Ana de Armas is set to play the “Some Like It Hot” star in the adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 book. The film stirred controversy surrounding de Armas’ casting as the iconic actress, as well as the material of Oates’ fictionalized telling of Monroe’s journey through a series of abusive relationships.
De Armas was announced to play Norma Jeane (Monroe’s real first name purposefully misspelled by Oates with an extra “e” at the end of Jean) in 2019, with the film originally set for a 2021 release. The Netflix film has since been pushed to September 23, 2022 release.
Director Dominik selected de Armas after almost a decade of trying to cast the lead role. Jessica Chastain and Naomi Watts had reportedly been attached to the film, which was in development since 2010. De Armas snagged the role in 2019. Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, and Julianne Nicholson also co-star as real-life figures in Monroe’s life.
“Blonde” has made waves with rumors of NC-17 rated sex scenes and the physical transformation of “No Time to Die” Bond girl de Armas into silver screen legend Monroe. The NC-17 rumors are true, as Netflix has confirmed the film’s rating due to “for some sexual content.”
Keep reading to see everything we know so far about “Blonde.”
Marilyn Monroe Estate Stands By Ana de Armas’ Casting
While “Blonde” is an unauthorized portrait of the late Marilyn Monroe, the official Marilyn Monroe Estate issued a statement applauding de Armas’ portrayal of the screen icon. De Armas’ Cuban accent drew controversy over the first trailer released, prompting the estate to weigh in.
“Marilyn Monroe is a singular Hollywood and pop culture icon that transcends generations and history,” Marc Rosen, president of entertainment at Authentic Brands Group (ABG), which owns the Marilyn Monroe Estate, said in a press statement. “Any actor that steps into that role knows they have big shoes to fill. Based on the trailer alone, it looks like Ana was a great casting choice as she captures Marilyn’s glamour, humanity, and vulnerability. We can’t wait to see the film in its entirety!”
Producer Brad Pitt Praises de Armas’ “Phenomenal” Tenacity as Monroe
Plan B producer Brad Pitt gushed to Entertainment Tonight over how Ana de Armas transformed the “Blonde” production. “She is phenomenal in it,” Pitt explained. “That’s a tough dress to fill.”
In fact, it was de Armas’ take on Monroe that led to “Blonde” being made in the first place. “It was 10 years in the making,” Pitt revealed. “It wasn’t until we found Ana that we could get it across the finish line.”
The Film Is Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ Novel
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Joyce Carol Oates’ “Blonde” is a fictionalized narrative of Monroe’s life, starting with her relationship with her father and ending in her alleged assassination. Per Vogue, Oates first conceived of the novel after seeing a photograph of a 15-year-old Norma Jean Baker winning a beauty contest in California in 1941.
As in Oates’ 700-page book, the players in Monroe’s life are all identified only by nicknames. Dominik’s film adaptation is similarly steering clear of actual names, with Bobby Cannavale playing “The Ex-Athlete” Joe DiMaggio, Adrien Brody is “The Playwright” Arthur Miller, and Caspar Phillipson stars as “The President” John F. Kennedy.
Brad Pitt Reunites with Andrew Dominik to Produce
©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection
After collaborating on “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” and “Killing Them Softly,” Brad Pitt teams up once more with director Dominik for “Blonde,” albeit their time behind the camera. Pitt’s Plan B production company officially is producing the movie.
Ana de Armas Is a “Groundbreaking” Marilyn Monroe
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Director Dominik knew that Cuban actress de Armas was “the one” to play Monroe after just a single audition. De Armas gushed to Vanity Fair that the opportunity to take on the legendary star is a career-making task.
“I knew I could do it. Playing Marilyn was groundbreaking, a Cuban playing Marilyn Monroe,” de Armas said in 2020. “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’ “Knives Out” co-star Jamie Lee Curtis, whose father Tony Curtis starred opposite Monroe in “Some Like It Hot,” praised de Armas’ portrayal, saying, “I dropped to the floor. I couldn’t believe it. Ana was completely gone. She was Marilyn.”
The Transformation into Marilyn Was “Exhausting”
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De Armas revealed to Byrdie that she wore a bald cap to conceal her natural brunette shade while starring as the titular blonde bombshell.
