Among those who attended the opening night of the Marilyn exhibit at Blancpain in Manhattan this week was Australian actress Naomi Watts, who shot to fame as a fragile Hollywood starlet in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001), and was the initial favourite to play Marilyn in filmmaker Andrew Dominik’s long-mooted adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde. After nearly a decade’s gestation, the film went into production this year with Ana de Armas in the lead role. Nonetheless, Naomi’s love for Marilyn is still strong, as she told Fashion Week Daily after arriving at Blancpain yesterday.
“Why did you want to be a part of tonight?
A New York night. Like any actress, I’m fascinated by Marilyn’s story.
What are your first memories of her?
I think she was there before I saw her films because she was everywhere. I was probably too young to know the films. She was just a glamour symbol. Then as I got to see her on film and then become an actor and get inside of her story. It was a wonderful discovery. Some of her work in the later part of her life was particularly extraordinary. Knowing what she had gone through as well. She was one of a kind.
Did you ever have any desire to play her in a biopic?
There was a moment where I nearly did quite a while ago. I’m too old now. I’m aged out. Yes, it was something I considered and I was talking to a filmmaker for a period of time. It was a dark piece.
Do you have a favorite Marilyn Monroe movie?
The Misfits. I love the rawness of that. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is another. The Seven Year Itch! There are so many!”
With the Netflix adaptation of Blonde now in production, Joyce Carol Oates tells Crime Reads that it was originally conceived on a more modest scale – and while this epic novel has its admirers, others may wish it had stayed that way. (The photo above shows Norma Jeane aged 18. Oates was inspired by a picture of her at 16, but doesn’t say which one. As there aren’t many photos of Norma Jeane at 16 apart from her wedding portraits, I’ve chosen this one as it seems to capture the wholesome quality that first caught Oates’ eye.)
“I saw a very touching photograph of Norma Jeane Baker taken when she was 16—brunette, pretty but not glamorous, very sweet & hopeful—looking—not unlike my mother & girls with whom I went to school many years ago. Girls whose great hope was to be loved—married, & to have children. I felt such sympathy for her, who would be dead in twenty years, as an American ‘icon’—who made millions of dollars for others (men) but not so much for herself. The project began as a short novel, a post-Modernist ironic tragedy that would end with Norma Jeane’s new name: ‘Marilyn Monroe.’ But when I came to this ending, I saw that the great story lay ahead—& reconstituted the material as an epic, with many sub-themes that allowed me to explore obsessions of the era, particularly Cold War politics.”
Chris Lemmon, son of Hollywood legend Jack Lemmon, is among the latest batch of actors cast in Netflix’s Blonde – although his role is not yet confirmed, as Deadline reports. Chris, who is 65, may be too old to play Jack (who was 33 when he co-starred with Marilyn in Some Like It Hot.) However, Chris recently toured theatres with his one-man show, A Twist of Lemmon, about his relationship with his famous father.
More casting news for Netflix’s Blonde has been announced by the Hollywood Reporter, with Danish actor Caspar Phillipson likely to reprise his turn as President John F. Kennedy in Jackie, and child actress Lily Fisher as the young Norma Jeane. (As previously reported here, Adrien Brody and Bobby Cannavale will play Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio.)
“As previously announced, Ana de Armas will play the Some Like It Hot actress, leading a cast that will include Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale and Julianne Nicholson.
Jackie actor Caspar Phillipson, Toby Huss, Sara Paxton and David Warshofsky will also appear in the feature, along with Lily Fisher (General Hospital), Evan Williams (Versailles) and Xavier Samuel (Adore).
The Assassination of Jesse James’ Andrew Dominik wrote and will direct the movie.
Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner are producing for Plan B, along with Tracey Landon and Scott Robertson.”
Adrian Brody, who won an Oscar for The Pianist back in 2002, will play Arthur Miller in Andrew Domink’s Netflix adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde, as Garth Franklin reports for Dark Horizons. Brody has also appeared in The Grand Budapest Hotel and TV’s Peaky Blinders. Meanwhile, Bobby Cannavale – who won an Emmy for TV’s Boardwalk Empire, and has also acted in films such as Blue Jasmine and I, Tonya, will play Joe DiMaggio. With Ana de Armas set to play Marilyn, we’re sure to hear of more casting decisions soon (and incidentally, Ana posted this tribute to Marilyn on Instagram earlier this month, marking the 57th anniversary of her death.)
After almost a decade in development, it looks like Andrew Dominik’s Netflix adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ controversial novel, Blonde, is finally moving ahead – though depending on whether you liked the book (I didn’t), this may or may not be good to hear. In March, it was announced that Ana de Armas will play Marilyn. Now, the Observer reports, casting is in process for the roles of George Sanders, who starred with Marilyn in All About Eve; Joseph Cotten, her leading man in Niagara: and her Some Like It Hot co-stars Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Joe E. Brown.
