intersecting love triangles, with a flurry of top musicians also expected to appear – including Patti Smith and Florence and the Machine. Continuing in the Badlands director’s free-form narrative style of shooting vast amounts of unscripted scenes and then assembling the film during the edit, none of the actors – including Cate – knows how much of their work remains in the final cut. Indeed, Malick has been known to remove some big-name performances completely.
While some actors may find this process intimidating, the actress says it’s liberating. ‘He’s trying to break down the usual structures and rules about filmmaking,’ she says. ‘It’s like working with a poet as much as with a director and he describes his process as ‘going fishing’. He doesn’t follow any conventional narrative even though he usually has a very specific idea of what he is looking for.’
But with this artist’s instinct to throw herself entirely into her work comes a myriad of anxieties and doubts which stem from setting a very high standard for herself. In her role as a mother to her children, – Dashiell, 15, Roman, 12, Ignatius, nine and Edith Vivian, two – the actress admits to struggling to strike the balance between work and family. ‘I try to do my best as a mother and I love everything which comes with that responsibility,’ she says.
But I accept you can’t be perfect and you will make mistakes from time to time and you try to learn from that. Every parent feels they are failing in some respect. If you are overly dedicated to the children, you worry you’re not giving proper attention to your work. And when you’re working a lot you have misgivings about neglecting your kids. But that’s life. You simply try to do your best.’
Regardless of her inner insecurities, from the outside Cate gives the impression of a woman who has everything under control. In her career, she is still very much in demand. Her 20-year marriage to Andrew is considered one of the strongest in Hollywood, the family having an air of easy bohemia as the couple move their brood from country to country in a quest to make the greatest art possible. During their early years of marriage, the couple spent much of their time in their family home in Brighton, with Cate causing a stir in 2003 when she ordered a £2,000 marble bathtub which needed to be lifted into the four-storey Georgian seafront home by crane. Rather than vilify the actress for her extravagant tastes, locals appeared to be bemused and rather delighted to have a celebrity of her calibre in their midst.
As an actress and personality, the star comes across as a treasure of another era. Her gamine physique, outspokenness, grace and feline beauty are not dissimilar to Katharine Hepburn, who Blanchett played in the Howard Hughes biopic Aviator. It was for this performance she won her first Academy Award, making her the only actor to win an Oscar for portraying another Oscar-winning actor. But all this talk of accolades is tedious to the affable Aussie, as she remarks: ‘I think the recognition is important as long as you don’t let yourself get too carried away by it. You need to keep your feet on the ground even though the attention can be flattering. No-one is immune to praise, but in this business it can be a tricky thing to handle. That’s one of the reasons I hate Twitter and selfies!
‘Using social media in that way can be a huge source of rivalry and jealousy among friends and when you’re taking selfies it’s a way of seeing how much people like you. Social media can be a great way to communicate and connect with other people, but I think selfies and Twitter are often used in an exhibitionist way which isn’t healthy, particularly for younger people.’
When in 2008 Cate took the decision to limit her film roles in order to join her husband as co-artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company, some feared the move would damage her career (it didn’t), but she was determined to forge a connection with the Australian theatrical community despite a reluctance to leave the UK. She has long spoken of the stabilising force of her husband and the pleasure which comes from their shared interest in theatre and film, so naturally Cate isn’t fearful of their work relationship impacting their private one. In fact, she recently made her Broadway debut in The Present – a play based on Chekhov’s fabled first work Platonov – which was created by Upton, and for which they both received rave reviews.
‘I have the feeling many people look upon us with horror by wondering how we’ve been able to work together on a daily basis, but we love it,’ she smiles. ‘We have great respect for each other though we rarely have the same ideas. I always found it very stimulating to listen to his opinions, which were generally distinct from mine, while we were preparing projects for the theatre company. But ultimately those differences brought us even closer together because you get to enjoy the give and take of those discussions and in theatre, you never want to work with people who think exactly the same as you do. You want a clash of ideas because that’s going to achieve a better result in the end.’
In Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, she played a brash and messy woman who is so afraid of ageing and losing her wealth and status, she can’t help but self-destruct. Though she plays the role with customary aplomb – securing her a second gold statuette – Cate is nothing like Jasmine. She is far more tranquil and introspective, and on the subject of ageing, simply scoffs: ‘I just accept it. Getting older happens to all of us and there are many advantages which come with age. I feel much more comfortable in my skin today than I ever have before. I am much more confident and secure in who I am than when I was in my 20s – I would never want to go through those years again.’
As an actress who spends so much time in other people’s skin, she’s refreshingly comfortable in her own. ‘I enjoyed my 30s a great deal and now in my 40s I feel my life has become even better. I would rather approach getting older with a lot of curiosity and a sense of adventure. Even though you might like to fight it, there’s not much point.’
Perhaps that’s why she loves the leafy lanes of Sussex so much – she can grow old disgracefully away from prying eyes. The green, English countryside couldn’t be further from the sun-bleached hills of Hollywood, but that’s just how this actress likes it.