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NOTES ON A SCANDAL

The Scandal Maker
"This voice inside me was going, why shouldn't you be bad? Why shouldn't you transgress?” -- Sheba Hart

While Barbara Covett secretly hopes for a life-long friendship with Sheba Hart, Sheba unwittingly seals the deal by following her own precarious desires – betraying her loving, older husband and family by diving headlong into an affair with one of her own teenaged students. With Sheba's scandalous behavior and her frantic need to keep it a secret, Barbara gains the upper hand . . . or so she thinks.

The delicate nature of Sheba's encounters with both Barbara and the schoolboy Steven called for an actress of consummate skill, so it immediately made sense to the filmmakers to pair Judi Dench with Cate Blanchett – Blanchett having garnered an Oscar nomination starring in the title role of ELIZABETH most recently won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress with a spirited turn as screen legend Katherine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese's THE AVIATOR. But as with Dench, the role of Sheba would take Blanchett far from those more regal performances.

Patrick Marber had always envisioned Cate Blanchett as Sheba. "When I was writing the screenplay, I became even more certain that she had to play Sheba,” says Marber. Friends for many years, he knew she would be perfect for the role. "I know Cate socially and we're pals, but I've never worked with her before. And I couldn't be more thrilled with her performance. I think she's really raw in a way that I think will shock people.”

Zoë Heller found Blanchett's casting eerily close to what she had always imagined Sheba to be like as a person. "Cate is as damn near an incarnation of what I had in my head as you could get,” she says. "So it was like having a dream and then seeing it acted out before you.”

From her first encounter with Heller's book, Blanchett herself was compelled. "It's an absolute page-turner,” she says. "It's all told from Barbara's perspective so the challenge for Patrick Marber as the screenwriter and for me as an actor was to liberate Sheba from Barbara's point of view for the film, to make her live and breathe in her own right. Ultimately, on the screen, I think the two women hold up a mirror to one another.”

"Marber actually turned and adapted the novel into its own creature, which is often I think the trick to making an adaptation work,” says Blanchett. "I've been involved in several adaptations where they've almost been too slavish to the form that the novel has taken and you really need to liberate yourself from that in order to make the film live and breathe in its own right.”

Blanchett was excited to get a chance to explore Sheba from several angles, none of them easy or simple. "Cinematically, I think to spend time with someone who transgresses a moral boundary like Sheba does, you have to go deep inside who that woman is,” she explains. "There are a number of things in the novel that really struck me and I hope I've brought them to the film. Sheba's a young woman who has married an older man, who feels she has sort of whittled away her youth and has found herself feeling hopelessly without accomplishment or any sense of larger meaning. She's ready to change her life and, in a strange way, her opening act of rebellion is this relationship with a 15 year-old boy. You could say she's trying to recapture her lost youth. It seems she's unable to function in the grown-up world and part of her journey is accepting that she is a product of her own choices.”

The irony of Sheba, Blanchett notes, is that Barbara enviously believes her to be entirely privileged and happy. "From Barbara's perspective, Sheba has the gift of being in a loving marriage and being surrounded by people who adore her – but Sheba feels just as profoundly, deeply lost and isolated,” she observes.

Yet for all her understanding of how Sheba ends up in her scandal-ridden po

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