It’s not yet October, and the fall calendar is already three film festivals in, with the current one in New York mostly playing out across virtual screenings and drive-in movie theaters. It’s refreshingly democratic, watching premieres (or a teenage Laura Dern in Smooth Talk) from the easy reach of one’s living room or car. The mood is triumphant, and the dress code casual, even for a director piped in for an onscreen appearance. Still, it’s easy to miss the usual pomp of festival proceedings—the sartorial snap to attention after an under-the-radar summer.
Last month’s Venice Film Festival—with its cautiously orchestrated red carpets and glittery faces intermittently covered by masks—was the exception. And at the center of that fanfare was Cate Blanchett, who presided over the jury. She also set a high-water mark for red carpet beauty in this new era, with amped-up eyes and an unflappable sense of cool.
“It felt courageous—on all levels,” Blanchett wrote by email. “With the challenges ahead for reopening cinemas and allowing filmmakers and audiences alike to think big, a festival like Venice became not only an important test of how this might happen, but an important symbol to the industry at large that we can and will find a way through these murky waters.” Part of that business-as-usual spirit—the bright light through the murk—was Blanchett’s quintessential poise within the star machinery, with help from her longtime makeup artist, Mary Greenwell.
The two women have been working together for a few decades, Greenwell estimates. “My first job with her was with Annie Leibovitz for a Vanity Fair cover,” the makeup artist explains in a call from London, where that initial shoot took place. Blanchett was in ascendance, following her well-powdered turn in 1998’s Elizabeth. Now Hollywood royalty in her own right, Blanchett is the kind of actor who doesn’t need to shift personas on the red carpet, let alone at Venice this year. “It was very much her show, in a sense,” Greenwell says. “Cate is so professional and so beautiful that she just kind of gets on with it.”
That’s how a matter-of-fact Blanchett approached her pandemic-era makeup. “I didn’t overanalyze it, but certainly the way one reads a face with a mask on is different,” notes the actor. “The eyes obviously become a major focus.” With Blanchett a longtime Armani Beauty ambassador, Greenwell’s kit is well stocked, beginning with the Eye Quattro shadow palette. “Taupes and browns are the most flattering colors for everybody because they are the most natural to one’s skin tone,” says Greenwell, who adapted the makeup to Blanchett’s rotating fashion looks, whether a wash of color across the lid or a softly dimensional eye. “Because of the mask situation, I find it quite important to accentuate the underlid as well—underneath the lower lashes,” Greenwell points out. Plus, of course, “loads of mascara—always, always, always.” The classic Eyes to Kill is her go-to. “Unless you’re going swimming in the sea, why wear waterproof mascara?”