Why are they famous: Cate Blanchett

Main claim

Hot new alabaster talent. The star of Elizabeth, Australian actress Cate Blanchett is all set to out-pale, out-shark and out-weird Meryl Streep, Glenn Close and Uma Thurman. For one so pale, appropriately, even her name sounds as if it's been bleached. Her unearthly screen presence and shockingly intense acting style are inspiring headlines, awards and Vanity Fair covers. She has recently been making a stand against actresses being discussed primarily for their looks, "I hope I'm a woman, not ugly, not beautiful," she says. Much lauded for her extraordinarily incandescent portrait of the Virgin Queen, she won a Golden Globe and has now been nominated for an Oscar.

Appearance

Lauren Bacall meets Karen Elson, Siamese cat after a bath of bleach. Vampiric spectre. Ethereal countess in Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

Wizards of Oz

In recent years, Australian actresses have transcended arthouse - see Nicole Kidman, Toni Colette (Muriel's Wedding) and Rachel Griffiths (Hilary and Jackie). A fine English accent and a luminosity - as if eternally shaded by parasols in the Outback - are attributes Blanchett shares with Kidman.

Down Under

Blanchett, 29, is the middle sibling of three. Her father died when she was 10: "I wanted to live in a haunted house. I was obsessed with the idea that he would appear somewhere," she says. She got the thespy bug mid-degree and transferred to Sydney's National Institute of Dramatic Art. She's been strutting her stuff on the Sydney stage for a decade, which is why she's now treated as a "find" by the rest of us. Elizabeth entailed a four-month separation from new husband, Australian screenwriter Andrew Upton: "It was bittersweet, like going into battle," she says. Next she will star in Pushing Tin, a comic story of rival air-traffic controllers. Hmm. In Kidmanesque fashion, our heroine will soon star in David Hare's Plenty at the Albery, as well as Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr Ripley.

Fame prospects

Blanchett may be the weird new flavour of the month, but her talent will undoubtedly transcend fashion. She marries cheekbones with cred, a lethal combination. If she keeps out of Hello!, Neighbours and the sun, she can't go far wrong.

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