Ana de Armas wants people to get to know Norma Jeane Mortenson on a new level.
The Cuban actor completely transformed into Marilyn Monroe for “Blonde,” bringing a new level of vulnerability to the Hollywood icon in the Andrew Dominik-directed film. De Armas told TODAY at the Los Angeles premiere held at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Sept. 13, that she related to the woman in the story and was moved by the tragedies in the stars’ life.
“It was hard for me not to relate to the story of what was happening to her and to the woman in the story,” de Armas said on the red carpet. “It was hard not to identify with that and feel heartbroken and moved by it.”
“The more I learned about her, and when I say her, I mean Norma because I had this idea of (Marilyn)… I knew what we all know about Marilyn Monroe, the character,” she continued. “I just wanted to peel all the layers and find who was underneath that and what she went through. It was just so easy for me to see her trauma and her pain and understand what she was going through. So I guess I just really connected with them.”
The film is 14 years in the making, with the director and cast emphasizing that the drama is a fictionalized version of Monroe’s life, adapted from the 2000 novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates.
“The film didn’t really come to life until Ana appeared,” Dominik told TODAY. “Once she came into the picture, the whole thing, just really, it just gelled and made sense. So I think we were waiting for her in a way.”
“When you hear her talking about (her experience), she talks about it in a much more emotional, visceral, personal way because to her it was,” the director added.
The almost three-hour drama digs deep into Norma Jeane’s traumatic childhood and life in the spotlight. Her tumultuous and abusive relationships with two of her three husbands — baseball player Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale) and playwright Arthur Miller (Adrien Brody) — and rumored affair with John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson) depicts a fragile woman in search of love and dealing with mental health issues.
“Everybody sees the film according to their fears and desires,” the director told TODAY, adding that when making the movie he only thought about how he’d react. “It’s how it’s going to make me feel. That’s the only instrument I have to work with, it’s my own.”
Taking on a larger-than-life character could take a toll on an actor, but de Armas was forced to quickly leave Norma Jeane and Monroe behind. She said she never got a proper goodbye.
“Unfortunately, my schedule was really crazy and completely unplanned, and I finished shooting ‘Blonde’ on a Friday and I started shooting James Bond on Monday,” the actor said. “So (my ‘No Time to Die’ character) Paloma was kind of my therapy to let this go.”
Adding, “Had that been my choice? I wouldn’t have chosen that but that’s the way it worked. And I wish I had had more time to say goodbye to the project and her. But you know, it was kind of beautiful. It was all of a sudden Paloma has a little bit of Marilyn.”
Aside from the NC-17 rating, the film made headlines after the release of the official trailer. Viewers saw de Armas as Marilyn with her signature blonde hair, red lips and beauty mark. She also spoke in an accent that didn’t directly impersonate the icon’s voice.
The actor told L’Officiel that she worked with a dialect coach for months but added that her job “wasn’t to imitate her.” “I was interested in her feelings, her journey, her insecurities, and her voice, in the sense that she didn’t really have one,” she added.
The official Marilyn Monroe Estate even came to her defense, despite the estate not authorizing the film.
“Marilyn Monroe is a singular Hollywood and pop culture icon that transcends generations and history,” said Marc Rosen, president of entertainment at Authentic Brands Group (ABG), which owns the Marilyn Monroe Estate. “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!”
De Armas left the criticism behind, telling TODAY, “I don’t want to worry about anything because the work is done.”
“This entire cast and crew and Andrew and producers have been incredible, and we’ve all given everything we’ve got to this project because we believed in it," she said. “We finished this month three years ago. I’ve watched this movie by myself, with Andrew, with friends, with family, by chunks, you know, any way you can imagine. And now you finally get to see it. But I already know how I feel about the movie and the work we did. So I have no worries."
“And I just hope that people get to know Norma,” she added.
“Blonde” will be released in select theaters on Sept. 16 and stream on Netflix on Sept. 23.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com