ROME, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett took the stage on Friday at the Rome Film Festival, where she was on hand to present her latest movie and to take part in the Close Encounters series in which leading actors and directors speak with the public about their life and work.
The Australian actress, who won two Academy Awards for her roles in in The Aviator by Martin Scorsese and Blue Jasmine by Woody Allen, stars in The House With a Clock in Its Walls, which is directed by award-winning American horror filmmaker Eli Roth and which screened as part the Official Selection on Friday.
The movie is about a 10-year-old orphan who moves in with an eccentric uncle and his uncle's best friend (played by Jack Black and by Blanchett), only to discover that they are actually powerful wizards who involve him in a secret mission: to discover the meaning of the strange ticking of a clock hidden somewhere in the creaky old house.
"The film is obviously about magic... which is all about transformation," said Blanchett, who was greeted by thunderous applause at the press conference after the screening.
The message of the film "is that we don't have to remain in a place of stasis -- that we can actually change and transform into something else, and I think that's a very positive, wonderful, gentle message to children," said Blanchett, who has three biological sons and one adopted daughter.
The movie "doesn't patronize children, it doesn't make the world a sentimental, happy, easy place, but actually celebrates the weirdness of all the characters," added Blanchett, who said she loved to read Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes detective stories while she was growing up.
The Australian star also described how she prepared to play the character, who has survived the Nazi death camps in World War II and who has lost a child.
"I looked at a lot of old photographs just to see what kind of energy people gave off," commented Blanchett.
"As an actor, I don't think about myself and my own experiences when I'm creating a role -- I am totally bored with myself," she said, to laughter from the audience. "The whole process of acting for me is an empathetic one, where you try and understand someone else's reality."
The film is about "three people who are orphaned or marooned in various ways, and they have to come together as a family in order to find their collective power to solve the problem at hand," explained Blanchett.
She was echoed by the director, who stated that "I grew up an outcast and an outsider."
"I wanted this movie to be very scary, and I think that you can have funny and scary at the same time," Roth explained. "This is a story about terrible things happening, and some want to deal with it by moving forward while others want to turn back time."
A seven-time Oscar nominee since 1999, Blanchett, who has worked with A-list directors from around the world and who in 2016 was named a Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) , also spoke about her dedication to social and environmental causes as part of the Close Encounters series.
Other Close Encounters scheduled during this year's Rome Film Festival include French star Isabelle Huppert, who is getting a Lifetime Achievement Award, and iconic American director Scorsese, among many others.
Also on Friday, festival-goers had a chance to watch the first Italian film in the Official Selection lineup: Il Vizio della Speranza (The Vice of Hope) by Edoardo De Angelis, who has won multiple awards in Italy for his work in the past.
A story of revenge and reconciliation, the movie is about a woman without dreams or desires, who works as a cleaning lady in a wealthy household, and whose life takes an unexpected turn.
The Rome Film Festival runs through Oct. 28.