Sophie Kauer on working with Cate Blanchett on Tár: ‘What a person to learn to act from’

Sophie Kauer tells us how she got the part of Olga in the acclaimed Tár and how she learned all about acting from Cate Blanchett. 

sophie kauer tar premiere

Todd Field’s Tár stars Cate Blanchett as a virtuoso conductor whose life unravels after allegations of sexual misconduct. Sophie Kauer stars against Blanchett as a young cellist who catches Lydia Tár’s eye. Kauer tells us how she got the part and how she learned all about acting from Blanchett. 


I’m running late. The Wi-Fi in my flat has gone and I need to find a coffee shop that’s quiet enough to talk to one of the stars of an early contender for the film of 2023. 

Technically, Tár was released in 2022 after it made a splashy, glitzy debut at the Venice Film Festival. Very quickly, it became the film to see at festivals and was lauded by the critics, especially Cate Blanchett’s performance as Lydia Tár, the brilliant, problematic conductor at the heart of the film. 

But there’s another performance that has been gathering plenty of attention. Sophie Kauer plays a young cellist, Olga, who Lydia becomes enamoured with and that’s exactly who I’m supposed to be on a call with right now. 

tar sophie kauer

Credit: Universal Pictures

I’m mortified by my own tardiness and prepared to apologise profusely as I log in for the virtual interview at a nearby coffee shop, the unusual kind, it appears, where local men gather to trade stories of the golden olden times. 

Kauer waves my apologies off with one hand and smiles brightly, seemingly as excited about the interview as I am. She’s in a hotel in Central London and it soon becomes clear she’s grateful to be a part of all of this, of Tár, which she describes as an “amazing experience.”

“I feel like it’s a film you have to see more than once. There’s so much detail on there. You’ll have to go and see it at least twice.” 

I ask her how she became involved in the project and she tells me it was a random casting call. 

The video suddenly freezes. The internet has gone on her end now. The joys of technology. It’s not long before we’re able to get the connection back and pick up where we left off, though I’m still trying to mask the panic that the interview, thus far, has not quite gone to plan.

Kauer, on the other hand, is poised and speaks passionately. She recalls her callback with writer-director Todd Field, during which they worked on the scenes Kauer had sent in on her audition tape. Then came the torturous wait of casting in Hollywood films.

TÁR

Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár. Credit: Universal Pictures

“I got a call from the casting director asking me to send a recording of the Elgar Concerto which Olga plays in the film. I was really snowed under with first year exams, so I said, ‘I’ll come do it in a fortnight when I’m done’, obviously completely misunderstanding the magnitude of the project.”

Field rang her personally to ask if Kauer was serious about being part of the film, informing her that they were under strict time constraints and she was at the top of a very short list of candidates and she would have the part if she nailed the Concerto. 

She did indeed nail it, but then, at first, no one told her she’d got the part. She was scheduled for another call with Todd, who finally clarified that Kauer would play Olga in the film. 

“That was quite a surreal moment. I don’t know if I’ve really understood it.”

I ask when did it finally sink in for her, that she is part of a huge production, destined for awards glory. 

“I don’t think it has. Maybe when I got to the set in Berlin and I saw my name on the cast wall.”

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Credit: Universal Pictures

It was an impressive cast wall to be a part of. Kauer’s name was fourth, presumably only preceded by Blanchett, Noémie Merlant and Nina Hoss, all international film stars, who have worked with award-winning directors and are seasoned professionals. 

Kauer describes music as something so all-consuming, she never thought of acting or the film industry as a realistic career.

“When I was really young as well, before I went to high school, I used to write, film and direct my own short films, and my friends would be the cast. So I was always really interested [in films].”

It seems that her passion for filmmaking used to lie behind the camera, rather than in front of it. 

“I never expected this. I’ve never been one of those girls, either, that want to be an actress or a model. I wanted to play the cello, which no one thinks is cool.”

Kauer used to rehearse four to five hours a day to master the cello, so I assumed that they rehearsed the music for Tár extensively. 

tar cate blanchett

Credit: Universal Pictures

“We actually hardly had any music rehearsals. We only had the orchestra for a certain amount of time. It’s amazing we got them at all, because normally orchestras are fully booked for concerts, but we actually had COVID on our side.”

As the conversation inevitably turns to working with Cate Blanchett, Kauer has nothing but praise for her co-star. On their first meeting, Kauer was too stunned to speak after Blanchett extended her hand for a shake and simply introduced herself as Cate. 

“I’m like, ‘I know, you’re on my TV.’ But I didn’t say anything, rather just a very squeaky, high… But I learned very quickly that she’s one of the absolute loveliest people on the planet. I learned so much from her and she was so supportive. What a person to learn to act from.

“We had a really great two or three weeks or so, where we would maybe have like a couple sessions a week, just me, Cate and Todd. We’d discuss the ins and outs of scenes and the characters’ agendas or their thoughts and feelings for that scene. And they were very generous with their time and advice as well. I picked up a lot and learned a lot during those weeks.”

sophie kauer cate blanchett

Director Todd Field, Cate Blanchett, Sophie Kauer and Nina Hoss attend the “Tar” red carpet at the 79th Venice International Film Festival on September 01, 2022 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

I’m running out of my allotted time at this point, but pose one last question to Kauer: Is acting against Blanchett like a battle, to match her energy? 

She seems a little stunned by my question, taking a few seconds to think about it. 

“I never, ever thought about it that way. She doesn’t have an ego, she’s incredibly lovely. We were figuring it all out as we went along. Some things were improvised as well but it is incredibly inspiring to act opposite her. You just bounce right off her. She makes it very easy, especially for a first time actor. She’d sometimes do things that would surprise me which kept that element of naturalism the whole way through.”


Tár is in cinemas now.


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