Cate Blanchett on Why Cinderella's Stepmother Isn't All That Bad

Cate BlanchettCate Blanchett, who just adopted a baby girl, is experiencing new motherhood for the fourth time, but onscreen in her new movie, the Australian star has been cast as one of the planet's worst mothers. Well, it's debatable whether her character, Lady Tremaine, otherwise known as Cinderella's "wicked stepmother," is actually a bad mom to her biological daughters -- but she's certainly no great shakes in the stepmother department.


In Disney's live-action Cinderella, out March 13, Blanchett stars as the cruel stepmother to the sweet, blond, always-smiling, often-humming Cinderella, played by Downton Abbey's Lily James. The prince (played by Richard Madden) might fall smitten to the charming, downtrodden girl whose station in life is upended when she becomes an orphan, but she's eternally irritating to her stepmother, Lady Tremaine, who soon usurps her role as lady of the house, and sends her to the attic, where she has only mice for company. You probably know the rest.

So, as a mom, and especially mom to a baby girl, how does Blanchett feel about playing an older woman who can't stand the sight of her husband's pretty daughter?

Blanchett, who is beautiful enough to play Cinderella (never mind her 45 years), tells The Stir, "It's the story of Cinderella. So the stepmother is [a foil] for her, narratively, and they've both suffered an incredible amount of hardship and tragedy. This is a world still like today's world where a lot of women don't have agency; don't have financial independence. She made a decision really early on that the world is a tough place, and the way to navigate your way through that is to graft yourself onto a man, and that's what she's imparting to her children."

It's unclear exactly when Cinderella takes place -- but it's a time of castles, of royalty and peasants, and definitely not a time of Lean In. Though Lady Tremaine does "lean in" in her own way -- by trying to momager her biological daughters (played by Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger) into societally bolstering marriages.

It's true that you do need a foil for Cinderella -- who would care if she was just a pretty girl the prince married unless there was someone there trying to sabotage it all for her?

Lady Tremaine has seen two husbands up and die, and she's well-aware that her daughters don't have the option of running a Fortune 500 company. They have to get married or their lives are essentially over. And to that end, Tremaine will do whatever she can to elevate them, even if it means crushing the prettier stepsister.

Says Blanchett: "The way that the stepmother has dealt with grief and hardship is to close down and to become bitter and jealous ... there's a sense of entitlement. And Cinderella's experienced those things, but she's remained open-hearted and good. She's much more glass half-full. And I think that whether you're a man or a woman, that tragedy does define your character. So, hopefully, you don't necessarily like what the stepmother does, but hopefully you understand her."

As for one of Blanchett's favorite scenes from the film, she's not even in it. It's the scene between the prince and his father, the King (Derek Jacobi), who is dying and finally agrees to let the prince pursue the woman of his dreams, rather than the one of his royal obligations.

Blanchett volunteers that she lost her father at 10 years old, and the scene leaves her bawling: "Being the the mother of [three] sons, I found it very, very moving, and every time I see it, I do cry a lot ... I've had a lot of friends recently lose a parent, and whether you're 80 or eight and you lose a parent, you're always the child, and so I find that scene very moving."

More from The Stir: ‘Cinderella’ Actress Couldn't Eat Real Food & Have That Fairy-Tale Waistline

All the more reason it would have been nice to have Lady Tremaine comfort Cinderella after the death of her parents rather than emotionally abuse her -- but, hey, this is a fairy tale, one that has been around in various forms for eons.

What do you think of Blanchett's take on Cinderella's stepmother?


Images via Disney and Louise Manning Bishop of

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