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  • Writer's pictureSabrina Roman

Ana De Armas becomes Marilyn Monroe for Netflix’s ‘Blonde’

Netflix have released the latest trailer for the Marilyn Monroe ‘Blonde’ biopic. Forecasted to be released by the streaming giant on the 23rd of September, the “boldly reimagined fictional portrait”. Based off of the 2000 biographic novel by American writer Joyce Carole Oates, is expected to cover the tension between the real life character of Norma Jeane Mortenson and her alternate enigmatic silver-screen persona Marilyn Monroe. Director Andrew Dominik explained to Netflix queue, the core focus of Blonde would be on “the relationship with herself and with this other persona, Marilyn, which is both her armour and the thing that is threatening to consume her”.

Ahead of the biopic’s September 23rd release, PWR has curated a list of the film’s major core talking points.

The two trailers give a soul-moving evocative account of the experiences of Marilyn Monroe.

On 16th June, Netflix presented the original black and white trailer for Blonde. Set to a foreboding rendition of ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ performed by the actress in the 1953 film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’. The opening clip depicts Monroe portrayed by Spanish Cuban Ana de Armas sobbing isolated in front of her stage mirror. Camera flashes then transport the trailer’s viewer to impressions of Monroe’s life in front of the lens. We see her wearing the iconic white cocktail dress designed by costume designer William Travilla for 1954 comedy picture ‘Seven Year Itch’, attending a movie premier and dancing in a scene from ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’. The trailer then cuts back to Monroe sitting solitarily in front of her dressing room mirror illuminated solely by its lights before giving a hauntingly coquettish laugh and flashing a smile.

On the 28th of July, the video platform released a second trailer spanning over a minute. Beginning with a stage-hand knocking on her door, we see Monroe still rehearsing her white-teethed smile in front of her mirror before blowing a kiss. The scene then goes to Marilyn exiting a car wearing a resplendent gown with a fox-fur shawl around her shoulders to chants of “Marilyn” from fans at a movie premiere. Before cutting back to the actress sitting opposite her second husband Joe DiMaggio portrayed by Bobby Cannavale, whilst he asks her about her ‘start’ in the acting business. “I guess I was discovered” she replies obscurely before gazing fleetingly to the side. The trailer then furtively cuts between scenes of Monroe playing the public role of an iconic and beloved silver-screen actress attending glamorous movie premieres. And Norma Jean battling with the invisible demons which accompanied her stratospheric rise within the acting industry.

“I’ve played Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Monroe. I can’t face doing another scene with Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn doesn’t exist, when I come out of my dressing room, I’m Norma Jean” she explains in the voiceover.

Blonde’ will take it’s cue from the ‘Blonde’ biopic written by American author Joyce Carole Oates.

Oates first had the idea to write a fictionalised biographic account of Marilyn Monroe’s life after seeing a photograph of Monroe, then a 15 year old Norma Jean Baker winning a beauty competition in 1941 in California. The writer voiced in an interview with her own biographer Greg Johnson, that she connected with Monroe on an emotional level. “I felt an immediate sense of something like recognition ; this young hopefully smiling girl, so very American, reminded me powerfully of girls of my own childhood, some of them from broken homes”. Originally the American writer had masterminded for ‘Blonde’ to be a novella about the metamorphosis of Norma Jean into Marilyn Monroe and the loss of her identity as a result. But as Oate’s research into the life of Monroe progressed and intensified, through her watching the actress’s movies, learning about the Monroe’s persona and the influence of her career on different strands of American culture, the fictional biography inevitably grew in volume.

The novel charts a course of Monroe’s life, which the film will echo. Oate’s book begins with Monroe being moved throughout multiple foster homes, whilst longing for a central paternal figure. And concludes with her speculated assassination after her speculated affair with JFK.

The cast have a number of noteworthy acting credentials.

Cuban actress Ana De Armas who left a lasting impression as a Bond girl in No Time To Die will portray the leading role of Marilyn Monroe. While actors Bobby Cannavale recognised as a recipient of two Prime-time Emmy awards will play the role of Marilyn’s Yankee’s star husband of 9 months Joe DiMaggio. And Adrien Brody known for his academy award winning role in The Pianist will take on the role of her third husband Arthur Miller. The portrayal of John F Kennedy will be taken on by Caspar Phillipson, who Monroe famously performed a rendition of Happy Birthday Mr President for. Phillipson has previously played the role of JFK for biographical drama film ‘Jackie’ and short film ‘The Speech JFK Never Gave’.

Costumes designed by Jennifer Johnson.

IMDB have declared Jennifer Johnson to be the mind behind the high-profile cosmopolitan wardrobes' worn by Ana De Armas and the additional cast members of ‘Blonde’. In 2018 the costume designer was presented with the ‘Costume Designers Guild Award for Excellence in Costume Design for a Contemporary Film. And nominated for a BAFTA award for Best Costume Design, after working on ‘I, Tonya’ starring Margot Robbie, directed by Craig Gillespie and produced by Clubhouse pictures.

Brad Pitt is a member of Blonde’s production team.

Post working alongside Director Andrew Dominik on projects such as ‘Killing them softly’ and ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ which respectively grossed $37.9 million and $15 million at the box office. The two are once again working together to bring the fictionalised biographic account of Marilyn Monroe to life.

Ana De Armas unfolded the research process behind the film during an interview with Netflix Queue. The leading actress revealed, “We worked on this film for hours, every single day for almost a year. I read Joyce’s novel, studied hundreds of photographs, videos, audio recordings, films - anything I could get my hands on. Every scene is inspired by an existing photograph. We’d pore over every detail in the photo and debate what was happening in it. The first question was always, ‘What was Norma Jean feeling here?’ We wanted to tell the human side of her story. Fame is what made Marilyn the most visible person in the world, but it also made Norma the most invisible”.

Black and white cinematography.

As referenced to in the two respective trailers, the Blonde biopic has been produced in an eclectic sequence of black and white and coloured cinematography. Director Andrew Dominik has described the production as an “avalanche of images and events”.

Controversial foundations.

The biopic is not without its own notably controversial features. After the updated trailer was launched on the 28th of July, numerous fans of Monroe took to various social media platforms to argue the film as being exploitative of the actress. One person took to Twitter to comment, “The thing about Marilyn Monroe is that her entire life was full of exploitation. You can’t make a movie about her, biographical or fictitious, without acknowledging that. The issue isn’t that Blonde is doing what it’s doing. It’s that it’s doing it in the way that it is”.

The NC-17 rating.

Netflix giving the biopic the NC-17 rating tag, is the lion’s share of the controversial element. The reimagined biopic of Monroes life written by Joyce Carol Oates in her novel, involves a diary recount in which Monroe attends a movie audition at The Studio. During the ‘meeting’ she is assaulted by producer Mr Z. After Monroe is given a position in the production which aides in launching her role as an actress.

Music composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

The two composers have worked together on the scores for ‘This Much I Know To Be True’ and musical documentary ‘One More Time With Feeling’ which followed the production of ‘Skeleton Tree’, ‘Nick Cave’ & ‘The Bad Seeds’ 16th studio album.

Written by: Sabrina Roman


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