Ana de Armas Talks ‘Blonde’ With Vanity Fair

With roles in Knives Out, No Time to Die and the upcoming Blonde, Ana de Armas could be the breakout star of 2020. In a cover story for Vanity Fair, Ana talks about the challenge of playing Marilyn.

“Like all actors, fresh and seasoned alike, de Armas has nothing but diplomatic adjectives for her projects and costars, but she absolutely beams when she talks about Blonde, adapted from Joyce Carol Oates’s Pulitzer-nominated fictionalization of Norma Jeane Baker and directed by Andrew Dominik.

‘I only had to audition for Marilyn once and Andrew said “It’s you,” but I had to audition for everyone else. 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.’

Before the script came her way, her knowledge of Monroe was limited to a few iconic roles and photos, but now she’s become a human conveyor belt of fun facts. Even her dog, Elvis, plays Monroe’s dog in the film. (‘His name was Mafia. Sinatra gave him to her. Of course.’) She also identifies with Monroe in a more profound way: ‘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.’

‘I have never worked more closely with a director than I worked with Andrew. Yes, I have had collaborative relationships, but to get phone calls at midnight because he has an idea and he can’t sleep and all of a sudden you can’t sleep for the same reason…’

‘I remember when she showed me a video of her screen tests for Blonde,’ says Jamie Lee Curtis, whose father starred with Monroe in Some Like It Hot. ‘I dropped to the floor. I couldn’t believe it. Ana was completely gone. She was Marilyn.'”



Charles ‘Jerry’ Juroe on Marilyn Vs Olivier

Photo by Milton Greene

In a third extract from movie publicist Charles ‘Jerry’ Juroe’s memoir, Bond, the Beatles and My Year With Marilyn, he describes his struggle to keep under wraps Marilyn’s increasingly toxic relationship with Sir Laurence Olivier, her co-star and director of The Prince and the Showgirl. (You can read the other posts here.)

“I managed to keep the degree of bitterness that developed between Monroe and Olivier out of the British press, even though our British unit publicist was fired after writing a behind-the-scenes story for one of the Sunday newspapers on what was really happening at dear old Pinewood Studios in leafy idyllic Buckinghamshire. Despite that, Milton Greene, who was ‘Piggy in the Middle,’ did appreciate what the publicity department was accomplishing. That he kept his sanity and laid-back charm was a miracle, and I held him in high esteem. The Milton Greene I knew was a talented and caring person, and I valued his friendship. His tenure at the head of Marilyn Monroe Productions was not to last long, though certainly longer than mine …”

The Oliviers and the Millers say their goodbyes, November 1956

“Arrangements were being finalised for the departure back to New York and it took all the persuasive powers of [Arthur] Jacobs, plus the head of Warner Bros. production in the UK and myself, to persuade Olivier that he had to be at [the airport] to be photographed giving Monroe a ‘going away present’ of a beautiful watch. Naturally, it was charged to the film’s overhead. It is a little short of amazing what so often ends up on a film’s budget that has so little to do with what ends up on the screen!”

Marilyn with Arthur Miller at the New York premiere of The Prince and the Showgirl, 1957

“At the end of production, I returned to the States with Jacobs and saw out my duties on The Prince and the Showgirl when required. I continued working in concert with the New York publicity department of Warner Bros., particularly during the New York premiere. The most traumatic happening during that time was when Warners decided they needed a specially posed photo of Monroe and Olivier for the advertising campaign. I had to fly to London and accompany a very reluctant Larry to New York. We left the hotel to go to Greene’s studio where Olivier put on his costume, a polka-dotted silk robe. Madame arrived and after the briefest of greetings the session started. Two rolls of film later – only some twenty shots – our diva said, ‘That’s it!’ and left. As the saying goes, that was that!”

‘All About Eve’ an All-Time Oscar Favourite

Marilyn presents the Oscar for Best Sound Recording to Thomas J. Moulton for All About Eve at the 1951 ceremony

As another awards season ends, All About Eve comes third in Vulture‘s ranking of the all-time best Oscar-winning movies – right behind Casablanca and The Godfather.

“Filmmaker Joseph L. Mankiewicz once described his movies as ‘a continuing comment on the manners and mores of contemporary society in general and the male-female relationship in particular.’ Which meant they were also darkly, piercingly funny. Inspired by a Mary Orr story, which had been based on an anecdote relayed to Orr about a particularly ambitious aspiring actress, All About Eve is a wellspring of razor-sharp dialogue and despicable human behavior, telling the story of Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), a massive fan of Broadway giant Margo Channing (Bette Davis) who, slowly but surely, usurps her stardom. A takedown of ego, theater, actors, writers, vanity, and other deadly sins, All About Eve puts the dagger in with such elegance — and then does it again and again.”

