Later this year, if all goes well, we’ll see the Netflix version of the bestseller Blonde. The project, which began with Naomi Watts, then passed to Jessica Chastain to be cast as Marilyn Monroe, in the end, will have the Cuban Ana de Armas in the lead role. Precisely in the year that marks the 60th anniversary of the death of the greatest legend created in Hollywood. After the controversies about Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball, and Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana, both Oscar nominees, we can anticipate the discussions about Ana de Armas in 2022.
Blonde is not a biography. It is part of the “historical fiction” genre, which demands a detachment and study of true history in order to appreciate fantasy. Something that, unfortunately, in times of laziness and little education, makes the genre something dangerous. But that’s for another post. Let’s talk about Blonde here: series, movie, and book.
Today, an article by PageSix alleges that the film directed by Andrew Dominik will be recommended for people over 18 years old, because of the strong scenes of sex and nudity. The director denies the rumors of graphic scenes about oral sex during menstruation but confirms that there will be the rape scene that is in the book by Joyce Carol Oates. The director hopes that the production will be released in time to compete in Cannes and guarantees that, despite Ana’s Cuban nationality, “no one will complain about her performance”. In addition to the actress, Adrien Brody, Julianne Nicholson, and Bobby Cannavale are in the cast. Dominik is the author of the brilliant The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford, so he has my trust.
The best-seller, which was released in 2000, is nearly 700 pages long. There are so many “definitive” biographies that the author decided to “reimagine” the myth. The film comes in good timing because 2022 is the year in which we will talk a lot about the death of the actress, which may have been accidental or suicide, but whose conspiracy theory that she would have been murdered is adopted in the book as true.
Reportedly, Joyce Carol Oates was inspired to make the book when she saw a photo of Marilyn at age 15 when she won a beauty contest. With naturally dark hair and a flower crown on her head, she exudes innocence. “I felt an immediate recognition of a young girl full of hope, so American, who reminded me so strongly of girls from my childhood, some from broken homes,” she said in an interview, lamenting that it was girls whose dreams ended in defeat.
The book’s initial proposal was to be a kind of study of the transformation of an ordinary young woman into a star, however, after reviewing Marilyn’s films, Joyce Carol decided that her work could not victimize Norma Jean/Marilyn. He came to see the star as a complex and profound symbol of celebrity culture and wanted to highlight the tragic and dark side of his trajectory.
It is already common to look at Marilyn’s life by separating its phases, and Blonde divides it into three. The first covers her childhood, a girl who never knew who her father was (there are several theories) and suffered the consequences of the emotional imbalance of a bipolar mother, who spent long periods in hospitals. Soon Norma Jeane was placed in orphanages, adopted by different families, suffered her first sexual abuse at age 11, and began to dream that one day she would be genuinely loved.
As an adult, the “second” character enters Marilyn Monroe. The sexy goddess, whose unparalleled beauty inspired sex and admiration, but who was a creation of Hollywood, the result of plastic surgery and interventions to create the fantasy and hide a woman who suffered from menstrual cramps, natural or optional abortions.
And finally, the third persona is the Blonde, the legend that gains fanciful proportions beyond the earthly dimension. This idealized persona is the one who lives a life of luxury, adoration, and beauty, but who is violated behind the scenes, and treated as an object.
For the writer, the Marilyn Monroe myth brings these three personalities together and not a single biography would not allow it to be highlighted. She changed the order of facts and even people to convey her vision of the character. Some had their real names kept, and others are referred to by nicknames, but she invented people like Charles Chaplin‘s son Cass and Edward G. Robinson Jr., who didn’t exist. Joe DiMaggio became the “Athlete” and Arthur Miller, “The Theater Author”.
One detail that some in the industry fished out in 2000, but which 22 years later will become clearer, is despite Joyce Carol using the real name Darryl F. Zanuck to create a character, Mr. Z, already alluded to Harvey Weinstein. Marilyn’s rape scene – written BEFORE the #metoo movement – repeats the fact that so many survivors described when Weinstein was on trial in 2018.
The author’s decision to adopt the theory that Marilyn was murdered is also controversial. The first TV adaptation of the book, 2001, did not include this. The movie does.
Andrew Dominik announced in 2012 that he would finally adapt Blonde for the screen, even with the support of Brad Pitt – who is the producer – but it took 7 years to finance and 3 to finish the production. With that, Jessica Chastain had to leave, and Ana de Armas auditioned, winning the director’s approval, but dealing with many suspicions of the daring of having a Latina playing one of the greatest American icons.
The recordings ended in 2021, and soon we will see the result. Those who saw the raw version, like Jamie Lee Curtis (daughter of Tony Curtis, who worked with Marilyn on Some Like It Hot), gasped. Says Ana is just like Marilyn. Would it be an Oscar for Ana de Armas in 2023? The campaign is already starting…