It’s about that time when Hollywood brings back the legacy of Marilyn Monroe. Earlier this year, Netflix released “The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes,” a documentary about the star’s rise to fame and unexpected death. This coming September, Monroe will be portrayed by Cuban actress Ana de Armas in Blonde, Netflix’s first original movie rated NC-17.
Based on the bestselling historical fiction novel by Joyce Carol Oates, Blonde has previously been adapted for a 2001 TV miniseries starring Poppy Montgomery as Monroe. This time, the Hollywood icon’s story will be directed by Andrew Dominik (“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” “Killing Them Softly”). Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment will be producing this film with Pitt serving as a producer, marking Blonde the third film the pair have worked on together.
The Oates novel chronicles Monroe’s transformation from Norma Jeane Mortenson–Monroe’s birthname–to Norma Jean and finally, Marilyn Monroe. The 700-page novel plays into its fictional side, portraying Norma Jeane to include the extra “e” and addressing Monroe’s ex-husbands (and subsequent affair) by nicknames. It follows Monroe throughout her life, handling her tumultuous childhood, problems with drug use, and the alleged assassination of the 36-year-old actress.
While exploring those grim concepts leads the way for a mature film, the question of the NC-17 rating still remains. From what we know, the MPAA rating lists its reasoning as “some sexual content.” It is known that the novel (and most likely the movie) depicts Monroe’s first movie audition, which has instances of sexual harassment and violence.
Dominik has mentioned that the film does not have a lot of dialogue in it, which might add to the movie’s reliance on striking–and possibly controversial–visuals. There were rumors a scene involving menstrual cunnilingus was involved, but Dominik has debunked that theory.
Dominik has also stated that when the movie was originally shot in 2019, Netflix “insisted” on bringing in a film editor to “curb the excesses of the movie.” Despite the edits, it still did not cut out enough to garner it an R-rating.
“It’s controversial, there’s a bit for [Netflix] to swallow. It’s a demanding movie,” said Dominik.
While on the subject of controversy, Dominik credited the #MeToo movement for helping this kind of movie get made. The supposed scene portraying the sexual abuse Monroe sustained parallels situations that many Hollywood actresses still experience today. The film is also critical of often-praised American figures like President John F. Kennedy and Monroe’s ex-husband, MLB Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.
The daring film is receiving praise for de Arma’s performance as well as the tough topics it focuses on. Blonde author Oates tweeted that she saw a rough cut of the movie, explaining it as “disturbing & an utterly ‘feminist’ interpretation…not sure that any male director has ever achieved anything [like] this.”