By Anne Brodie
Netflix’s highly anticipated Marilyn Monroe film Blonde, based on Joyce Carol Oates’ fictional biography of Norma Jean Baker and Marilyn Monroe takes an alternate look at the superstar who died too young. Norma Jean’s ascent from poverty and abuse to one of the most famous women in the world next to Queen Elizabeth, whom she met, is told from a heat-seeking point of view. Oates’ novel details imagined sexual encounters that gave her that career, diagnoses family psychiatric disorders and imagines her personal life. Cuban actor Ana de Armas is extraordinary in the role of Marilyn, thoroughly capturing MM’s look and voice, and her many transformations while winning our empathy. de Armes spoke during a virtual news conference with international media.
Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in Netflix” Blonde, debuting Sept 28
Did you know much about Marilyn Monroe?
Eleven years ago was my entry point to the script and book, and so much more. Everything was new. I didn’t know much about (Monroe’s) life but researched audio, interviews, and footage in random places, and in a 700-page book put together by (writer-director) Andrew Dominik. It was extensive and immersive covering not just her but her work and figuring out the woman underneath. That was my main focus. I felt closer to her than I could ever imagine, it was a personal journey. She had a duality – private and public that she projected. She kept on shining and pushing through.
How did you re-create her iconic look?
I was sleeping while my makeup was done (due to exhaustion). Every day felt like a huge achievement if we got the look right, those iconic looks, and taking that down to find a more natural Norma Jean look. Andrew said you can’t apply Marilyn’s makeup to Ana you have to make Ana look like her. It was very challenging, and emotional every time. It wasn’t a replica, not imposing her on me. We built it together into something that felt more natural to me. Finding the shape of her body, the bra, the elastic pushing my waist in, all these things looked like nothing but created the illusion of her body. All the elements had to be in conjunction. Step into the wardrobe and wear these clothes and shoes, it then feels like you’re in it, and it’s important to feel comfortable and real.
And her voice?
The voice was the biggest transformation for me, the accent, and the affectations as she changed her accents, and I’m not American. Her accent changes from one movie to another, all that for me to learn and capture, is the specific quality in her voice. To imitate would be very restrictive for me, nailing the accent outside the re-creations was not very interesting and didn’t feel authentic emotionally, so it was more important to find the emotional truth and move people than just copying the voice.
There are many nude and sex scenes, how were they?
It was a safe environment. Everyone was very respectful, and they held her (in high regard)while we were doing it. I knew it was going to go to uncomfortable places but I felt I was in a safe environment, it was good to be there. I just feel for her, I understood what was happening and wanted to go there and be open, and I felt heavy and deeply sad, shooting but I was also very happy because I was having an opportunity to do something I’d never done before. I had the freedom to feel all those things. I didn’t want to shy away and I wanted to go for it. We didn’t do any rehearsals – we had no time, everything else was just by myself, except the diamond scene which required choreography.
What do you think of her now?
I feel a lot of empathy for her and have more respect and am closer to her and it is impossible not to be, even after the film. I protected her, I’m just happy I got to know how hard she tried, how great she was, and how strong. A good evolution. Also, we shot in LA, in Marilyn Monroe’s real homes, her mother’s apartment, her home, and her car, and it was great visiting those locations and feeling her presence. She’s all over LA and in (historic restaurant) Musso and Frank. We shot at her table where she sat. Everyone had a story about her. It was very moving and emotional to recreate these scenes. When you’re open and embracing all these feelings there is no way you can feel anything else, I felt bigger energy, very strong.
What is your favourite Monroe film?
The Prince and the Showgirl! She’s so fresh and funny and amazing. She’s great in Some Like It Hot and she’s in great company.
Blonde on Netflix Sept 28