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On Monday night Cate Blanchett became the second-youngest recipient of Film at Lincoln Center’s Chaplin Award, joining fellow honorees Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Federico Fellini, Elizabeth Taylor, Martin Scorsese, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sidney Poitier, Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, Helen Mirren and its namesake Charlie Chaplin.
And though Blanchett is a two-time Oscar winner and has worked with Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro and Wes Anderson, among other luminaries, she was “completely and utterly overwhelmed,” she told The Hollywood Reporter, to have received this year’s honor.
“I don’t even know how to express it because you look at the look of previous honorees, and they’re so eclectic, but to a woman, they’re all of them are people who’ve had a deep influence on the American cultural landscape and on filmmaking at large internationally,” she added. “They’re people who I have individually revered, but collectively it’s like entering some sort of strange pantheon.”
She continued, laughing, “Hopefully, I can make it out of the building without them taking the award away from me.”
Yet Monday night’s proceedings weren’t totally unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was announced at the top of the gala that director Todd Haynes, who was set to conduct a Q&A with Blanchett, would not be there since he had tested positive for COVID that morning. Then, the audience was told, presenter Bradley Cooper, who recently starred with Blanchett in Nightmare Alley, was also “not feeling well.” These two announcements, greeted with groans from the audience, were quickly followed by Blanchett shouting from the audience, “I’m here,” which prompted cheers.
The evening featured tributes from Scorsese, Richard Linklater, Hugh Jackman and producer Christine Vachon, who presented Blanchett with her award and shared with the audience that Haynes, though “devastated” not to be there, was apparently still feeling well enough to be frequently texting her throughout the event, wondering what they were doing. Film Comment co-deputy editor Devika Girish filled in for Haynes.
Prior to the gala, Film at Lincoln Center president Lesli Klainberg shared that despite Blanchett perhaps not being old enough for a lifetime achievement award, she had amassed enough impressive, diverse work over her nearly 30 years in the industry to make her worthy of this honor.
“I think Cate really embodies a really extraordinary artist of this time who has worked in independent films; she has worked on studio films; she works on blockbuster studio films,” Klainberg told THR. “The extraordinary variety of directors that she’s worked with, it’s just amazing to think about how many of the finest directors of our time she has been able to work with and all of her projects — we felt that she was also a person who was so active still, still working—this is not intended as an end of your career award.”
As for what’s next for her, Blanchett said she doesn’t have a particular type of project she hasn’t done that she wants to do, but she looks forward to getting a “strange ask.”
“I always think that the job I just finished is my last, and I will finally go and grow orchids in my greenhouse,” she said of her career plans. “I guess if I look back, it’s that I’ve always gravitated towards the strange ask or the ask that’s just an antidote to what I’ve done in some way. It’s an undeniable ask, and the directors I’ve worked with have usually made those asks of me. Not necessarily that I’ve achieved what I’ve wanted to achieve through that role or that production or that they have either, but the ask has been really undeniable.”
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