The Marilyn Monroe movie has already had its first controversy

Netflix's first original NC-17-rated project 'Blonde', is expected to "offend everyone". Here's everything we know.

by Douglas Greenwood and Tom George
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02 August 2022, 9:15am

We’ve been waiting forever for the sort-of-fantastical, rumoured-to-be-fucked-up biopic of Marilyn Monroe from Netflix — and now a release date is in sight and a full trailer is out. But before the adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ book Blonde — a loose reimagining of Marilyn’s life — has even been released, the movie is causing controversy due to Ana de Armas’ presentation of America’s most famous icon.

Reportedly, when the trailer dropped earlier this summer, some viewers took issue with Ana’s native Cuban accent being slightly audible within her portrayal of Marilyn’s signature breathy tones. Ana has previously told The Times that she spent nine months working on the accent with dialect coaches: “It was a big torture, so exhausting. My brain was fried.”

Though the Marilyn Monroe Estate did not authorise the movie, nor have they been involved, they did defend Ana’s casting, with its owner Marc Rosen stating: “Marilyn Monroe is a singular Hollywood and pop culture icon that transcends generations and history. Any actor that steps into that role knows they have big shoes to fill. Based on the trailer alone, it looks like Ana was a great casting choice as she captures Marilyn’s glamour, humanity and vulnerability. We can’t wait to see the film in its entirety!” Others, too, have pointed out that in a story that explores the relationship between performance and reality, Ana’s natural accent coming through actually works.

While the general public will only see the much-delayed movie after it debuts at Venice Film Festival later this month, some have already seen it. Namely, the Motion Picture Association, who have given the film an NC-17 rating (the equivalent of an 18 in the UK), meaning it’s bound to be as messed up as those early rumours of talking foetuses, violence and bloody oral sex suggested. “If the audience doesn’t like it, that’s the fucking audience’s problem. It’s not running for public office,” director Andrew Dominik joked to Screen Daily. “It’s an NC-17 movie about Marilyn Monroe, it’s kind of what you want, right? I want to go and see the NC-17 version of the Marilyn Monroe story.” In fact, it’s probably what the sexually-empowered, risqué Marilyn would have wanted.

Later, in an interview with Collider, Andrew revealed deeper details about the movie, including a new descriptor: “Blonde is a movie for all the unloved children of the world,” he said. “It’s like Citizen Kane and Raging Bull had a baby daughter.”

It is, first and foremost, a film about the manifestation of trauma. “The whole idea of Blonde was to detail a childhood drama and then show the way in which that drama splits the adults into a public and private self,” Andrew explained. “And how the adult sees the world through the lens of that childhood drama, and it’s sort of a story of a person whose rational picture of the world as being overwhelmed by her unconscious, and it uses the iconography of Marilyn Monroe.”

He continued by calling the film both a “tragedy” and a “nightmare”, about a child no one wanted becoming the most desired woman in the world. “It’s about being in a car with no brakes. It’s just going faster and faster and faster.”

Most recently, Andrew Dominik spoke to Vulture about the movie’s timing in culture, and how it might have differed if it arrived in cinemas earlier. “If it had come out a few years ago, it would have come out right when #MeToo hit and it would have been an expression of all that stuff,” he said. “We’re in a time now, I think, where people are really uncertain about where any lines are.”

“It’s a film that definitely has a morality about it,” he added. “But it swims in very ambiguous waters because I don’t think it will be as cut-and-dried as people want to see it. There’s something in it to offend everyone.”

Got your attention? In preparation for its release, here’s everything we know about Blonde — from the casting, to the plot and release date. 

Where can I watch the trailer for Blonde?

Here! Netflix dropped the official, full length trailer for the film after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival was announced this week. Watch Ana as Marilyn as she poses in white dresses, confronts her adoring public, and crashes her car in a road rage — all to the dulcet tones of a slow “Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend” cover. Perfection. The second trailer, in which we see Ana’s depiction of the icon in a little more detail, can be found above.

What is the plot of Blonde? 

Blonde is based on the 700-page book of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates, which was released in 2000. Joyce has long been adamant that her book should not be considered a biography, but rather as a fictionalised historical novel. The New Yorker also called the story “the definitive study of American Celebrity”. Throughout, Oates never actually uses the real names of the men in Marilyn’s life, instead using pseudonyms; but it does cover her marriages, affairs and toys with the theory that she was assassinated by a vindictive, powerful ex. Dominik has said that some of the “excesses” of Oates’ novel have been removed though, including a rape scene. 

The script for the film has done the rounds on the internet for a while, and a first cut was submitted to Netflix last year, who were rumoured to have asked for re-cuts due to it being, as Dlisted put it, “too weird”. That too was a first in the studio’s history, who famously allow directors to have free rein over their projects.  

Who else is in the cast of Blonde? 

Alongside Ana is Bobby Canavale (I, Tonya) and Adrien Brody (The French Dispatch) as Marilyn’s second and third husbands, the Yankee’s player Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller respectively. Her mother, actress Gladys Pearl Baker, will be played by Julianne Nicholson (Mare of Easttown) whilst John F. Kennedy, Marilyn’s rumoured lover, will be played by Caspar Phillipson. Of course, Caspar also played JFK in another biopic: Pablo Larraìn’s Jackie

Who is behind the camera of Blonde? 

The decade-long project has been the baby of writer and director Andrew Dominik — who is also known for the neo-noir movie Killing Them Softly (2012) — since the very beginning. He also brought the star of that movie, Brad Pitt, in as a producer on Blonde, alongside two-time Oscar winning producers of 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner. Working on the movie’s music are Nick Cave and Warren Ellis of the band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – something of a favour, after Dominik produced an acclaimed documentary on the group. 

What is the runtime of Blonde?

When first pressed by Collider to give us an idea of the runtime, Andrew Dominik gave a blunt answer: “Mate, that’s like asking a woman her age.” Blonde has been rumoured to be extremely long since it wrapped filming (the book after all, is over 700 pages thick). At one point, it was thought the movie would have a runtime in excess of three hours. It’s been chopped a little, but not too much: at the announcement of its Venice Film Festival premiere, it was finally confirmed the movie will run at 2 hours 45 minutes long.

Does Blonde have a release date? 

In an interview with Vulture, Andrew shared his longstanding wish for the film to premiere at the Venice Film Festival (taking place this August and September), something that has now been confirmed.

After that, Netflix have slated it for release on their platform on 28 September. So now we just have to wait til the end of summer before seeing the glitzy XXX story about the world’s most famous sex symbol.

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