Elle Fanning: Growing Up With Marilyn

Elle Fanning, 12 year-old sister of actress Dakota, stars with Stephen Dorff in Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, set in one of her idol Marilyn Monroe’s Hollywood haunts – the Chateau Marmont Hotel. (Marilyn spent time there while filming Bus Stop in 1956.)

“I’d been there before for some interviews and photo shoots, but I hadn’t spent that much time there. Now, I feel like I know it so well. When I first got there, I was like, ‘Am I walking where Marilyn Monroe walked?'”

This month Elle tells Interview magazine about her lifelong admiration for MM:

“INTERVIEW: Is there anyone you’d really like to work with? Who was your favourite actor growing up?

ELLE: My favorite actress is Marilyn Monroe.

INTERVIEW: She’s gonna be tricky to work with.

ELLE: Yeah. [laughs]

INTERVIEW: Have you ever seen any of Marilyn Monroe’s films? Or do you just like her look?

ELLE: Yeah, I mean, of course-I love her look and everything. But I’ve seen The Seven Year Itch [1955] and I loved that. I watched that all the time when I was little. I liked the dress. I was her for Halloween when I was 7. I did the makeup and the mole and I did all the poses with blowing kisses and all that …”

Dressed as Marilyn for Halloween ’05, aged 7

Michelle Williams as Marilyn

“I feel like we live together … At a certain point, something else does take over. I don’t quite feel myself these days … I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist, eventually. Physically and vocally, everything about her is different from me. I’ve kind of gone to school and had teachers to help me understand Marilyn, so I could project an essence of her. When I first approached the part, I thought that there were three, even four parts to Marilyn. It rearranges you, it shifts your molecules, lifts you up, spins you around, puts you back down and you’re not quite the same, for better or for worse.”

Baz Bamigboye visits the My Week With Marilyn set and talks to Michelle Williams in today’s Daily Mail

The BBC reports from location shooting in Duxford, Cambridgeshire

Marilyn and Clifford Odets

‘Clash by Night’ (1952)

One of Marilyn Monroe’s strongest early film roles was as Peggy, the feisty cannery worker in Clash by Night (1952), based on a play by Clifford Odets.

Marilyn knew Odets quite well and later played Lorna Moon in a scene from his most famous play, Golden Boy, at the Actor’s Studio during the late 1950s. She later considered starring in Odets’ screenplay, The Story on Page One (1959), but that role went to Rita Hayworth, and was directed by Odets himself.

Always competitive with Miller, Odets took a rather dim view of The Misfits (1960), Monroe’s last completed film, which Miller wrote and John Huston directed.

Odets was the leading New York playwright of the 1930s and 40s, and his plays focussed on social injustice and the plight of the ‘little man’. He was also involved in the formation of the Group Theatre alongside Lee Strasberg.

Unlike Arthur Miller, the playwright who ultimately eclipsed him, Odets chose to ‘name names’ in the House Un-American Activities Committee trials of the early 1950s, a decision he would bitterly regret. He died in 1963.

In his essay on Monroe in the book, Who the Hell’s in It, director Peter Bogdanovich recalled, ‘Clifford told me that Marilyn Monroe used to come over to his house and talk, but that the only times she seemed to him really comfortable were when she was with his two young children and their large poodle. She relaxed with them, felt no threat. With everyone else, Odets said, she seemed nervous, intimidated, frightened. When I repeated to Miller this remark about her with children and animals, he said, “Well, they didn’t sneer at her.'”

Soon after Monroe’s death, Odets wrote, ‘One night some short weeks ago, for the first time in her not always happy life, Marilyn Monroe’s soul sat down alone to a quiet supper from which it did not rise. If they tell you that she died of sleeping pills you must know that she died of a wasting grief, of a slow bleeding at the soul.’

One of Odets’ later plays, The Country Girl (filmed in 1954 with Grace Kelly) is currently being revived in London. Walt Odets has spoken to the Jewish Chronicle about his famous father and his memories, and mentioned, rather unfavourably, the marriage of Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe:

“The Strasberg version of the marriage was that Arthur treated Marilyn badly. So I grew up with bad feelings about Miller. I met Arthur a few times and he was a very hard, cold man. He was the kind of guy who doesn’t like children or dogs. And for a child that is immediately perceptible.”

