Director Andrew Dominik’s decade-long journey to bring the Hollywood bombshell back to life

In the decades since her untimely death from a barbiturate overdose in 1962, Marilyn Monroe lived on as an enduring pop culture ghost and has since been the subject of documentaries and biopics galore. The latest of these Netflix efforts is almost upon us as the streaming company recently released an official trailer for its upcoming original film, Blond. If so many Hollywood folks have ever tried to bring the blonde bombshell back to life (since Michelle Williams’ Oscar-nominated role as Monroe in the 2011 film My week with Marilyn to several blunders made for TV), what makes this film so special?

For starters, despite Netflix-ordered re-releases to tone down sexually explicit content, the film is rated NC-17, making it the first mainstream Hollywood film since the 1990s to accept the rating, which was once considered the MPAA. . kiss of death. Ana de Armas, who plays the fictional Marilyn Monroe in Blond, recently expressed surprise at the rating the film received. But BlondWriter-director Andrew Dominik is understandably jaded about the NC-17 rating. The New Zealand-born Australian filmmaker weathered a decade-long struggle to get his film shot in a Hollywood system that never embraced him as fully as other critically acclaimed directors of his generation like Paul Thomas Anderson , Steven Soderbergh or Quentin Tarantino.


Then there’s also Monroe’s particularly fictional real-life departure, something that stems from the source material.

Dominik explored the dark side of being a celebrity before going blonde

In 2000, Joyce Carol Oates published her epic novel of the same name, insisting that its over 700 page long Blond was not a biography of the late actress. Recently, the author hailed the upcoming Netflix adaptation of his novel and praised Dominik, who also in 2000 made his directorial debut with Chopper, an Australian prison drama starring Eric Bana as a real-life inmate. The role led Bana to work with some of Hollywood’s greatest directors: Ridley Scott, Ang Lee, Wolfgang Peterson and Steven Spielberg, to name a few. Although Dominik has received so much praise for Chopper as Bana did, the road to Hollywood prestige was much more difficult for the director.

Related: Best Mainstream NC-17 Movies, Ranked

In 2007, Dominik released his second film, the epic western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, the title of which perfectly defines audience expectations for its contemplative and romantic pace as well as its nearly three-hour running time; Something Blond has in common with jesse james not to mention how the two movies share themes about the dark nature of stardom. (However Jesse James’ cinematographer Sir Roger Deakins confirmed there was a four-hour cut to Collider.) Some reviewers loved it Jesse James, but it should come as no surprise that the film didn’t make it to the box office despite Brad Pitt’s name at the top of the bill. Whether Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid gave audiences in 1969 the feeling of a wild drinking party, the dark jesse james hit audiences in 2007 with a hangover the next morning.

Naomi Watts was originally attached to star Marilyn Monroe in Blonde

In 2010, reports first surfaced that for his third film, Dominik was aiming to adapt Oates’ novel Blond with Naomi Watts attached to play the role of Monroe. Interestingly, Dominik’s Blond draws comparisons to the 2001 David Lynch film, Mullholland Drivewhich starred Naomi Watts in her breakout performance as a starry-eyed young blonde who moves to Hollywood with big dreams of becoming a famous actress, only to find herself adrift in a Tinsletown nightmare.

It’s no coincidence that this looks a bit like the plot synopsis for Blond, as Dominik is an avowed Lynch fan, citing Mullholland Drive as one of his favorite films when he sat down with IndieWire in 2017. And the comparisons to David Lynch keep cropping up. When asked at the Venice premiere earlier this month if some of the “dreamy music” of Blond was an intentional homage to twin peaksDominik replied “No”, adding:

“I think Blonde is in a long tradition of female anxiety movies. And David Lynch does ‘Women in Trouble’ movies and Hitchcock did that before him. Movies like Marnie. Movies like Suspicion.

Eventually, Namoi Watts left after Dominik failed to secure support from a Hollywood studio. Soon after, Dominik also seemed to have moved on, focusing on another adaptation, the 1974 detective story by George V. Higgins. Cogan’s Trade, concerning a contract killer hired to kill the perpetrators of a poker robbery. Dominik renamed it Killing them softly and updated its framework to the 2008 financial crisis with Detroit replacing Boston. Brad Pitt starred as the hitman among such an impressive supporting cast as jesse james. Not only was the movie critically embraced, it even made a moderate comeback at the box office.

Related: Blonde Review: Ana de Armas Completely Disappears as Marilyn Monroe

But try hard to forget about Marilyn Monroe, Blond never left Dominik. New ideas for the film intermittently flooded his mind and renewed his determination to one day make the film. So when Brad Pitt suggested that his redhead co-star in Terrence Mallick’s 2011 film, Tree of lifeJessica Chastain, could play the blonde bombshell, Dominik again tried to raise the funds.

Jessica Chastain was also attached to star Marilyn Monroe in Blonde

In 2014, Chastain was on a series of defining roles from Kathryn Bigelow zero dark thirty two years earlier to Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic, Interstellar and JC Chandor’s anti-gangster film, A most violent year. If there was one lead actress who could pique the studio’s interest in a film in 2014, it was Chastain. Yet for years, even with Chastain and even with Brad Pitt producing, Dominik still couldn’t raise enough funds to get the project off the ground. Then Netflix came along, announcing that they would be distributing the film.

Andrew Dominik finally found his Marilyn Monroe after seeing Ana de Armas on TV

In 2019, Netflix announced that Ana de Armas would play Marilyn Monroe, replacing Chastain. Dominik was watching TV when he first saw the Cuban actress tormenting the character of Keanu Reeves in Eli Roth’s 2015 horror film Knock Knock. Dominik compared it to “love at first sight”, noting that he couldn’t look away from the Cuban actress whenever she was on screen. In the years since Knock Knockde Armas has been on a hot cinematic streak to match that of Denis Villeneuve’s Chastain Blade Runner 2049 in 2017 at Rian Johnson’s 2019 thriller, Knives out.

The current buzz suggests that Blond is de Armas’ finest role to date. But the film itself was met with less enthusiasm, with early reviews echoing what Dominik described as the initial reaction to Mulholland Drive speaking to IndieWire in 2017, saying:

“When [Mulholland Drive] first released it was met with kind of confusion and now most people seem to agree that [it] is one of the most significant, if not the most significant, films of the present century. And I think that’s because he describes a very distressing emotional situation that everyone can relate to. Maybe that’s why people didn’t like it.

Perhaps Dominik’s latest film, like Lynch’s, will survive its current lukewarm reception and achieve cult classic status in years to come among Lynch and Hitchcock’s “long tradition of female anxiety films”. The test of time is about to begin Blond will be broadcast exclusively on Netflix from this Wednesday, September 28.

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