“Begin as you mean to continue,” the lumnious, Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett told a young questioner seeking career advice a couple weeks ago at an interview I attended at the Kennedy Center - during her just-completed run of Uncle Vanya. Even trying to make herself look plain, she couldn't. “Make yourself a five-year plan; that will help you maintain patience. And you can’t make too many compromises.” Blanchett was, of course, talking about a career in the arts, but there are some parallels to be drawn with any profession that one seeks to pursue. Her response also made me marvel at the English language. The question has been asked so many times before yet Blanchett can still find an original phrasing: (Must be the 10 years she recently spent living in England.) In fact, I believe it’s good advice not just for young people but for anyone embarking on something new, be it a new business, project or even a hobby.
Blanchett of course, needs no training to be comfortable in the spotlight. She was asked if it’s hard to find the time to do theater with such a demanding film career. She looked a bit puzzled actually and answered, “No, not really. I’m old enough to make my own decisions now. This is an extraordinary privilege.” I particularly liked what she said next when asked if it was a tough decision for her and her husband Andrew Upton to take over the Sydney Theatre Company. “It would have been cowardice to turn it down,” she said. That kind of takes us full circle in the direction of the famous Goethe quote: “Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”"We all value theater," she said, speaking for the accomplished cast that was sitting around her. Jacki Weaver was nominated for an Academy Award earlier this year for Animal Kingdom and Hugo Weaving appeared in The Matrix Trilogy among many other films. "And we choose to return to it." Speaking of Australia and the bond it gives her company, she said, "You're talking about a company of 22 million, 17 million of whom are actors."
The interview ended with a question about great artists; one of the actors began very intellectually talking about Picasso. "Picasso was such a..." "Philanderer!" Blanchett shouted. They all laughed and went on to Uncle Vanya.