Blonde director Andrew Dominik and his star Ana De Armas very much felt the presence of Marilyn Monroe while making the long-awaited biopic that has its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival tonight.
Dominik told the Lido press corps this afternoon, “We were kind of chasing her ghost around… Her dust is everywhere in Los Angeles.”
Said De Armas, “I truly believe that she was very close to us, she was with us… She was all I thought about, she was all I dreamed about, she was all I could talk about. She was with me and it was beautiful. I think she was happy… Being in the same places that she was, filming in her house, it was a very strong sensation there was something in the air and I think she was approving of what we were doing.”
The long-gestating movie, based on Joyce Carol Oates’ eponymous 2000 novel, blends fact and fiction to reimagine the life of Marilyn/Norma Jeane, exploring the split between the Hollywood icon’s public and private selves.
Having initially been mooted in 2010 (with Naomi Watts attached), the movie has been a long journey to the screen with Dominik noting the biggest overall challenge was “raising the money.”
He said he never gave up because, “Some things just have a kind of emotional creative energy to them. Some projects you get involved in and they can hold your attention for a year or two, but Blonde would never let me go. Even when it fell apart, I’d still be thinking about Blonde.”
Dominik said he sparked to De Armas after seeing her in Eli Roth’s 2015 psychological thriller Knock Knock. When she auditioned, “I knew it was her. It was a little bit like love at first sight — when the right person walks through the door, you know it… The film came alive when we found her.”
Asked about tackling the dualities of the character, De Armas said, “I didn’t approach it in the sense of switching back and forth… I was just connected to both of them emotionally at all times.”
Primarily, for De Armas, it was about “understanding, empathizing and connecting with her pain and her trauma… I knew I had to let myself open and go to places that I knew were going to be uncomfortable, dark and vulnerable. That’s where I found the connection with this person.”
The character was not an easy one to shed. “I felt that I was living that, I felt that heaviness and that weight in my shoulders and that sadness that was hard to shake off, but I don’t think I wanted to either. I didn’t want to protect myself from that.”
Is she concerned about critical reaction? “I did this movie to push myself and because I thought it was a gift. I didn’t do the movie to make other people change their opinions about me. Whatever happens, it’s the experience I take with me. This movie has changed my life, so it will be what it will be.”
In addition to De Armas, the cast includes Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Caspar Phillipson, Evan Williams, Toby Huss, Julianne Nicholson, Lily Fisher, Sara Paxton, David Warshofsky, Xavier Samuel, Michael Masini, Spencer Garrett, Chris Lemmon, Rebecca Wisocky, Scoot McNairy, Dan Butler, Garret Dillahunt, Lucy Devito and Ned Bellamy.
Producers are Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Tracey Landon, Scott Robertson, with Christina Oh as Executive Producer. Blonde will be released globally on Netflix September 23.