Just as the unusually strong and scandal-filled 79th Venice Film Festival was drawing to a close, Andrew Dominik’s wildly ambitious Marilyn Monroe biopic kicked off blond arrived on the scene on Thursday to rekindle the discussion. The director and his cast, including star Ana de Armas, spoke shortly after the first-ever press screenings about the creation of the NC-17-rated film.
“I made this film to push myself because I thought it was a gift,” de Armas said of her decision to take on the daunting task of playing the Hollywood icon. “And this movie changed my life,” she added.
For nearly three hours, blond is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ acclaimed 700-page novel of the same name, which: The New Yorker once called “the definitive study of American celebrity”. Dominik, known for his visually catchy films The murder of Jesse James (2007) and Kill them gently (2012), spent 11 years developing the film and trying to bring it to fruition. The film explores the actress’s entire life, from her troubled childhood as Norma Jeane to her superstar as Marilyn Monroe, with an impressively intimate first-person perspective. The film also stars Adrien Brody as Arthur Miller, Bobby Cannavale as Joe DiMaggio and Julianne Nicholson as Norma Jeane’s troubled mother.
Dominik said he knew from their first meeting that De Armas was right for the part of Marilyn. “It’s a bit like love at first sight,” he said. “When the right person walks through the door, you know it.” De Armas, who is Cuban, then spent an entire year working with a voice coach to adjust her acceptance and recording of Marilyn’s intonations. And once the film was in production, the crew shot the actual locations where Marilyn lived — including the room where she spent her childhood and the Hollywood home in which she died.
“I do believe she was very close to us — she was with us,” de Armas said of the shooting process. The actress explained that the entire cast and crew shared a sense of purpose and a sense that they were “doing something bigger and special than just a movie about [Marilyn]. “We were in her service in a way,” de Armas added. “She was all I thought about. She was the only thing I dreamed of. She was all I could talk about. She was with me. And it was beautiful.”
Dominik revealed at the press conference that a short production delay resulted in blondThe very first day of shooting took place – “completely by accident” – on August 4, the anniversary of Monroe’s death. “Her dust is all over Los Angeles, you know,” he said. “And it definitely got elements of being like a seance.”
Remarkable – though perhaps unsurprising, given Venice’s reputation as a tame press corps – blond‘s NC-17 rating and graphic sequences were completely left untouched during the press conference. De Armas had previously complained about the rating, saying she thought it was unfair, while Dominik embraced it. In February, the director finally said: Daily screen: “It is a demanding film. If the public doesn’t like it, that’s the damn public’s problem. It does not run for public office. It’s an NC-17 movie about Marilyn Monroe, it’s kind of what you want, right?”
When it was Adrien Brody’s turn at the microphone, he described: blond as “telling stories that are as courageous as they are essential.” The actor said he admired the film for trying to bridge the gap between the global public perception of Marilyn Monroe as an icon and the painful, traumatic life Norma Jeane actually led.
Brody explained: “The fact that she is so revered and so loved by both men and women, and yet her inner struggles, her grief and all the unresolved traumatic moments in her life have never left her – it almost feels criminal to me. … We are fortunate to have someone like Andrew and someone like Ana, who were able to use their artistic sensibilities to represent [a reality about Marliyn] that I feel is lost on most people. And this perspective of being inside her is such a gift to us, and it’s been such a privilege for me to be a small part of helping to bring that out.”
blond also starring Julianne Nicholson, Xavier Samuel, Evan Williams, Lily Fisher, Toby Huss, David Warshofsky, Caspar Phillipson, Dan Butler, Sara Paxton, and Rebecca Wisocky. The film is produced by Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Tracey Landon and Scott Robertson, with Christina Oh as executive producer.
blond will play in select theaters from September 16 and hit Netflix worldwide on September 28.