Cate of Arabia: What do Cate Blanchett and Ahmad Zaky have in common?
Cate looks a far cry from her younger self in the 1990 Egyptian film "Crabs." (Image courtesy of Facebook/Al Arabiya/Al Bawaba edit)
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The world is now abuzz with news of Australian actress Cate Blanchett’s Oscars win on Sunday, but little did many know that the star who clinched the Best Actress award has acting roots in the Middle East.
An 18-year-old Blanchett was promised a falafel and a small sum to play an American cheerleader in the 1990 Egyptian film, “Kaboria,” Arabic for “Crabs.”
The film starred iconic Egyptian actor Ahmad Zaky. It was Blanchett’s very first performance on the silver screen, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last time she played an American.
During her brief performance in the film, Cate can be seen ecstatically dancing to a song that would spontaneously become one of the most popular movie songs in modern Egyptian pop culture.
In an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel, Issam al-Shamaa, the movie's screenwriter said Blanchett was "not as attractive back then."
"She just played a background role and was performing what's asked of her. No one could have predicted anything back then," he added.
‘The falafel never came’
In an interview last year with Film Society, Blanchett spoke on how she landed herself the cameo role.
“I was traveling through Egypt staying at a hostel called the Oxford,” Blanchett said.
“[My agent worked with someone] in the Egyptian film industry and they were looking for someone to play an American. I said, ‘Well, my father is American…’ and they were paying five Egyptian pounds and a free falafel. I had to play a cheerleader. It was a boxing film. The falafel never came, so I left…”
Little did she know then that her later roles would prove much more lucrative.
But in response to her comments, Shamaa said:"Background actors and actresses in this film received higher amounts of money compared to what others were getting in other films."
On Sunday, Blanchett’s role in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” landed her the Best Actress award. She had perfectly portrayed a New Yorker who suffers a riches-to-rags turn when her husband’s financial scheme unravels, made a point of thanking Allen for choosing her for his “extraordinary screenplay.”
She beat fellow nominees Amy Adams in “American Hustle,” Sandra Bullock from “Gravity,” Judi Dench in “Philomena” and Meryl Streep for her role in “August: Osage County.”
Blanchett also said it was especially poignant to win the award this year, given the “extraordinary performances by women.”
“Perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the center, are niche experiences: they’re not,” she said.
“Audiences want to see them. And in fact, they earn money.”