Cate Blanchett Jokes She Was a 'Nobody' 'Elbowed Out of the Way' at Her First Cannes (Exclusive)

The actress jokes to PEOPLE that she was "completely elbowed out of the way" when she attended the Cannes Film Festival for the first time back in 1999

David Fisher/Shutterstock
David Fisher/Shutterstock

Cate Blanchett has come a long way since her first Cannes Film Festival.

The actress is at the 2023 edition of the prestigious festival in France for her movie The New Boy.

In an interview with PEOPLE Friday, Blanchett recalled being the new girl when she attended her first Cannes back in 1999 when she was 30. At the time, she was rolling out the comedy An Ideal Husband with costars Rupert Everett and Julianne Moore (who is also at this year's festival for the film May December).

"The first time I came to Cannes I was covered in bruises because I just came into the market with a little tiny comedy in the marketplace and as a 'nobody.' So I was completely elbowed out of the way," jokes Blanchett, 54.

"Then the next time I came with a film, I'm not quite sure why it did, but it opened the festival. And then I had people pushing other people out of the way and was walking down the carpet arm in arm with some movie star," she recalls. "So it holds both those experiences, and you don't forget the first experience."

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CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP via Getty Images Cate Blanchett, Rupert Everett and Julianne Moore at Cannes Film Festival in May 1999.
CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP via Getty Images Cate Blanchett, Rupert Everett and Julianne Moore at Cannes Film Festival in May 1999.

New Boy director Warwick Thornton, who won the Caméra d'Or in 2009 for Samson and Delilah, says the festival "completely freaked me out and scared the hell out of me" the first time he attended.

"It's not hysterics, but I've never seen that kind of passion for cinema in my life," says Thornton. "... It just completely scared the hell out of me the first time I came with the film. But winning the Caméra d'Or completely empowered me to keep moving forward and believe."

"You're always self-doubting — it's just the trait of being a bloody annoying human," the director adds. "But the empowerment that I got to believe that actually what I am doing, the stories that I'm telling, there's a world out there that wants to see those movies as well. You think you're insular and you think you're just a gentle little petal. But having a film in a film festival like this makes you bloom incredibly. It's so empowering."

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Mike Coppola/Getty Cate Blanchett and director Warwick Thornton
Mike Coppola/Getty Cate Blanchett and director Warwick Thornton

Blanchett, who served as jury president at Cannes in 2018, says bringing an export from Australia to a major festival in France reaffirms that cinema has no borders.

"To come here and to be recognized by a completely different culture, I think that's when you start to think, 'Okay, we are engaged in universal storytelling. This isn't just specifically Australian, it isn't just a form of personal expression.' There's ways that you can start then working with other cinema artists so your work continues to grow," she says. "I think that's the incredible opportunity, at a festival like this."

The New Boy is set in 1940s Australia and centers on a 9-year-old aboriginal orphan who is taken in by a nun (Blanchett) in a remote monastery.

The Cannes Film Festival runs through May 27.

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