‘Blonde’ Star Ana de Armas on Getting to Know Marilyn Monroe

When Cuban-Spanish actress Ana de Armas was asked to play Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik’s Netflix film Blonde, she spent months preparing and rehearsing for the role. “It was very important to discover the real woman and bring all those elements together,” she said at the San Sebastian Film Festival on Saturday.

“My image of Marilyn in the past was pretty basic,” she said at a news conference. “I knew her films and little more. Learning about her story was fascinating for me. She represented the dream we all want to be. So what could go wrong? I respect her a lot more now and understand her better and could humanize her a lot more and give her more credit for the effort she put into things.”

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Produced by Plan B and distributed by Netflix, the film is based on the best-selling novel by Joyce Carol Oates, which reimagines the life of Monroe. The film explores the split between her public and private selves.

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Dominik said, “The idea is to give you their life experience.”

It’s also about giving a new spin to the collective memory, which he did by trying to make different associations with iconic images.

“The benefit of doing this with someone who’s been photographed like that is that you have so many images that have meaning that you can now give them a new meaning,” he said. “But that’s probably some people’s objections to the film because we’re messing with people’s memories.”

De Armas added, “With all of the recreations, we wanted to show the other side of what she was seeing, from Andrew’s point of view. We know the images, but we don’t have the context of their point of view at that moment.”

The director was asked about the place of “lust” in the film. “Personally, I don’t feel like doing the film,” says Dominik. “It’s a remarkably asexual film. For example, it uses nudity to express anger.”

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On the dual aspects of Monroe’s life as a sex symbol and the traumatized life she led, he added, “I think it’s quite difficult to talk about trauma without talking about sexuality, but it’s connected. She seems stunned by her.”

Metoo helped make the film.

“Metoo was helpful in funding ‘Blonde’ because previously it felt like a woman’s perspective on the woman’s meat grinder in Hollywood didn’t matter, and that’s changing,” Dominik said.

The role is a huge opportunity for De Armas, she said. She worked in Spain for several years, but had not been offered any major roles there. Still, she doesn’t hold grudges. “I would like to work here again. I was not offered these opportunities [in Spain]. I don’t think people in Spain don’t take me seriously as an actress, but I’ve spent several years in television [‘El Internado’] in a school uniform. When I went to Panama to shoot a film, I thought of the US for the first time,” she said.

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The film is running on the big screen in certain areas for a limited time, but Dominik doesn’t mind the small screen.

“Netflix was the only person who paid for the film,” he said. “It’s on screen for two weeks for the die-hards in the US and UK. I made my peace with that a long time ago. A movie is a movie and it should work on any screen and most movies are seen that way these days anyway.”

Andrew Dominik and Ana de Armas

Andrew Dominik and Ana de Armas

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