Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara's on-screen chemistry in Carol is insanely intense.
"You can't manufacture that and you hope that the camera captures it," Blanchett tells me.
In the Todd Haynes-directed drama, Blanchett plays an upper middle class housewife in 1950s New York City who falls for a young department store clerk played by Mara.
The chemistry boils over in the film's one love scene between the two.
"I think taking your clothes off is taking your clothes off," Blanchett says when asked if there's any difference shooting such a scene with a man or a woman. "I mean, you take your clothes off psychologically and emotionally…There was a lot of trust on the set between Rooney and Todd and Todd and I and he was very clear about how he wanted to shoot it and what parts he was going to use so we all felt very safe."
Mara said, "I think doing a love scene can be more or less comfortable but that's just depending on what character you're playing and who you're doing it with…I felt very comfortable around Cate."
Haynes credited the beauty and realism of the scene to his preparation with his stars. "It's very much like shooting a musical number," he said, adding, "You start the music and basically you just go and the camera finds the moments and the beats. And we had some amazing material with these two women to work with."
The intensity of their characters' love—both emotional and physically—is heightened by the time period.
"It's very easy to forget that the love that these two women are experiencing was criminal," Blanchett said. "But also it was considered part of female hysteria that something that could be cured. It was a sickness.
"The language around that—not in certain African countries and maybe not in Russia—but by and large in the English speaking world, we've moved forward," she said. "Look at your country, look at Ireland. Not my country necessarily, but we'll get there."
Carol is in theaters Friday, Nov. 20.