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'Elizabeth' brings queen's life to big screen

Web posted on:
Wednesday, November 04, 1998 4:08:16 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN) -- She is remembered as the 16th century's most important and influential woman. Queen Elizabeth, whose reign lasted four decades, helped usher England out of financial and religious turmoil, and into its Golden Age.

And now a new film opening on Friday is capturing the magic of the queen's early adulthood and her formation into a historical legend.

"Elizabeth" stars Oscar winners Geoffrey Rush, Sir John Gielgud and Richard Attenborough, but the woman who plays the title role is drawing the most raves.

Cate Blanchett, director Shekhar Kapur says, was made for the role. After considering actresses like Nicole Kidman and Kate Winslet, he found Blanchett when he was least expecting it.

"One day I was sitting in the producers' office and they were running a promo reel of (the Blanchett/Ralph Fiennes film) 'Oscar and Lucinda,'" Kapur recalls. "And I'm sitting here and I suddenly looked at this and I saw Cate. In that half-a-minute promo reel, I knew why I was not supposed to cast anyone else."

Modern-day parallels

As the movie's plot tells it, Elizabeth's reign was dotted with attempts by various enemies to undermine or even kill her. Blanchett saw parallels between her character and modern-day public figures.

"When we were in England last week, people were making parallels between Elizabeth's situation with Elizabethan paparazzi, I guess, and Diana," Blanchett says. "And now we're in the States, where people are talking about Clinton, how his personal life is up for grabs rather then his political platforms, which is kind of I guess a similar situation that Elizabeth found herself in."

Blanchett has said she enjoyed playing opposite Rush, who stars as one of Elizabeth's advisers. Rush, who took home an Academy Award for "Shine," says he is pleased with the outcome of the film.

"It had such a curious number of elements to it, two Australian actors in principal roles, in a fundamentally English story, with an Indian director," Rush says. "It could have made a very curious kind of salad, you know?

"People are intrigued and fascinated, almost obsessed with the private lives of great public personalities," Rush says.

Correspondent Bill Tush contributed to this report.

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