After a decade in development, the Netflix adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ controversial novel, Blonde – now in post-production – has hit another roadblock following the coronavirus crisis, The Playlist reports.
“Another film that was expected to be released this year is Andrew Dominik’s Netflixfilm Blonde. Dominik gave us one of the best films of the 2000s with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but then followed that up with the disappointing Killing Them Softly, so a lot was riding on Blonde which follows a fictionalized version of the inner life of Marilyn Monroe (played by Ana de Armas.) The film also stars Adrien Brody and Bobby Cannavaleas Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio, respectively. According to IndieWire, Blonde is now intended for 2021, though it is unclear whether they’d still try to have the film play in festivals before a theatrical release.”
With many of us now in quarantine due to the spread of coronavirus, I probably won’t be reporting on many events here for a while. However, we at least have the chance to watch movies at home, and with her great comedic gifts, Marilyn can brighten our days in these difficult times. On the Vulture website today, Angelica Jade Bastien recommends Some Like It Hot and if you don’t have a copy at home, it’s widely available on streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon. (Angelica has often championed Marilyn in her articles, which you can read here.)
“But to be completely honest, I return to this film for the wounded performance of Marilyn Monroe. You probably formed an idea of Monroe long before you ever saw her onscreen. Perhaps you caught sight of her flattened image — red lipped and yearning — plastered on a mug, Andy Warhol–style. Maybe you learned through osmosis to regard her as a tragedy. Monroe is a cinematic atom bomb mushrooming with significance. In death she’s become for many artists and writers an emblem of 1950s sexuality, a feminist icon, a victim, a muse. Personally, I’d rather focus on what she did onscreen, where she’s decadently hilarious, brimming with fully realized emotion. At first blush, Sugar could be discarded as just another example of the dumb-blonde archetype. Hell, she calls herself dumb. But I think she’s too self-aware for that. Monroe balances the needs of the character beautifully. Watch as her face melts like ice cream when she notes how she always “gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop.” Watch how she leans over Joe late in the film, her body a canvas upon which the film displays its notions of sex and desire. This is a movie about desire above all else, and the hilarious ways we strive for it.”
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.”
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.
My Week With Marilyn, the 2011 movie about her time in England, returns to Netflix today. Michelle Williams, who won a Golden Globe for her performance as Marilyn, is currently starring choreographer Gwen Verdon in the HBO series, Fosse/Verdon. Born in Culver City, California in 1925, she married journalist James Henaghan in 1942, but left him after the birth of their son Jimmy. (Henaghan later interviewed Marilyn on several occasions, and wrote a tribute to her for Parade magazine in 1971, which you can read here.)
Verdon later worked as an assistant to choreographer Jack Cole, coaching stars like Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, and Marilyn (seen above with Jane Russell on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and rehearsing for There’s No Business Like Show Business.) In 1953, Verdon starred in the Broadway production of Can-Can, winning her first Tony award. (Marilyn would later be offered the lead in Fox’s big-screen adaptation, but the role was ultimately played by Shirley MacLaine.)
“From the people that I’ve spoken to, the thing I kept hearing over and over again was that [Gwen Verdon] was like the sunshine in the room,” Michelle Williams said during a panel interview with the Television Critics Association (as reported here.) “The way that I’ve come to think of her is someone who is always trying their hardest and will occasionally be backed up against a wall where she’s cornered and things aren’t in her control anymore. But as much as she possibly could, she was constantly trying to rise above and be her best self at all times.”
“I remember also this thing that Marilyn Monroe said about her,” Williams added. “Marilyn said, ‘If Gwen Verdon can’t teach you how to dance, you’re rhythm bankrupt with two left feet.'”
In June 1955, Marilyn saw Gwen performing in her latest hit musical, Damn Yankees, at the 46th Street Theatre. Gwen returned to Hollywood in 1958 to film the movie version. She married choreographer Bob Fosse in 1960, and returned to Broadway in Sweet Charity (1966.) Although she and Fosse separated in 1971, they never divorced and continued working together on Chicago (1975), and the 1979 movie, All That Jazz. She also appeared in films like The Cotton Club (1984) Cocoon (1985) Alice (1990), and Marvin’s Room (1996.)
In 1999, Gwen was the artistic consultant on Fosse, a Broadway musical tribute to her former partner, who had died in 1987. Gwen Verdon passed away in her sleep at the home of their daughter Nicole Fosse in Woodstock, Vermont in October 18, 2000. That night at 8 pm, Broadway dimmed its lights in her honour.
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.