Following reports that Cuban actress Ana de Armas will star in a big-screen adaptation of Blonde, Karina Longworth – author of a new Howard Hughes biography, and podcaster at You Must Remember This – lists Joyce Carol Oates’ epic novel among the best Hollywood-inspired fictions in an article for the Wall Street Journal. While Karina believes Oates’ liberal attitude towards the facts is forgivable, I think there are many better novels based on Marilyn’s life (including Doris Grumbach’s The Missing Person, Adam Braver’s Misfit, and Sean O’Hagan’s Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog.)
“The magic of Joyce Carol Oates’s epic imagining of the life of Norma Jeane Baker (aka Marilyn Monroe) lies not in its realism or accuracy but the quality of its fabrication. All of the characters around the orphan-turned-bombshell feel not like ‘real people’—even though most of them are, or were—but like characters in a novel, each with an inner life as richly drawn as the protagonist’s. The star herself remains an enigma, which feels more true to life than any biography that has tried to psychoanalyze or explain this woman who seemed at best a fragmented puzzle to herself. Ms. Oates heartbreakingly juxtaposes the construction of the Marilyn image with its meaning, evident in a snapshot from the set of The Seven Year Itch: “She’s been squealing and laughing, her mouth aches. . . . Her scalp and her pubis burn from that morning’s peroxide applications. . . . That emptiness. Guaranteed. She’s been scooped out, drained clean, no scar tissue to interfere with your pleasure, and no odor. Especially no odor. The Girl with No Name, the girl with no memory.'”
30 year-old Cuban actress Ana de Armas, whose screen credits include Blade Runner 2049, may be cast as Marilyn in Andrew Dominik’s long-mooted big-screen adaptation of Blonde, Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 novel loosely inspired by Marilyn’s tumultuous life, Collider reports – although Netflix have yet to confirm this. Naomi Watts and Jessica Chastain are among the big names previously suggested for the role. Dominik first announced his intention to direct Blonde back in 2010, but his pet project has endured many setbacks. A television adaptation starring Poppy Montgomery aired in 2002, to mixed reviews. While Blonde was a major literary success, many Monroe fans (myself included) feel that it takes too many liberties with the facts.
Joyce Carol Oates’ novel about Marilyn, Blonde (2000), will be reissued later this month. In a review for The Times, Liza Klaussman claims it is now even more relevant given the recent revelations about sexual abuse in Hollywood, and the #MeToo movement.
“To capture a quicksilver persona such as Monroe’s is no easy feat. Oates puts multiple perspectives to use, bringing Monroe’s life to us in shards of Technicolor. It is told at once through Norma Jeane’s voice and those close to her … What saves Blonde from descending into a darkness so deep that the reader is forced to look away is in part Oates’s lavish language and its loose structure, which gives the story a high-octane energy. And it can’t be denied that there is voyeuristic pleasure in it. However, the novel is also infused with Monroe’s sly, subversive wit, breaking up the darker matter … What Oates achieves is to restore a crucial element of Monroe’s story, one that has been lost, overlooked — the element of fury. Blonde stands as a cry of rage against the violence, symbolic and physical, that was perpetrated against the woman known as Marilyn Monroe. And, in the end, it leaves us in no doubt of the personal price to be paid for denying that rage.”
However, while Blonde is revered by some critics, others felt that Oates took too many liberties with the facts of Marilyn’s life and presented her as a helpless victim. In her 2004 ‘meta-biography’, The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, Sarah Churchwell challenged Oates’ claim that fictional devices enabled her to give full expression to Marilyn’s complex nature.
“Oates repeatedly protests in interviews against the ‘literalism’ of critics who disliked her extravagant fabrications, but it is not crudely literal to acknowledge that Marilyn Monroe is not totally a product of Joyce Carol Oates’ imagination, and that the story Oates tells is not entirely a product of her imagination. Although Oates can (and does) hide behind the intellectual justification that the novel is postmodern in its ‘experimentations’ with blending fact and fiction, it is hard not to conclude that the experimentation is expedient, and arbitrary … Oates’ postmodern ‘experimentation’ reconfirmed the Marilyn Monroe we’ve known since 1946: artificial, one-dimensional and dim. Oates’ technique is not archetype but stereotype, not only of ‘the Ex-Athlete’ and ‘the Playwright,’ but particularly of breathless, confused, stammering, disintegrating ‘Marilyn’ … In Oates’ approach, Marilyn’s life is such an open secret that we need not bother with its details: we can simply stand back and take in the whole as a panorama adequately represented by selected symbolic ‘truths’.”
Filmmaker Andrew Dominik’s long-awaited adaptation of Blonde, Joyce Carol Oates’ controversial novel, has hit another roadblock, Jordan Raup reports for The Film Stage. In August 2016, Dominik announced that he would produce Blonde for Netflix – but later admitted it was ‘not a done deal.’ Although high-profile actresses like Naomi Watts and Jessica Chastain were previously mooted to play MM, Dominik still hasn’t settled on a leading lady, and he will soon direct Tom Hardy in War Party, also for Netflix.
While Blonde was a hit among the literati, some fans found Oates’ casual disregard for the facts of Marilyn’s life hard to swallow. And a 2002 TV mini-series also received mixed reviews.