At 10, Blanchett loses her father, Robert, who dies of a heart attack. Her mother June raises her and her two siblings in Melbourne, Australia. "I do feel that loss," Blanchett tells the Sydney Morning Herald in 1994. "I have always believed there isn't enough time."
Blanchett studies at the National Institute of Dramatic Art and Sydney Theatre Company (pictured with costar Aden Young). She appears in many stage productions, including Oleanna with Geoffrey Rush. "There was a buzz about Cate even when she was in drama school," Rush tells the Los Angeles Times in 1998. "There was always just something special about Cate, an excitement, an aura."
Blanchett jumps to film as a sympathetic nurse in Paradise Road with Frances McDormand (right). She also lands her first major role opposite Ralph Fiennes in Gillian Armstrong's Oscar and Lucinda. The film's trailer, which features Blanchett as a 19th century gambling heiress, grabs the attention of director Shekhar Kapur, who fights to cast the unknown actress in his Queen Elizabeth I biopic.
Blanchett marries screenwriter Andrew Upton, whom she met through friends. In December 2001, they welcome their first child, Dashiell (left). "It's sort of nice, because having a child is the most unpredictable thing you can do – apart from getting married, that is," she tells the Los Angeles Times. "It's a sort of hopeful insanity." They welcome Roman in 2004 and Ignatius in 2008.
Blanchett plays the title role in Kapur's biopic Elizabeth, with Geoffrey Rush and Joseph Fiennes. Variety says of Blanchett's performance as Elizabeth I, "Alternately gaunt and angular and ethereally beautiful, Blanchett conveys [Elizabeth] with grace, poise and intelligence...The Australian actress builds the juicy character almost imperceptibly…" Blanchett earns a Golden Globe for Best Actress and a Best Actress Oscar nomination. In 2007, she reprises her role for The Golden Age, with Clive Owen and Rush.
Blanchett follows up Elizabeth with a string of eclectic supporting roles: she perfects a Long Island accent for Pushing Tin and plays Matt Damon's love interest in The Talented Mr. Ripley (left). But the star treatment on set is new to the in-demand actress. "Now when a contract is negotiated, they say, 'What do you want in your trailer?'" she tells New York's Daily News, and "all I can think of is water and Diet Coke."
Although Blanchett doesn't win the Best Actress Oscar at the 71st Annual Academy Awards, she does win the style award for wearing a John Galliano dress with hummingbird and flower embroidery. The knit dress (right), which is knocked-off and goes on sale shortly thereafter, begins her reign as a fashion risk-taker. That same year, she is named one of PEOPLE's 50 Most Beautiful. "There are times when I've looked at Cate and I go, 'My God, you're beautiful!' It just suddenly hits you," costar Geoffrey Rush tells PEOPLE.
Blanchett dons prosthetic ears to play Galadriel, the elf queen, in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring with Orlando Bloom and Liv Tyler. "I did [the role] for my husband; he's obsessed by my ears," she tells the AP. The film grosses more than $313 million in the U.S. Blanchett reprises her role for 2002's The Two Towers and 2003's The Return of the King.
Blanchett takes on some mighty hefty real-life heroes from Gillian Armstrong's Charlotte Gray to a slain Irish journalist in Joel Schumacher's Veronica Guerin (right). "I'm very pleased being Veronica," she tells WWD. "She had integrity, bravery in her writing – but she was also voted the best legs in Ireland!"
In Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, Blanchett portrays Hollywood icon Katharine Hepburn opposite Leonardo DiCaprio's Howard Hughes. When she wins the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, Blanchett becomes the first performer to win an Oscar for playing an Oscar winner. "Thank you, of course, to Miss Hepburn. The longevity of her career I think is inspiring to everyone," Blanchett says during her Oscar acceptance speech. Then, she adds thanks to Scorsese, saying, "I hope my son will marry your daughter."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Heidrun Lohr/AP; Sarah Dunn/Wireimage; Everett Collection; Kobal Collection/Wireimage; Kevin Mazur/WireImage; Everett Collection; Kobal Collection/Wireimage; George Pimentel/WireImage