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How Ana de Armas became Marilyn Monroe for ‘Blonde’

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Playing Marilyn Monroe is a formidable challenge to both find and reveal the woman inside the celebrated film goddess.

For Ana de Armas, who stars as the legendary and enduring Hollywood sex symbol in Netflix’s NC-17 rated “Blonde,” it is the role, perhaps, of a lifetime, one that may net her an Oscar.

“Blonde” is an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ acclaimed 2000 novel, which rather than biography is more a meditation on Monroe. It has been the long-time passion project of writer-director Andrew Dominik (“Chopper,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”).

“I met Andrew after 11 years of him trying to make this film. That was three years ago, maybe more,” de Armas, 34, began. “I could tell how passionate he was about the story and how important it was to push for his vision. I was blown away that I even got to audition for this.”

Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, de Armas — at 18 and eager to have a film career — moved to Spain and then L.A.  She’s best known for the Agatha Christie-style hit “Knives Out” opposite Daniel Craig and, again opposite Craig, in his final 007 entry, “No Time to Die.”

For the 166-minute “Blonde,” she had to recreate Monroe’s look, the hair and several iconic film performances, including “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “The Seven Year Itch.”  And of course, there was her breathy, baby-doll speech.

As de Armas began, she knew this Monroe saga is from Monroe’s point of view.

“Everything felt new. I knew the character onscreen, I knew her movies but didn’t know much about her life,” she said. “Andrew created this photographic bible with more than 700 pictures — and you could see the movies and anything you could find on YouTube, rare footage of her. Andrew wanted to pour all that into my head and it was pretty exciting, an extensive immersive process.

“It was not just her movies and her work, it was more to figure out who the woman was.”

When she began, de Armas explained, “I wondered, What will we have in common? We’re so far apart apparently. But the more I learned, I felt closer to her than I could ever imagine.

“Even though I didn’t have a childhood like her or her horrible traumatic experiences as a woman, I could see what her pain and her struggles were with that duality (she encountered) between her private and public self.

“She was forever trying to be taken seriously. What I found fascinating was that despite all that, she kept shining and pushing through.”


“Blonde” streams on Netflix Sept. 28.

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