2 OCTOBER 2007

Almost ten years after her portrayal of England's iconic female monarch earned her an Oscar nomination, Cate Blanchett has made a return to the throne in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. And despite having emerged as one of Hollywood's key female leads in the intervening years, the Australian actress admits stepping back into the role of the flame-haired queen was a slightly daunting prospect.

"I was a bit nervous about returning to a character, I suppose, that had allowed me to walk through a door to an international film career," says Cate, who was unveiling the new flick in LA this week.

Reprising the part has special significance, she says, because the role marked a new stage in her career. "Having to be that responsible, to drive a film, it was the first time I'd ever done it," says Cate. "I was exercising muscles that I hadn't exercised before."

The new installment picks up a decade after the first movie left off, in late 16th-century Europe. Elizabeth, facing criticism over her failure to produce an heir, finds her rule openly challenged by the king of Spain - played by Spanish screen hunk Jordi Molla.

Adding a romantic frisson to the queen's preparations to confront the Spanish Armada is her passion for Clive Owen's dashing seafarer Sir Walter Raleigh.

Joining the star cast is Aussie actress Abbie Cornish, who plays Cate's faithful lady-in-waiting. Preparing for the new production the two women watched the original, something which brought home to Cate how much time had passed. "I was thinking, oh god, it's ten years later. Have I aged that much?" remembers the 38-year-old star. "Being an actress on film is a bit like aging in dog years, it's quite confronting."

Click to see trailer for Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Photo: © Alphapress.com
The Australian actress presented Elizabeth: The Golden Age in LA this week. In the film she reprises the role which catapulted her to international stardom nearly a decade agoPhoto: © Getty Images
Photo: © Alphapress.com
Also at the premiere was Cate's Australian countrywoman Abbie Cornish, who plays the flame haired-monarch's faithful lady-in-waitingPhoto: © Getty Images