While Netflix’s 2021 original films lineup includes heavy hitters like Adam McKay’s star-studded comedy “Don’t Look Up,” one of the most anticipated titles for indie cinephiles is, without question, Andrew Dominik’s “Blonde.” The long-awaited Marilyn Monroe biographical drama is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 novel, which takes a fictionalized look at the inner life of the Hollywood icon. The project is the first narrative feature in nine years from “The Assassination of Jesse James” and “Killing Them Softly” director Dominik, who handpicked de Armas to be his leading lady. In an interview with The Times of London, the actress said she spent nearly a whole year perfecting Monroe’s accent.
“I tried! It only took me nine months of dialect coaching, and practicing, and some ADR sessions [rerecording dialogue after filming],” de Armas said of getting the voice just right. “It was a big torture, so exhausting. My brain was fried.”
As for what it was like playing Monroe in a broader sense, de Armas added, “I had a lot of thoughts as a woman in the industry, and even in general, about how things from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s are so relatable to nowadays. And how if you don’t have a strong base, with your family and so on, it’s really hard to make it through — really hard.”
De Armas’ career has been on the rise for the last several years, from her supporting turn in “Blade Runner 2049” to her Golden Globe-nominated performance in Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out.” De Armas also has a key role in the upcoming James Bond tentpole “No Time to Die,” which is delayed once again to November 2021 because of the pandemic. “Blonde” gives de Armas the chance to lead her biggest project to date, and she is well aware of what it means to be a Cuban actress playing one of Hollywood’s most recognizable starlets.
“I only had to audition for Marilyn once and Andrew said ‘It’s you,’ but I had to audition for everyone else,” de Armas told Vanity Fair last year. “The producers. The money people. I always have people I needed to convince. But I knew I could do it. Playing Marilyn was groundbreaking. A Cuban playing Marilyn Monroe. I wanted it so badly. You see that famous photo of her and she is smiling in the moment, but that’s just a slice of what she was really going through at the time.”
De Armas isn’t the only actress who needed to spend significant time perfecting the voice accent of a famous real-life figure. Kristen Stewart is set to go into production on Pablo Larraín’s Princess Diana drama “Spencer” this year and told InStyle last fall that nailing the accent was an ongoing challenge.
“The accent is intimidating as all hell because people know that voice, and it’s so, so distinct and particular,” Stewart said. “I’m working on it now and already have my dialect coach.”
Netflix has not yet announced a release date for “Blonde.” Expect the film to arrive in the fall as part of the streaming giant’s 2021-22 awards slate.