Tár: Cate Blanchett shares the secrets of her award-winning performance

The Lord Of The Rings star plays a musical maestro in Todd Field's widely acclaimed new movie

Watch: Cate Blanchett talks to Yahoo about her award-winning role in Tár

After scooping a fourth Golden Globe for her portrayal of a troubled conductor in Tár this week, Cate Blanchett has revealed the secret behind her award-winning performance: music.

In Tár — in UK cinemas from today — the Lord of the Rings star plays a musical superstar whose carefully controlled life starts to unravel when secrets emerge about her past.

Blanchett says starting with the basics was her way into playing the troubled maestro.

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“I just started with the practical,” Blanchett tells Yahoo UK. “I started with the piano and I started with the conducting. We started with the music and we had a lot to do. The Dresden Philharmonic were amazing musicians and very generous, so we had good teachers.”

Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár in Todd Field's Tár. (Focus Features)
Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár in Todd Field's Tár. (Focus Features)

The film’s director, Todd Field, says he didn’t have any advice for his lead actor about playing the role and, together, they took an equally practical approach in developing a complex character.

“I’m playing a maestro conductor who’s also a pianist who’s trying to complete a major commissioned composition and she’s running a major cultural institution. Meanwhile, she’s turning 50 so she’s in the middle of a career and mid-life crisis.

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“There is so much of her past that she has tried to re-write and eradicate to great personal cost, so she’s volcanic in a sense. But then she appears very still and in control and in command and successful on the surface, so there’s so much to play with.”

Watch a trailer for Tár

Co-star Nina Hoss plays the orchestra’s lead violinist in the film. She was able to draw on her own musical knowledge in exploring her character.

“I do play the piano," Hoss tells Yahoo. "So I can read music, so that helped, and I’d been working before with a wonderful teacher who is a brilliant violinist in her own right.

"While doing the homework, I learned so much about Sharon [her character], I learned so much about the orchestra and how it’s set up, what my function is as a concert master, how much responsibility you carry in this position.”

(L to R) Nina Hoss stars as Sharin Goodnow and Cate Blanchett stars as Lydia Tár in director Todd Field's TÁR, a Focus Features release. Credit:  Courtesy of Focus Features
Nina Hoss as Sharin Goodnow and Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár in director Todd Field's Tár. (Focus Features)

Her research into composer Gustav Mahler — whose music is at the centre of the film — was invaluable. Sharon is also Lydia Tár’s wife, so it helped in her understanding of the musical power couple.

“I learned a lot about Mahler and his wife, Alma, which inspired me for Sharon. It wasn’t just technical, it helps you in finding the character.”

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For director Todd Field, who wrote the film specifically for Blanchett, her approach meant that, even though Lydia Tár came from his imagination, the film appears to be a biopic of a real person.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11: Todd Field and Cate Blanchett attend the UK Premiere of
Todd Field and Cate Blanchett attend the UK Premiere of TÁR. (David M. Benett/Max Cisotti/Dave Benett/WireImage)

“In terms of people thinking that she is a living, breathing human being, that’s a testament to the art of Cate Blanchett,” Field says. “I watch Cate Blanchett for five minutes and I believe it – and I wrote the script! It’s just an extraordinary opportunity to watch an artist like that do what she does. She casts a real spell.”

Field found himself in a near-unique position when he worked on the film. “The studio came to me and said ‘write whatever you want’ and I did. It’s never happened to me before and it hasn’t happened to many filmmakers. I wrote it without any cinemas being open, the whole place was shut down and I never thought this thing would see the light of day.”

He also wrote the script completely with Blanchett in mind. “It had to be her. Of course, she didn’t know I was writing it for her and, had she said 'no', I probably wouldn’t have made it.”

Cate Blanchett stars as Lydia Tár in director Todd Field's TÁR, a Focus Features release. Credit:  Courtesy of Focus Features
Cate Blanchett stars as Lydia Tár. (Focus Features)

The film has already attracted huge critical acclaim, gathering over 50 awards so far, with Blanchett’s performance very much in the spotlight.

After her Golden Globe victory this week, she is currently seen as the front runner for the Best Actress Oscar. This year’s nominations are announced on 24 January and a win at the ceremony in March would see her joining Frances McDormand and Meryl Streep as the third present day actress to hold three Oscars. She previously won Best Actress for Blue Jasmine (2013) and Best Supporting Actress for The Aviator (2004).

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Tár is Field’s third film over the course of 22 years. His previous movies, In The Bedroom (2001) and Little Children (2006), both earned him Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay.

German actress Nina Hoss is perhaps best known for her performance in the 2014 post-war thriller, Phoenix. In addition to her role in TAR, she is currently on smaller screens alongside John Kraskinsky in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.

Tár is released in cinemas today, 13 January. Watch a trailer below.