One of the most anticipated titles at the upcoming Venice Film Festival is Blonde. A biopic of the Hollywood screen icon, Marilyn Monroe, based on the 2000 novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates, the movie “boldly reimagines the life of Marilyn Monroe, exploring the split between her public and private selves,” says the Netflix tagline. And headlining it will be the rising star, Ana de Armas, who has given some compelling performances in Sergio, Knives Out and The Gray Man. She also had a very short but memorable role in James Bond’s last adventure, No Time To Die. Also read: Blonde teaser: Ana de Armas transforms into Marilyn Monroe
Blonde director Andrew Dominik had a teaser. He told Vulture: “It’s a film that definitely has a morality about it. But it swims in very ambiguous waters because I don’t think it will be as cut-and-dried as people want to see it…There’s something in it to offend everyone.” It will be critical of American sacred cows, and “it includes Kennedy”, with whom Marilyn reportedly had a torrid affair. Not just this, she is also supposed to have a relationship with the President’s younger brother, Robert, who was the then Attorney-General, the second most powerful person in the US.
Ana De Armas told Netflix Dominik’s “ambitions were very clear from the start: to present a version of Marilyn Monroe’s life through her lens. He wanted the world to experience what it actually felt like to not only be Marilyn Monroe, but also Norma Jeane (the star’s real name). I found that to be the most daring, unapologetic and feminist take on her story that I had ever seen.”
Ana, the Cuban-Spanish actress, said that she had a tough time preparing for the part, which was to have gone to Jessica Chastain and Noami Watts in the early stages of Netflix planning.
Ana averred she had to go bald every day on the set to “achieve Monroe’s signature platinum hair, II had to do this every day, because of the blonde wigs,” she said in an interview with Byrdie. “She went through different shades of blonde from golden to really platinum, so for these wigs that are beautifully made, you can’t have anything dark underneath, so we had to make a bald cap every single day from my forehead to around my whole head.”
It was not just the physical appearance that the actor had to get it right; she also had to get into Monroe’s headspace. “She went through a lot of things that were not easy at the time—it would not even be easy right now. I was lucky I had months to prepare. We don’t usually have that luxury—we usually have to rush into the project and make it as you go, but that one I really had the time to study. There’s so much material about her, like so much to watch and listen to. It’s incredible,” Ana added.
The movie, which will release on Netflix on September 23, will also have stars such as Bobby Cannavale, Adrien Brody, Julianne Nicholson, Xavier Samuel, and Evan Williams.
Blonde is bound to be a huge success, because Monroe is “not dead”, and she has been kept alive by her fascinating persona. Away from the camera and popping flashbulbs, she made waves. She was much more than the tabloid quip of “sex bomb”. She was heavily into physical exercise, many, many years before this became popular. She was a voracious reader, with a liking for Dostoevsky in particular. As early as 1950, studio executives warned her not to be seen reading politically-radical books. Before the decade was out, she was bold enough to marry playwright Arthur Miller, at the very time he was being investigated for his dalliance with Communism. She supported the burgeoning civil rights movement. She was a founder member of the Hollywood branch of Sane, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy.
And it is only Princess Diana who rivals Monroe on the popularity charts, and that is Marilyn for you. And Dominik may well add more to keep the Hollywood diva’s memory a continuing sparkle.