With her regal and elegant visage, Aussie actress Cate Blanchett broke through the mob of aspiring actors and instantly ascended the ranks to Hollywood stardom with her Academy Award-nominated turn as Elizabeth I in Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth (1998). Her concomitantly poignant and fierce portrayal won admiration from critics and filmgoers, but she had maintained a low enough profile in years prior (and her celebrity materialized so quickly) that the Elizabeth triumph appeared to pull the heretofore unseen actress from out of thin air and caught just about everyone off guard.
Born in Melbourne on May 14, 1969, Catherine Elise Blanchett entered the world as the daughter of an Australian mother and a Texas-born American father, with two siblings. Her dad died of a heart attack when she was ten and her mother subsequently raised her. Blanchett studied economics and fine art at the University of Melbourne, but -- reeling from ennui and dissatisfaction -- she set off in search of an alternate vocation and traveled for a period of time, perhaps in search of herself. Blanchett ultimately landed in Egypt, where a chance bit part in an Arabic boxing film introduced her to a newfound love of acting. Taking this as a firm cue, Blanchett harkened back to Sydney, where she enrolled in and ultimately graduated from the highly esteemed National Academy of Dramatic Art. Blanchett later joined the Sydney Theatre Company, where she earned positive notices in a production of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls. A subsequent role in Timothy Daley's musical Kafka Dances won Blanchett a 1993 New Comer Award from the Sydney Theatre Critics Circle, an honor doubled that same year when she gleaned a Rosemont Best Actress Award for her performance opposite future Elizabeth co-star Geoffrey Rush in David Mamet's Oleanna.