While preparing for her role as a deep-South clairvoyant in The Gift, Cate Blanchett received some strange advice from a real-life fortune teller: Hire some protection and don't commit to any boozy movie roles.

"It was nothing really bad," the Australian native tells TV Guide Online. "[She] said I'm going to need two bodyguards — but that hasn't come to fruition yet, touch wood. And she said not to do any films where I played an alcoholic."

Blanchett, who had no previous experience with psychics, joined director Sam Raimi in visiting several L.A. fortune tellers prior to the film's shoot. "I didn't talk about being an actor at all, and after 15 minutes they were basically sounding like the trades," jokes the Elizabeth star. "I think they assume whoever comes in for a reading must be an actor wanting to know if they're going to make money."

Also helping Blanchett get into character for the psychological thriller (opening wide Jan. 19) was an eerie piece of real estate she stumbled on while on location in Savannah, Ga. "There are a lot of strange houses in Savannah," she says. "I moved into one for a couple of days, but it was very, very creepy.

"It was one of those things where I knew someone died there," she adds. "You know when you walk into a room and you get a bad feeling? There was nothing ooger-booger or hocus pocus. It's just that I thought there was a bad, funny smell in the room, so I just didn't stay there."