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Marilyn Monroe has served as an inspirational force for far longer than her short life. The actor’s fascinating and tragic life has sparked songs penned about her legacy, books written to capture her spirit, and fiercely protected collections of her personal items

'Blonde' Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe
Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in ‘Blonde’ | Netflix

The upcoming biopic Blonde aims to pull these intense feelings of empathy and admiration into one stunning film production, but viewers may be interested to know that the tale is not based on Monroe’s real life. 

Andrew Dominik is the director behind ‘Blonde’

Blonde is slated to release on September 23, 2022, and it promises to bring Joyce Carol Oates’s best-selling novel of the same name to the big screen with heart. The project was initially expected in 2021, but Netflix delayed the production.

Rumors have swirled that the reason has to do with depictions of violence. Dominik has called the film a “demanding” one, and it has earned an NC-17 rating. In other words, viewers shouldn’t tune in expecting a feel-good romp through a nostalgic lens. 

Ana de Armas has been cast to play Monroe, and she has spoken out about the challenges of stepping into such an iconic role. The film explores the darker side of Monroe’s life including her sometimes overwhelming anxiety and psychiatric struggles. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, de Armas explains:

“It was the most intense work I’ve ever done as an actress. It took me a year to prepare for that — research and accent and everything you can imagine. Reading material, and talking to Andrew Dominik for months, and getting ready to start. It was three months of shooting nonstop — like, a crazy schedule.” 

Ultimately, she calls the film “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever done” and praises Dominik for his “genius” at bringing the story to life. 

‘Blonde’ is based on a novel that blurs fact and fiction

Obviously, Marilyn Monroe is a real person, and her legacy is one that’s tied to actual politics, history, and culture. Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, however, is a fictionalized account of that real-life legacy. As Glamour reports, the novel — which is 700 pages long! — is particularly notable for its treatment of Monroe’s inner life.

Oates took many liberties with imagining what life was like for the actor and even explores the oft-touted idea that Monroe was assassinated. Still, it can be hard to keep the lines between reality and fiction straight because the film does feature several real-life counterparts.

In addition to de Armas’ depiction of Monroe, Adrien Brody will take on the part of “The Playwright” (Monroe’s ex, Arthur Miller). Bobby Cannavale will appear as “The Ex-Athlete” (another of Monroe’s exes, Joe DiMaggio). Caspar Phillipson — who previously portrayed John F. Kennedy in Jackie — will appear as “The President.” 

Andrew Dominik says ‘Blonde’ is about ‘identity’


Ana de Armas Had to Film ‘Blonde’ and ‘No Time to Die’ at Nearly the Same Time: I’m a ‘Bond Girl with a Marilyn Monroe Body’

Blonde has the potential to be salacious, and its NC-17 rating has eyebrows raised. Ultimately, though, Dominik believes Blonde is about identity. Speaking with Vulture, the director explains:

“The idea behind Blonde is basically it details a childhood drama and mistaken ideas that she carries into her adult life, and she sees the world through the lens of those ideas … It’s very much concerned with identity. But isn’t that the whole thing, dude? Do we even have a sense of self? Is our sense of self just getting in our way? Is the self illusory? Do we need it?”

As for whether or not the film is a “real” depiction of Monroe, Dominik offers some thoughts on the nature of reality: “There’s no consensus reality anymore. But on a simplest level, it’s about an unwanted child who becomes the most wanted person in the world and can’t deal with all of that desire coming at them.” 

That story — even if the facts aren’t accurate — is certainly at the heart of the real-life Monroe’s rise to fame and the world’s undying fascination with her.