On the Road with Dippy Dylan; Paranoid: Bob Dylan Thought the British Press Were Conspiring against Him. Inset: Cate Blanchett as Dylan

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Hellicar

CATE BLANCHETT is the surprise hot favourite to win an Oscar for bestsupporting actress at Sunday's Academy Awards for her highly acclaimedportrayal of folk singer Bob Dylan in the quirky biopic I'm Not There.

Ladbroke's are offering odds of 11-10, putting her way ahead of the othernominees, who are up for their performances in more mainstream films.

Amy Ryan is 2-1 for Gone Baby Gone, Ruby Dee at 10-3 for American Gangster,Tilda Swinton is 10-1 for Michael Claytonin spite of her winning a best actress BAFTA this monthand Saoirse Ronan is 16-1 for Atonement.

Cate also has a best actress nomination for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, but at33-1 she is an outsider against the favourite, Julie Christie, whose odds are4-9 for her role as an Alzheimer's victim in Away From Her.

However, Miss Blanchett won't be in the star-studded audience at Hollywood'sKodak Theatre when the Oscars are handed out. She is due to give birth to herthird child next month and is unable to travel from her home in Sydney. .

'If I win,' she said last week, 'the most surprised person in the world will beme.

And after me will come a long list of everyone who told me that I'd be mad toplay Bob Dylan.

'They pointed out the obviousthat he's a man and I'm a woman, so there's a huge credibility gap foraudiences to overcome. But they also said Dylan was too off-beat a subject, tooantiestablishment and too old to fill cinemas.

'I said they were wrong then, and I've been proved right. But I knew I wastaking a chance.' She is one of six actors in the film who portray the singerat different times in his lifethe others are Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, Christian Bale, Marcus Carl Franklinand Ben Whishaw.

But it is an unrecognisable Blanchett who steals the show as Dylan in the mid-1960s when his reputation as an adored poet and folk hero began to unravelduring an uncomfortable tour of Britain.

I watched it happen because I was at his sidemuch to his irritationduring his 1965 tour. I had been assigned by my newspaper, the Daily Sketch, tocover his every waking moment, and I saw Dylan's inherent cockiness slide firstinto puzzlement and then into babbling insecurity and paranoia.

His music came under scrutiny by cynical British audiences and his Messiahlikestatus was challenged by interviewers. Dylan blamed me for this severe blow tohis self-esteem.

In I'm Not There, Blanchett captures this perfectly, playing him as a frail,vulnerable figure, apparently bewildered by his success, but arrogant, evasiveand confused when he is met with a barrage of questions and criticism for thefirst time in his life.

The trouble was that Dylananxious to shed his reputation as a folk protest singernow wanted to be a rock star.

But he misjudged the mood of a selfconfident Britain that was producing plentyof its own rockers, while American stars were struggling to make an impressionhere.

Those who splashed out a then-record [pounds sterling]1 for a ticket were expecting Americanfolk with a strong protest messagenot the unwelcome rock 'n' roll he was delivering in his trademark nasal twang.

'What the hell,' he muttered to me after being barracked by a disappointedaudience in Leeds. 'The words rhyme, don't they?' I couldn't resist pointingout to him that actually they didn't.

The music charts were dominated by British artistsThe Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Cliff Richard, The Kinks, Sandie Shaw and TheHollies were all riding high.

And as we had begun to dominate the world with our music, so had our fashions.

Mary Quant had invented the mini-skirt, Barbara Hulanicki had just opened herBiba boutique and Carnaby Street was home to the planet's coolest clothesshops.

So when Dylan arrived thinking he could turn his back on the songs that madehim famous and switch music genres overnightonly to find that we were interested only in the old-style Dylanhe was sadly mistaken. …