• Festivals

Venice 2022: “Blonde” by Andrew Dominik with Ana de Armas

Light is the first thing that is seen on screen when the movie Blonde begins. It is not natural sunlight, but a bright, cold artificial spotlight, so strong that it could blind anyone who was caught in it. The title “Blonde,” that appears on screen in curly cursive that slowly changes color from gold to blue, gives a clear signal: this film is not a fairy tale about a Cinderella who at the end will be rewarded for all the misery that her life has encountered. If it is a fairy tale, then it is a rather sad one that most of the time is very difficult to watch.

On September 8th, Andrew Dominik’s latest film, Blonde, in which Ana de Armas stars as Marilyn Monroe, premiered at the Venice Film Festival.

The biographical drama, based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates, was one of the most anticipated titles of the festival and soon became one of the most controversial. It is not an average biopic, but rather is a diary-like reimagining of Norma Jeane Mortenson’s life, from her troubled beginnings as an unwanted child to her rise to stardom as the Hollywood icon known as Marilyn Monroe – a figure of such iconic quality that she cannot be easy for any actress to portray.

At the press conference, Dominik said that he saw Ana de Armas in a movie called Knock Knock, and immediately thought that she could be the one to play Marilyn: “She looked like her. And she was compelling. When she was on screen, she was all you wanted to watch.” The dark-haired, 34-year-old actress confessed that, although she was familiar with some of Monroe’s movies, she had not been aware of the details of her personal life and that the preparation for this role was “long and immersive.”

For the first meeting with the director, de Armas had one week to prepare one of the scenes, for which she put some makeup together and found a “horrible” blonde wig that allowed her to look more like Monroe. She did this, not for Dominik, who was convinced from the very beginning in her ability to achieve Monroe’s iconic look, but for others at the audition.

However, it wasn’t just one audition. It was a long process of more tests with wardrobe, with different cameras and lenses. and again and again, the same scene. The part also required nine months of dialect coaching that de Armas described as “torture.”

Besides the process of creating a very specific character that is known around the world as Marilyn Monroe, it was important for de Armas to show the real woman underneath that character. She said: “It was about understanding, empathizing and connecting with her and her pain, and her trauma. And if you put aside the movie star that she was, she’s a woman just like me. Same age. Also, an actress in the industry. I knew I had to let myself open and go to places that I knew were going to be uncomfortable, dark, and vulnerable. But I think that’s where I found the connection with this person.”


Shooting for the film started on August 4th, which was the anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death. Dominik revealed: “It was not planned. I think I only realized it the day before or something like that. When we were shooting that first day that we’ll be shooting in the very apartment that she lived in with her mother. The room she dies in is the room she died in, and her dust is everywhere in Los Angeles.”

Julianne Nicholson, who plays Norma Jeane’s mentally unstable mother in the film, said that making this movie was a very special experience for her. As an actress, she believes that challenging roles are the most exciting roles: “That’s why we do it. It’s what brings me happiness. Inhabiting this woman was uncomfortable, to sort of feel that fury and grief and trauma in her life.”

Adrien Brody, who portrays renowned playwright Arthur Miller, Monroe’s third husband, confessed that he has always had a soft spot for Marilyn Monroe because his awareness of the great divide “between all this public adulation, and respect, and acknowledgment that is so far from who she is and that doesn’t reach her and doesn’t quench her burning desire to be creative and to be fulfilled with the work and to be appreciated for a caliber of work that she always strived for. Which is something that on various levels is something that many actors feel.”

Brody praised de Armas’s portrayal of Monroe on screen: “The first day of filming, I went home with this sense of awe that I had the privilege of actually working with Marilyn Monroe.”

At the world premiere at the 79th Venice Film festival, Ana de Armas received a massive 14-minute-long standing ovation, the longest of any film to screen at the festival. She was in tears.

“The light is yours,” is the refrain that Marilyn Monroe constantly whispers to herself in Blonde during moments of uncertainty. 

De Armas stated: “This movie changed my life.”

It certainly did.

Blonde will be released on Netflix on September 28.