will do just about anything for her character.
plays Annie Wilson, a widow blessed with a rare psychic "gift."
Witness her new haircut (putting it mildly), a crop of blond peach fuzz growing back after she shaved her head completely bald for the film "Heaven," due out next year. Blanchett
embraced her Sinead O'Connor look eagerly, marveling that she was able to "feel the wind" through her head.
And there's the blow to the stomach she encouraged Keanu Reeves
to deliver on the set of her latest film, "The Gift." Reeves
, who plays an abusive husband angry that Blanchett
is encouraging his wife (Hilary Swank
) to leave him, shoves Blanchett
silly, but it was the Australian actress who urged him to "come on, just do it." Reeves
finally obliged (albeit a stage punch).
Finally, there's the haunted house she dared to sleep in during the thriller's shoot in Savannah, Ga., because she thought it would be good for her character, a widowed mother who reads fortunes to make some extra money. But when insomnia set in, Blanchett
had to reconsider.
"It was very, very creepy," the 31-year-old Oscar nominee ("Elizabeth") recalls. "It was one of those things where I felt like 'I know someone's died here' ... I wasn't sleeping, and I thought, 'Well, there's no point because I'm not going to be any good to anyone.' So I didn't stay there."
regardless manages to bring fragility and genuine fear to her role as Annie Wilson, whose psychic "gift" lands her in the middle of an investigation into the disappearance of rich society girl Jessica King (Katie Holmes
), who turns out to be less than faithful to her older, gentler fiancé (Greg Kinnear
). When Annie's visions of Jessica's whereabouts prove correct, she finds suspects turning up left and right.
Moreover, she finds herself in danger of learning the truth and losing her life for it. "The Gift" is directed by Sam Raimi
and written by Billy Bob Thornton
and Tom Epperson
Audiences who best remember Blanchett
for her regal queen in "Elizabeth
" were likely startled by her chameleon turns in her next projects: John Cusack
's New Yawk wife in the air-traffic comedy "Pushing Tin"; an upstanding British aristocrat in "An Ideal Husband"; and an unsuspecting American socialite in "The Talented Mr. Ripley."
With "The Gift," Blanchett
embarks on her fourth film - and tongue -- in the two years since the Academy Awards.
"I hung out at Wal-Mart a lot," says Blanchett
of adopting her Southern personality. "I hung out at churches and just listened to people. I think it's a lot like an Australian accent; it's very easy to do a cliché. And so we all wanted to make it a part of it, but not to detract from the actual story."
's ease at delving into her role proved inspiring to her co-stars.
"She has incredible craft, she has incredible freedom, she's very intelligent, she's very funny," Reeves
says. "She has a great naturalism to her; she has a great way of crafting her acting that's spontaneous, that's understandable, that's fun, that's surprising. She's got a nice demeanor, she walks in a room and the world's a better place."
It might be why her dance card is currently filled with a plethora of directors and actors. After "Heaven" with Giovanni Ribisi
(who also stars in "The Gift
"), she'll be seen in the "Lord of the Rings
" trilogy as the elf Galadriel ("My husband really wanted me do it because he said I have historic ears," she quips). She'll follow that with Barry Levinson's "Bandits
," co-starring Bruce Willis
and Billy Bob Thornton
, currently filming.
And while she says she doesn't want to know her future, she does reveal that the psychics she visited while researching for her role offered her some career advice:
"She said not to do any films where I play an alcoholic," Blanchett
" opens for a one-week Academy run Dec. 20, then opens nationwide Jan. 19.