Jill Clayburgh 1944-2010

Actress Jill Clayburgh has died aged 66. She starred in films such as Portnoy’s Complaint (1972), Gable and Lombard (1976), Semi-Tough (1977), An Unmarried Woman (1978), and La Luna (1979.)

She was known for playing strong, liberated women, and once told reporters, ‘There was practically nothing for women to do on the screen in the 1950s and 1960s. Sure, Marilyn Monroe was great, but she had to play a one-sided character, a vulnerable sex object. It was a real fantasy.’

In recent years, Clayburgh has appeared in television dramas including Nip/Tuck and Dirty Sexy Money (with Donald Sutherland.) She married playwright David Rabe (The Firm) in 1979, and they had three children.

Jill Clayburgh died of leukaemia after living with the disease for two decades. Her final film, Love and Other Drugs, opens in the US later this months and also features Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway.

Naomi Watts: A ‘Fragile’ Blonde

“I’m not especially comfortable playing damsels in distress,” the Australian actress Naomi Watts tells Nancy Mills of The Scotsman. “I like to play women who appear to be that but, at the last minute, show they’re anything but.”

This could be a description of Marilyn Monroe, who Watts is set to play in Andrew Dominik’s big-screen adaptation of Blonde (a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, based on Monroe’s life.)

Blonde has not yet begun production, but is already causing quite a stir in Hollywood. It is due out in 2012, which also marks the 50th anniversary of Marilyn’s death.

“Everyone thinks, ‘Ooh, Marilyn Monroe,”‘ Watts says, “but it’s not a glossy picture. It’s quite dark, but a great story.”

The two actresses would seem to have little in common, apart from their hair colour, but Watts sees more to it. “I get her fragility, definitely,” she says.

“I feel like I’m a fairly fragile person,” Watts admits. “It’s pretty easy for me to get upset or emotional, but not tough or angry. Having said that, I think I’ve survived certain situations that have made me tougher and made me pull through. Even this whole thing about being an actor – that took a long time. I don’t feel like I had thick skin, but the fact that I stayed there knocking away at it must make me resilient.”

“I am interested in dark things,” she adds. “I’m not afraid of them. We all have a dark side. It’s a matter of whether you want to embrace it or not. I’m willing to explore it, but it’s not going to eat me up.”

Funny Girl: Marilyn as Sugar Kane

Film critic Saul Austerlitz salutes Hollywood’s greatest female comics today on WowOwow

Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
“A deliriously gender-bending exercise in over-the-top comic mania, Billy Wilder’s masterpiece features the best-ever performance from that underrated comedic master, Marilyn Monroe. Monroe sparkles as a romantic heroine with a self-deprecating streak, and Lemmon and Curtis are an ideal odd couple, years before Lemmon starred in The Odd Couple. ‘Nobody’s perfect, as the film deliciously reminds us, but Some Like It Hot comes close.”

Vanity Fair: Analysing Marilyn

page 14

Pardon me
are you the janitors wife

page 147
caught a Greyhound
Bus from Monterey to Salinas. On the
Bus I was the person
woman with about
sixty Italian fishermen
and I’ve never met
sixty such charming gentlemen—they
were wonderful. Some
company was sending them
downstate where their boats
and (they hoped) fish were
waiting for them. Some
could hardly speak english
not only do I love Greeks
[illegible] I love Italians.
they’re warm, lusty and friendly
as hell—I’d love to go to
Italy someday.

From a 1951 notebook, written by Marilyn during filming of Love Nest. The first line is from the script; the second may have been written during filming of Clash by Night in Monterey less than a year later, shortly after her love affair with Italian-American baseball star Joe DiMaggio began.

This and other excerpts from Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters are featured in ‘Marilyn and her Monsters’, an article for November’s Vanity Fair. A complementary piece, ‘The Writing on the Wall’, analyses Marilyn’s large, extravagantly looped handwriting (which I have often seen as a reflection of her open, generous yet somehow elusive spirit.)

The Essence of Marilyn

Marilyn photographed by Ben Ross, 1953

“Marilyn was a master of the true star’s technique: drawing out the process of emoting, so those watching could see every iota of reaction on her face…She hid nothing physically, an instructive habit for any performer to emulate.”

An interesting article by Kathleen Lake, exploring Marilyn’s charisma and screen technique, with some good advice for actors and lookalikes.