24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Marilyn Monroe

Brad Pitt goes 'Blonde'; can he jumpstart Marilyn Monroe pic?

June 1, 2012 |  5:00 am


Marilyn Monroe has been everywhere lately, from the fictitious musical on "Smash" to the 2011 Michelle Williams movie to even this questionable  hologram extravaganza.

But she could be getting another treatment if Brad Pitt and Andrew Dominik have anything to say about it.

The A-list actor has come aboard to produce the filmmaker’s long-gestating drama about the blond bombshell. "We're going to get this one done," Pitt told 24 Frames in a joint interview with Dominik.

Pitt said it's unclear whether he would take a role in the movie as well (suggestions welcome on who he should play) or simply produce. Pitt's been on a bit of a producing hot streak lately: His company, Plan B, was behind two best picture nominees in 2012 ("The Tree of Life" and "Moneyball").

Pitt and Domink collaborated on "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and the upcoming hit-man movie "Killing Them Softly." "Blonde" would mark a shift from those hard-boiled genres;  it would look at an imagined inner life of the iconic actress, an inner life first imagined by Joyce Carol Oates, who wrote an acclaimed 2000 novel on which the film would be based.

Oates' "Blonde," which also got the TV mini-series treatment a decade ago, has been in feature development since at least 2009, when Dominik began writing a script based on the book. Soon after, the foreign-sales company Wild Bunch began peddling the project.

But it's back on the front burner thanks to Pitt's interest and to some new financing possibilities. Dominik wouldn't comment on the specific progress of the project, but said that shooting it in January or February of 2013 was not out of the realm of possibility.

When it was first incarnated with Wild Bunch, Naomi Watts was slated to play the lead part of Marilyn. But that was a long time ago, and it's unclear at this point if the filmmakers would continue in that  direction.

It should be noted that "My Week With Marilyn" was hardly a blockbuster performer: It grossed $14 million and garnered mediocre reviews. But that film covered only a small slice of the actress' life. And, in any event, expect a different kind of film from the Australia-based Dominik, who departed from convention with both “Jesse James" (a non-Western Western) and "Killing Them Softly” (which turns the hit-man movie into a meditation on capitalism). Meanwhile, interest in Monroe continues to grow with the 50th anniversary of her death approaching on Aug. 5.

Since coming on the scene with his cult hit “Chopper” in 2000, Dominik hasn't exactly worked at a feverish pace. He took seven years to make "Jesse James" and five for "Killing." "He's got a terrible habit for writing things on spec," Pitt said with a good-natured smile, implying that the rights issues on "Blonde" may have bogged it down too. (Dominik wrote his first draft on spec, that is, without locking down rights.)

But Pitt's brand of surfer-boy intellectual and Dominik's auteur intensity clearly combine for a kind of chemistry, with both of their collaborations yielding solid reviews.  Pitt said that "I think 'Jesse' is going to be the film I'm most proud of when I'm done with this [acting] thing."

Frustrated by the meager box-office for "James," Dominik hopes that "Killing," which hits theaters in September as a Weinstein Co. release, rekindles the industry's interest in the pair's work.

 "I wanted to make a $15-million movie. I wanted to make a movie that was cheap and could make its money back, because I'd like to keep working with Brad and I'd like us to have more expensive playdates than the last one," he said. "I would like to make someone some money."

Generally, he said, he struggles with the balance between passion and pragmatism, which he said may be why he's made just two movies since "Chopper."

"I'd like to make movies, man,” he said. “But I don't want to just make movies. I want to make the movies I want to make."


Cannes 2012: Brad Pitt's 'Killing Them Softly,' anti-capitalist screed?

Can Michelle Williams pull off Marilyn Monroe?

Marilyn Monroe gets the musical treatment on Smash

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo:Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Fremaux, from left, Brad Pitt, Andrew Domink and Pitt producing partner Dede Gardner at the Cannes Film Festival. Credit: Valery Hache / AFP/Getty Images


Hollywood foments a Marilyn Monroe moment

December 23, 2011 |  9:56 am



Next August will bring the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death. (She would have been 86, which is as weird to write as it is to think about.)

But Hollywood is getting an early jump on the remembrances. Currently playing in about 250 movie theaters around the country is Michelle Williams' "My Week With Marilyn," a dramatized (and possibly fictionalized) look at the screen siren during a critical period of her life while filming "The Prince and the Showgirl.”

In February, Monroe comes to the small screen via the NBC scripted series "Smash," in which theater producers mount a fictional Broadway show about the bombshell’s life. The real-life Broadway actress Megan Hilty and "American Idol" star-cum-recording artist Katharine McPhee, putting her own spin on "Happy Birthday, Mr. President," each vie to play her.

As if that weren't enough, the series could spawn an actual Broadway musical, with creators developing lyrics and music with an eye toward putting it all on a stage.

"You can actually squint and see a real Marilyn musical," said Craig Zadan, an executive producer on "Smash" and a Broadway producer of note in his own right. "There are already a bunch of new songs, and one of the possibilities if the show becomes a hit is to regroup and try to put it on Broadway." (A 1983 Broadway effort, "Marilyn: An American Fable," flopped, though that was heavily fictionalized and largely panned.)

What's behind the 2011-era Monroe-mania? Certainly, nostalgists say, rightly or not, that she’s a symbol of when celebrity was purer. And even less doe-eyed types will note that Monroe was a forerunner of modern celebrity, someone whose outsized fame derived from her persona as much as her work.

McPhee has her own perspective, telling 24 Frames that she believes there was a striving quality to the woman born Norma Jean Mortenson, who, of course, came from humble beginnings. "I think it's the aspirational quality people relate to," McPhee said.

Williams said that, for her at least, there was an element of reassurance in the Monroe legend. "If even a woman that beautiful clearly has trouble and is damaged and has insecurities, then we're all entitled," she said. (Her film has so far grossed more than $6 million at the U.S. box office in roughly one month of release.)

But the actress also said she believes there was something to admire in how the bombshell crafted her image.

"To be Marilyn Monroe, to be what people expect, to be that open and sexual and gorgeous, it takes an incredible amount of effort. I read something where she said that that’s a very difficult thing to be when one is feeling unlovable," Williams said. "It’s a drain to put out that much energy. It leaves you exhausted."


Mystery surrounds 'My Week with Marilyn'

Michelle Williams channels Marilyn Monroe

The Artist, Marilyn, have old-school charm at the box office

--Steven Zeitchik, with additional reporting by Amy Kaufman



Photo: Marilyn Monroe at 19. Credit: EPA/Julien Auctions.



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