‘Can you be a film buff in a streaming world?’ Andrew Clarke asks, in his arts column for the East Anglian Daily Times. (Clarke has written before of his admiration for Marilyn, in a 2017 article for the Ipswich Star.) Most of her major movies – and several documentaries – are available on Amazon Prime, but subscription services tend to favour contemporary films. All About Eve is the only Marilyn film currently available on Netflix, while the more specialist Filmstruck has The Prince and the Showgirl.
“The early 2000s proved to be a golden age for the film buff getting new prints of classic films by such stars as Marilyn Monroe (TheSeven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot) … Streaming makes access to films easier but the companies have to make sure that those historic titles are both preserved and made available for our children and grandchilden to enjoy. Great films never go out of fashion.”
Pop star Lady Gaga has often referenced Marilyn in her work, sometimes with insight and sympathy (as in her past interviews with Vanity Fair and Google, and her ‘Dance in the Dark‘ lyric, ‘Marilyn, Judy, Sylvia/Tell ’em how you feel girls!’) At other times, however, she has depicted MM in a shallow, even crass manner (her ‘Government Hooker‘ song and ‘Do What U Want‘ video.) While she has also experienced the dark side of fame at first hand, her knowledge of Marilyn’s life and character seems rather limited.
Nonetheless, her latest comments about Marilyn – and other stars who died before their time – are quite intriguing, as Olivia Truffaut-Wong reports on the new Netflix documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two, for Bustle.
“Speaking in her new documentary, Lady Gaga reveals that her wacky fashion choices come out of a desire for control in an industry that loves to take control away from its artists … ‘What I’ve done is that when they wanted me to be sexy or they wanted me to be pop, I always f*cking put some absurd spin on it that made me feel like I’m still in control,’ she says.
In the film, Gaga opens up about how the music industry and Hollywood treats women, particularly how men in positions of power, producers for example, think that female artists are there for their entertainment. ‘That’s not why I’m here. I’m not a receptacle for your pain,’ she says. ‘I’m not just a place for you to put it.’
To counteract those expectations of what a pop star should look like Gaga explains how she decided to show ugliness in fame while performing. ‘If I’m gonna be sexy on the VMAs and sing about the paparazzi,’ she says, ‘I’m gonna do it while I’m bleeding to death and reminding you of what fame did to Marilyn Monroe, the original Norma Jean, and what it did to Anna Nicole Smith.'”
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes tops a list of movies to watch before they leave Netflix in July, over at Bustle.
“Yes, there are many other great reasons to see this movie. If you don’t believe my swooning, here are some more facts: It’s got a 98 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Important film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder cited it as one of his 10 favorite films. Plus, the technicolor in this movie is so intense and over the top gorgeous that watching it is like rolling around in a rainbow for one hour 31 minutes. And, of course, decades before Thelma And Louise or Bridesmaids or Set It Off, this is a film that’s ostensibly about two women hunting rich men that actually puts female friendship at the heart of the tale.”
Despite reports this summer that filmmaker Andrew Dominik’s long-mooted adaptation of Blonde, Joyce Carol Oates’ controversial novel about Marilyn, would be produced for Netflix in 2017, it is “not a done deal,” as Dominik admits in a new interview for Collider. (Criticised by MM fans for its factual liberties, Blonde will be available via Kindle for the first time in English next March – so if you haven’t read it yet, judge for yourself.)
“When I spoke to you for Killing Them Softly, you were going to do Blonde next, but that was back in 2012. We’ve recently heard that Netflix was going to step in and finance that, so are you finally going to go into production on that film?
DOMINIK: I don’t know. I hope so, but it’s not, in any way, a done deal.
So, you don’t have a possible production date yet?
What is it about that film and that story that’s made you stick with it all this time, and still want to get it made?
DOMINIK: I think that Blonde will be one of the ten best movies ever made. That’s why I want to do it.
Why do you think that is?
DOMINIK: It’s a film about the human condition. It tells the story of how a childhood trauma shapes an adult who’s split between a public and a private self. It’s basically the story of every human being, but it’s using a certain sense of association that we have with something very familiar, just through media exposure. It takes all of those things and turns the meanings of them inside out, according to how she feels, which is basically how we live. It’s how we all operate in the world. It just seems to me to be very resonant. I think the project has got a lot of really exciting possibilities, in terms of what can be done, cinematically.
Are you still hoping to have Jessica Chastain play Marilyn Monroe, or will you have to recast the role once you finally get a firm start date?
DOMINIK: Well, it’s a chicken and the egg type of thing. But, I don’t think it’s going to be Jessica Chastain.”