Courtesy of Focus Features
Cate Blanchett committed to her high-strung new role.
In director Todd Field's TÁR, Blanchett plays a (fictional) world-renowned composer named Lydia Tár, an EGOT winner widely hailed as a genius and a trailblazer for women in the industry. However, Lydia's esteemed career goes into free fall amid sexual misconduct accusations.
To make the many performance and rehearsal scenes realistic, Blanchett, 53, trained with a coach to learn how to conduct an orchestra herself rather than rely heavily on movie-making trickery.
"I wasn't doing the conducting lip-syncing version of it," she said with a laugh during a Monday morning press conference for the film at the New York Film Festival.
"We've all seen those movies about painters, about writers and musicians and go, 'Please, God, don't turn the canvas around because I know that you're not really a painter.' We didn't want to do that version of it," said Blanchett. "It was really important to me ... that we had to be able to truly hold our own with the musicians who were asked to act. As actors we had to become, as close as possible, musicians."
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Blanchett, who also plays some piano and speaks in German periodically throughout the movie, said she listened to one of the film's pivotal symphonies "inside out" and "nonstop, 24/7 for a year" to prepare.
"[Then] I felt that I could begin to approach the role," she added. "Because there was something contained within the symphony itself and learning to read that score in a vertical as well as horizontal way that I began to understand who she was and her terrifying mechanisms. It was through music."
She compared the screenplay to a musical score, calling it "so rhythmic" in its storytelling and dialogue. "Every character had their own rhythm and intonation and dynamics, and I felt there was an aching metaphysical tragedy at the center of it that I didn't know where to begin," said Blanchett.
Tár is in select theaters Friday then nationwide Oct. 28.