“[Marilyn] 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,” de Armas said.
The hairstyle was only part of the three-and-a-half hours of makeup every day.
The “Disturbing” Film Gets Joyce Carol Oates’ Stamp of Approval
Author Oates shared her reaction to the film after watching a rough cut in August 2020. “It is startling, brilliant, very disturbing and perhaps most surprisingly an utterly ‘feminist’ interpretation,” Oates tweeted. “Not sure that any male director has ever achieved anything [like] this.”
By September 2021, Oates tweeted that the presumably final film is “an exquisite portrait of Marilyn Monroe by Ana de Armas & director Andrew Dominic; one without the other could perhaps not have worked this magic. The tone of the film is hard to classify, not surreal but not totally realistic, not ‘horror’ but suffused with the dread of horror.”
Andrew Dominik Shut Down Rumors of Graphic Sex Scenes, but Confirmed NC-17 Content
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While Dominik has described “Blonde” as an “emotional nightmare fairy-tale type movie,” he did clarify that some rumors around assault scenes are inaccurate. The writer-director previously said the NC-17 rating rumor was “horseshit,” but during an interview with Screen Daily in February 2022, Dominik confirmed the mature content.
“It’s an NC-17 movie about Marilyn Monroe, it’s kind of what you want, right? I want to go and see the NC-17 version of the Marilyn Monroe story,” Dominik said.
However, the “Mindhunter” director clarified that the rumor of a scene featuring menstrual cunnilingus is just “hilarious.” Meanwhile, a rape scene involving a studio executive, played by David Warshofsky, is confirmed, and comes from Oates’ book.
“It’s a demanding movie,” Dominik said. “If the audience doesn’t like it, that’s the fucking audience’s problem. It’s not running for public office.”
The Release of “Blonde” Depends on Netflix
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“[Netflix] said, ‘We’ll put the movie in theaters for eight months before we bring it out on the platform,’” Dominik told Screen Daily.
The streaming platform has to adhere to a 15-month window between a film’s release on its French arm of Netflix and a theatrical release. Cannes also requires all films screening in Competition to commit to a full theatrical release in France.
Per Dominik, Cannes festival director Thierry Frémaux “loves” the Joyce Carol Oates adaptation. Frémaux previously told Deadline that “Blonde” could have been part of 2021 Cannes.
“It’s beautiful, I saw it, and I invited those films Out of Competition,” Frémaux said in June 2021. “Netflix doesn’t want to come to Cannes, but I invited them anyway and alas…It’s important, it’s not us refusing Netflix movies, it’s Netflix who doesn’t want or can’t…They want to come in Competition but films that are part of the Competition must be released [theatrically] in France.”
This year, “Blonde” also will not premiere at 2022 Cannes.
Additionally, Dominik noted that streaming giant Netflix “insisted” on hiring “Tenet” editor Jennifer Lame “to curb the excesses of the movie,” which has delayed its release. Regardless, Dominik noted that he has “nothing but gratitude for Netflix” overall.
“Blonde” Teaser Goes Viral
The first look at Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe sent the Internet into a tizzy when the teaser trailer dropped on June 16. “Blonde” will officially debut September 23 on Netflix. The first footage shows Monroe (de Armas) being attacked by paparazzi and quickly turning from crying to laughing before going onstage.
Adrien Brody Promises “Controversy” Over Netflix Film
“Blonde” star Adrien Brody, who plays Marilyn Monroe’s ex-husband playwright Arthur Miller, revealed to Deadline that the upcoming Netflix film will be sure to challenge audiences’ perceptions of Monroe.
“There will be some controversy with that one, I’m sure,” Brody said during the “Actor’s Side” podcast.
Joyce Carol Oates Hints Film Shows Marilyn Monroe Dying of “Extreme Despair”
The “Blonde” author told audiences while at the 21st Neuchâtel Intl. Fantastic Film Festival in Switzerland that writer-director Andrew Dominik fully “immersed himself” in the perspective of a fictionalized Marilyn Monroe. Joyce Carol Oates praised Dominik for straying away from a “male gaze” of the blonde bombshell and for a “wonderful” Ana de Armas to embody Monroe’s endurance in the spotlight. According to Oates, via Variety, De Armas underwent four hours of makeup to transform into Monroe, much like how Norma Jeane Baker in Oates’ portrait of Monroe similarly had to turn into her stage persona for the public.