While there were no direct nods to Marilyn at this year’s ceremony, British actress Florence Pugh – nominated as Best Supporting Actress for her role as flighty Amy in Little Women – wore a Louis Vuitton gown to Vanity Fair‘s Oscar party which brought to mind a 21st century version of Marilyn’s gold lamé gown, designed by Travilla for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

On the streets in Hollywood, meanwhile, W magazine profiled some of the faces in the crowd…

What’s your name? Monika Ekiert.
What brings you to the Oscars tonight? I’m an actress and I just finished a film about Marilyn Monroe, because before, I was in a play, The Seven Year Itch.
Are you looking to see any celebrities on the red carpet? I am not looking, I’m an actress. I was famous in Europe, so when I came here it was different, it’s not the same system. Maybe someday soon I can be like them, at the Oscars.

Forever Marilyn (2019)

New York Stories: Marilyn at the Circus

This somewhat inelegant shot of Marilyn on a pink elephant, taken by Arthur Fellig (aka ‘Weegee’) backstage during the Ringling Brothers circus at Madison Square Garden in March 1955 is featured in New York Stories: Vintage Postwar Photographs, on display at the Keith de Lellis Gallery on East 57th Street until March 27. (Some more of Weegee’s photos from the evening are posted below.)

World’s Richest Man Buys Joe Schenck’s Estate

Marilyn with Joe Schenck, 1953

The Holmby Hills estate that was formerly home to movie mogul Joe Schenck has been purchased for $165 million by the world’s richest man, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the New York Post reports. During the late 1940s, Marilyn sometimes stayed in Schenck’s guesthouse – but despite rumours to the contrary, both insisted their relationship was platonic (read more about the property’s history here.)

George Rodriguez’s ‘Double Vision’ of Marilyn and José

Photographer George Rodriguez, who captured Los Angeles life for forty years – from Hollywood glitz to Chicano civil rights movement – is the subject of a retrospective, George Rodriguez: Double Vision, at the Vincent Price Art Museum in LA until February 29, We Are Mitú reports. (Rodriguez photographed Marilyn at the Golden Globes in 1962 with her date, Mexican screenwriter José Bolaños, though it’s unclear whether these images of part of the exhibition.)

Terry Moore Remembers Marilyn

Actress Terry Moore began her movie career in 1940, and would later make a successful transition from child performer to adult star when she was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for her role in an adaptation of William Inge’s Come Back, Little Sheba (1952.) After director Elia Kazan cast her in Man On a Tightrope (1953), she was signed by Twentieth Century Fox. She was photographed with Marilyn at public events including the 1953 wedding of columnist Sheilah Graham (see above), and at the premiere of How to Marry a Millionaire (below.)

Terry had previously been signed to Columbia Studios in 1948, the same year when Marilyn was briefly under contract there, starring in the low-budget musical, Ladies of the Chorus, before being dropped by boss Harry Cohn. It was during this period that Marilyn met Natasha Lytess, who became her acting coach until 1954.

Rock Hudson, Terry Moore, Robert Mitchum and Marilyn

Now 91, Terry recalls her encounters with Marilyn and other stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age in an interview with Stephanie Nolasco for Fox News.

“Fox News: What’s the story behind your friendship with Marilyn Monroe?

Moore: I met Marilyn when she was put under contract. I was under contract to Columbia Studios at that time. We both then went to 20th Century Fox at the same time. And if you read anything about Marilyn, her acting coach was Natasha Lytess. The directors got so mad that she was always looking at Natasha while filming her scenes. Natasha was behind the cameras trying to guide her. It got so bad the directors later threw Natasha off the set.

I was with her when she met Natasha. They brought her into Natasha’s acting lessons. I was the only one in the class. And so I really wanted someone to do scenes with. I was told, ‘This is a new contract player named Marilyn Monroe. Now you and Natasha will have someone to act with.’ I was so happy to meet her. And we became close, fast friends. I would take her home to dinner with me. My parents were just crazy about her. She was one of the sweetest, loneliest girls I ever met. But she learned so quickly as an actress.

Fox News: What do you think made Marilyn feel so lonely?

Moore: Well sometimes the biggest stars are usually very shy … They’re very much like John Wayne. He was so backward, very backward. He also had to learn to get out there and have self-confidence. Most actors when they start out have little confidence. Marilyn didn’t have confidence. She had to have everyone in the world believe in her and love her before she had any confidence.”

