When Cuban-Spanish actor Ana de Armas was asked to play Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik’s Netflix feature “Blonde,” she spent months preparing and studying for the role. “It was very important to discover the real woman and bring all of those elements together,” she said Saturday at the San Sebastian Film Festival.
“My idea of Marilyn in the past was quite elementary,” she said at a press conference. “I knew her films and little more. To get to know her story was fascinating for me. She represented the dream that we all want to be. So what could go so wrong? I now respect her much more, and understand her better and could humanize her much more, and give her more credit for the effort she put into things.”
Produced by Plan B and distributed by Netflix, the film is based on the bestselling novel by Joyce Carol Oates, who reimagines the life of Monroe. The film explores the split between her public and private self.
Dominik said: “The idea is to give you her life experience.”
It’s also about giving a new spin to the collective memory, which he did by trying to create different associations with iconic images.
“The advantage of doing that with someone so photographed is that you have so many images that have meaning that you can now give them a new meaning,” he said. “But this is probably some people’s objections to the film because we are screwing around with people’s memories.”
De Armas added: “In all of the recreations, what we recreated, from Andrew’s point of view, was to show the other side of what she saw. We know the images but we don’t have that context of her point of view of that moment.”
The director was asked about the place of “lust” in the film. “For me personally there’s no lust involved in making the film,” said Dominik. “It’s a remarkably unsexual film. It uses nudity to express rage, for example.”
As for the dual aspects of Monroe’s life as a sex symbol and the traumatized life that she led, he added: “I think it’s pretty hard to talk about trauma without talking about sexuality but it’s connected. She seems to be numbed to her’s.”
Metoo helped get the film made.
“Metoo was helpful to getting ‘Blonde’ financed because before that it felt like a woman’s perspective on the woman’s meat grinder in Hollywood wasn’t of interest, and that turned it around,” said Dominik.
The role was a huge opportunity for De Armas, she said. She worked in Spain for several years, but had not been offered major roles there. She bears no grudges though. “I would love to work here again. I haven’t been offered those opportunities [in Spain]. In Spain, I don’t think it’s that people don’t take me seriously as an actress, but I spent several years on TV [‘El Internado’] in a school uniform. When I went to Panama to shoot a film, it was the first time I thought about the U.S.,” she said.
The film is playing for a limited time on the big screen in certain territories, but Dominik doesn’t mind the small screen.
“Netflix were the only people that would pay for the film,” he said. “It is on the screen for the die-hards for two weeks in the U.S. and U.K. I made my peace with this a long time ago. A movie is a movie, and it should work on any screen, and most films are seen that way now anyway.”
‘Blonde’ Star Ana de Armas on Getting to Know Marilyn Monroe