“It’s like a fantastic image, but to make it a livelihood is to endure a good deal of anguish,” Oates explained. “As Marilyn got older, she was still being given these roles a young starlet would play, and she was feeling humiliated. You can’t keep playing this dumb blonde nearing the age of 40. Some people say she committed suicide. I don’t necessarily think that. I think she may have died of something like extreme despair.“
Oates summed up, “She gained a fame in the world, but that’s not an identity you can live with. It is one that made a lot of money for a lot of men, but not much for herself. When she died, at 36, she didn’t own enough money for a proper funeral.”
“Blonde” Set to Debut at 2022 Venice Film Festival
Andrew Dominik’s “Blonde” will be making its world premiere at Venice Film Festival this fall, as Variety first reported. “Don’t Worry Darling,” “White Noise,” “Bardo,” and “Bones and All” are similarly expected to debut during the festival.
“Blonde” will premiere In Competition for the 79th annual festival.
The news comes after Dominik alleged Netflix turned down two Cannes Film Festival premieres, one in 2021 due to editing delays mandated by the streamer, and the 2022 festival presumably due to the streaming policy in France.
“It’s beautiful, I saw it, and I invited those films Out of Competition,” Cannes head Thierry Fremaux said in June 2021. “Netflix doesn’t want to come to Cannes, but I invited them anyway and alas…It’s important, it’s not us refusing Netflix movies, it’s Netflix who doesn’t want or can’t…They want to come in Competition but films that are part of the Competition must be released [theatrically] in France.”
Netflix recently confirmed a deal that the streamer can show movies 15 months after their theatrical release in France on the streaming platform, ending the previous 36-month window between theatrical and streaming.
Fremaux later told IndieWire’s Eric Kohn that he had hoped to show both “Blonde” and Alejandro Iñarritu’s “Bardo” in competition this year. Kohn wrote, “Netflix continues to avoid Cannes even as Fremaux attempts to lure films from the streamer, striking a conciliatory tone — again, an extension of the festival’s industry-first mentality. In recent years, even the French industry has grown more comfortable with the supremacy of streaming platforms, and last year Netflix committed to investing $45 million annually in French productions.”
Fremaux stated, “I subscribe to all the platforms. It is an invention with formidable efficiency for the cinema. … Going to war with them would be a mistake.”
First Look at Adrien Brody as Arthur Miller
Adrien Brody portrays Marilyn Monroe’s husband, playwright Arthur Miller, in the Netflix film. Monroe wed Miller in 1956 and later filed for divorce in 1961. The “Death of a Salesman” and “The Crucible” writer was 10 years Monroe’s senior. Monroe died two years after their split in 1962, with Miller famously refusing to attend her funeral.
“Instead of jetting [from New York] to the funeral to get my picture taken, I decided to stay home and let the public mourners finish the mockery,” Miller wrote in an essay, via The Independent. “Not that everyone there will be false, but enough. Most of them there destroyed her, ladies and gentlemen. Now as you stand there weeping and gawking, glad that it is not you going into the earth, glad that it is this lovely girl who you at last killed.” Miller died in 2005.
Netflix Unveils Behind-the-Scenes Production Images
Netflix released two photos showcasing the luxe production behind “Blonde.” The first image captures writer-director Andrew Dominik behind the monitor to film Ana de Armas as Monroe and Bobby Cannavale as Joe DiMaggio on set.
The second image includes choreographer Denna Thomsen teaching de Armas how to perfect the “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” song and dance number from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”
Ana de Armas Poses as Marilyn Monroe for Vintage Pinup Posters
Ana de Armas showed off her transformation into blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe for two press images channeling the vintage posters model-actress posed for.
Official Trailer Drops
Marilyn Monroe is forging her way through the “Asphalt Jungle” of Hollywood, one misstep at a time in the official trailer for the highly-anticipated film. Being told that “it’s time” to transform into her onstage persona, de Armas as Monroe stuns in the emotional trailer for Andrew Dominik’s epic period piece, releasing September 23.