Camila Cabello’s Bombshell Homage

Back in 2018, Camila Cabello referenced ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ while performing her hit song, ‘Havana’, at the iHeart Radio Awards (see here.) Now in the video for her latest single, ‘My Oh My’, Camila plays a vintage movie star who ditches her studio bosses (and her Monroesque blonde bombshell image) to party with bad boy rapper DeBaby.

‘Pain and Glory’: Almodovar, Natalie and Marilyn

The Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar has referenced Marilyn before – in Broken Embraces (2009), Lena, an actress played by Penelope Cruz, impersonates both Monroe and Audrey Hepburn (see my review here.)

Ten years on, Almodovar has once again called on his cinematic muses in Pain and Glory, chosen by Time magazine as its film of the year in 2019. Antonio Banderas plays Salvador Mallo, a filmmaker plagued by ill-health and depression. In one scene, actor Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia) visits him at home. After they smoke heroin together, Salvador falls asleep and Alberto reads a document on his computer, entitled ‘Addiction’. As Alberto sits at Salvador’s desk, you may notice Donald Spoto’s 1992 book, Marilyn Monroe: The Biography, on the shelf behind him (to the left – open gallery below.)

Alberto then begins to read the text, and imagines performing it onstage. In it, Salvador remembered his first encounter with the magic of Hollywood, when he was a poor boy living in the Spanish village of Paterna.

“My idea of cinema was always linked to the breeze on summer nights. We only saw films in the summer. The films were projected on an enormous wall that had been whitewashed. I particularly remember the films where there was water: waterfalls, beaches, the bottom of the sea, rivers or springs. “

We then see a clip from Elia Kazan’s Splendour in the Grass (1961) projected onto an imaginary screen, with Natalie Wood swimming in a river. This image sparks an amusing memory…

“Just hearing the sound of water gave all the kids a tremendous desire to urinate and we did it right there, on both sides of the screen. In the cinemas of my childhood it always smells of piss, and of jasmine, and of the summer breeze.”

He then projects a seemingly rain-spattered clip of Marilyn in Niagara (1953), singing along to her favourite song, ‘Kiss’ (“Take me, take me in your arms…”)

Unlike the Natalie clip, however, in this one Marilyn goes full-screen, and the raindrops disappear. Salvador awakes, and asks what Alberto is doing. ‘Reading you,’ he replies. Salvador allows him to perform ‘Addiction’, so long as he remains anonymous. We then watch Alberto continue the story in a theatre, a blank screen behind him. A handsome man (played by Leonardo Sbaraglia) goes inside, and is moved to tears as Alberto re-enacts the story of Marcelo, Salvador’s lost lover from many years before.

“Under the whitewashed wall where the films of my childhood were projected. I prayed that nothing would happen to the leading ladies, but I didn’t succeed, neither with Natalie Wood or Marilyn. Then I tried to save Marcelo and myself. If Marcelo was saved, it was far away from me. As for me, I stayed in Madrid and the cinema saved me.”

It’s interesting that he gives Natalie Wood’s full name, but not Marilyn’s – perhaps because one need only say her first name for the audience to know who he means. In Splendour in the Grass, Natalie played a sensitive young woman who breaks down when forbidden to marry the boy she loves (Warren Beatty.) In Niagara, for the only time in her career, Marilyn played a woman who is murdered for her adulterous desires.

Both women seem out of their element. Splendour in the Grass (a line from a poem by W.B. Yeats) conjures the beauty of the land, but here we see our heroine in the water. Natalie, who was terrified of water, found the scene traumatic; and in 1981 (the same year in which Salvador and Marcelo’s affair began), Natalie died by drowning when she apparently fell from the deck of her husband Robert Wagner’s boat (named Splendour in her honour.)

Niagara is named after the famous waterfall, but Marilyn’s character Rose – with her hot pink dress and signature red lipstick, singing of lust – seems more akin to fire. Marilyn also died before her time, and like Marcelo, she had battled addiction. In her first film – Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay, in which a nine-year-old Natalie starred – Marilyn’s tiny role was mostly cut, but the two women would meet again, just days before Marilyn died in 1962, when Natalie attended a party with her Splendour co-star, Warren Beatty (see here.)

Earlier that year, Natalie had spoken to Redbook‘s Alan Levy about Marilyn, and her words echo Salvador’s wish to protect them both.

“When you look at Marilyn on the screen, you don’t want anything bad to happen to her. You really care that she should be all right … happy.”