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Get ready to see a new side of Norma Jeane.
In "Blonde," which premiered earlier this month at Venice International Film Festival, Ana de Armas ("Blade Runner 2049") takes on the bombshell big-screen starlet, better known to millions as Marilyn Monroe. The awards hopeful is directed by Andrew Dominik ("The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford") and streams on Netflix Sept. 28.
Here's what you need to know about the nearly three-hour film, which Dominik likened to "Citizen Kane" and "Raging Bull" in an interview with Collider, and has already drawn controversy for its NC-17 rating.
What is Netflix's 'Blonde' based on?
"Blonde" is a fictionalized take on the life of Monroe, spanning her childhood until her final days. The film is based on Joyce Carol Oates' 2000 novel, which is more than 700 pages long and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The book and movie depict Monroe's marriages to Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale) and Arthur Miller (Adrien Brody), who are referred to only as "The Ex-Athlete" and "The Playwright," respectively. Caspar Phillipson also appears as John F. Kennedy, known simply as "The President."
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How did Ana de Armas land the role of Marilyn Monroe?
"Blonde" was first adapted into a CBS 2001 TV miniseries starring Australian actress Poppy Montgomery. Dominik struggled to get a big-screen version off the ground for more than a decade, with Naomi Watts and Jessica Chastain previously attached to play Monroe before de Armas was cast in 2019.
De Armas broke out that same year in murder mystery "Knives Out" with Daniel Craig, whom she reunited with for James Bond movie "No Time to Die" last fall.
"I only had to audition for Marilyn once and Andrew said 'It’s you,' but I had to audition for everyone else," de Armas told Vanity Fair in 2020. "The producers. The money people. I always have people I needed to convince. But I knew I could do it. Playing Marilyn was groundbreaking. A Cuban playing Marilyn Monroe. I wanted it so badly."
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Why is 'Blonde' rated NC-17?
"Blonde" is one of the rare movies to receive a NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, meaning the content is permitted only for audiences age 18 and above. The rating reflects "some sexual content," including a vaginal point-of-view shot and a brief but graphic rape scene.
In a cover story for L'Officiel, de Armas said she "didn't understand" the harsh rating.
"I can tell you a number of shows or movies that are way more explicit with a lot more sexual content than 'Blonde,'" de Armas said. "But to tell this story, it is important to show all these moments in Marilyn's life that made her end up the way that she did. It needed to be explained. Everyone (in the cast) knew we had to go to uncomfortable places. I wasn't the only one."
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Dominik told Vulture he was "surprised" by the MPAA's decision, but said he prefers a "warts and all version" over a "sanitized" one.
"It’s an interesting time for 'Blonde' to come out," Dominik said. "If it had come out a few years ago, it would have come out right when Me Too hit, and it would have been an expression of all that stuff. 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. 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."
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What is the backlash about Ana de Armas' accent?
The "Deep Water" star told Elle that she spent nine months working with a dialect coach to perfect Monroe's voice, sometimes for as long as three hours a day.
"It was about observing her facial expressions, her mouth, the roundedness of her lips, how she showed her lower teeth, and why the 'o's were like that," de Armas told the Los Angeles Times. "Someone's voice is more than just a specific accent. It says so much more about a person."
The Marilyn Monroe Estate, which did not authorize the making of the film, came to her defense in a statement to Variety, saying, "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!"
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Was Ana de Armas actually haunted by Marilyn Monroe during shooting?
"Blonde" received generally favorable reviews (72% positive on Rotten Tomatoes) when it premiered at Venice Film Festival last week, with Variety raving that de Armas is "luminous," "uncanny" and "becomes Marilyn Monroe." Other critics were less impressed: Screen Daily called it a "voyeuristic reinvention" of Monroe's life, and IndieWire took issue with how she's "monotonously characterized as a victim."
CNN reports that de Armas cried during the movie's 14-minute standing ovation in Venice, where the actress was joined by "Blonde" producer Brad Pitt on the red carpet. Speaking to journalists at a news conference, de Armas revealed that she felt Monroe's ghost during shooting, according to Reuters.
"I truly believe that she was very close to us. She was with us," de Armas said. "I think she was happy. She would also throw things off the wall sometimes and get mad if she didn't like something. Maybe this sounds very mystical, but it is true. We all felt it."
Filming began on the anniversary of Monroe's death, and some scenes were shot on location where she lived and died.
"It definitely took on elements of being like a seance," Dominik said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Blonde,' Netflix's controversial Marilyn Monroe movie: What we know