Sixty years on from her untimely death, Marilyn Monroe remains the definition of a Hollywood icon. Her films, her look, her voice and her persona all are forever etched in the annals of movie history – which means any actor hoping to step into her shoes really has their work cut out. For Andrew Dominik’s Blonde, an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ fictionalised story of Monroe’s life, Knives Out star Ana de Armas is tasked with embodying the blonde bombshell – and it’s a responsibility that came with considerable pressure.
Speaking to Empire about inhabiting Marilyn Monroe, de Armas admits she felt insecure. “I was insecure about my voice, about the accent, about the choreography, about working with American actors who know her better than me, everything!” she says. That reaction, she explains, became part of the performance. “All of that was exactly what she would be feeling. So it was incredible. Even though it seems like everything was very sad, and a lot of crying and traumatic things were going on, we had a great time.”
The actor had a wealth of material to draw from when crafting her performance – not just Oates’ novel, but a tome consisting of iconic Marilyn Monroe photos curated by the director. “Andrew gave us a bible of 700-and-something pictures,” de Armas says. “The whole movie was in this bible, picture by picture, every scene.” That stack of photos informed the film’s formally-playful presentation, switching between aspect ratios, and from colour to black-and-white over its near-three-hour runtime. “That’s the relation between the black-and-white and colour; it’s because of the pictures, it’s not random,” de Armas explains. “You want the audience to immediately engage, even in their subconscious, to something that they’ve already seen, and get them into the story.” Get ready to see an icon, then – but in a way you’ve never seen her before.
Read Empire’s full Blonde feature, getting the inside story on Andrew Dominik’s wild vision and Ana de Armas’ bold lead performance, in the Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery issue – on newsstands from Thursday 1 September, and available to order online here. Blonde will be in select cinemas from 21 September, and on Netflix from 28 September.