Michelle Williams does Marilyn Monroe drag in Vogue: tragic or interesting?


Here’s the thing: I like Michelle Williams (not love, but like) but casting her as Marilyn Monroe is just… awful. Michelle was cast as Marilyn in My Week With Marilyn, a film based on a book from a production assistant who worked with Monroe in England, while Monroe filmed The Prince and the Showgirl with Lawrence Olivier. Monroe had just married Arthur Miller, and he traveled to England with her, and Monroe and Olivier famously hated each other. I get that the “behind the scenes” story is interesting, and I’m not generally opposed to the film being made, but would it have killed them to get someone more vivacious and sexy to play Marilyn? Instead, we have Michelle Williams, who… let’s just say it, is a girlish, affected hipster with no sex appeal.

These photos tend to prove that in spades – Michelle, still in character as Marilyn, covers the new issue of Vogue. The cover is especially terrible, and the rest of the photos – well, Michelle just looks like a cheap Monroe impersonator. I’ve seen drag queens do a better, more realistic Marilyn. This seems like the kind of stunt Linnocent would pull. Anyway, the full slideshow is here, and the full article is here. Here are some highlights:

MW’s hipster cred: She gestures with small, slim, expressive hands as the conversation ranges from her affinity for dresses from the 1930s and long-discontinued Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 pencils (“I love things that are old and beautiful and tell a story, even if it’s a sad one”) to the novels of Vladimir Nabokov, whose notoriously complex Ada is a favorite. “I think Nabokov once said that genius is finding the invisible link between things,” she tells me. “And that’s how I choose to see life. Everything’s connected, and everything has meaning if you look for it.”

Turning 30: “I feel like something has changed for me, but it’s a new change, so it’s going to be hard for me to describe,” she says. “Maybe it has something to do with turning 30. I don’t feel as shy or nervous or self-conscious. I have more confidence that I can handle what life brings me. I don’t feel scared to have an idea and express it.” She adds, “I feel giddy about it because it’s a complete transformation. It’s like I’ve found my voice.”

Playing Marilyn: “As soon as I finished the script, I knew that I wanted to do it, and then I spent six months trying to talk myself out of it,” she says. “But I always knew that I never really had a choice.” And, she adds, “I’ve started to believe that you get the piece of material that you were ready for.”

On Marilyn: “Everybody has their own idea of who Marilyn was and what she means to them,” Williams says. “But I think that if you go a little bit deeper, you’re going to be surprised by what you find there.”

Becoming Marilyn: Williams spent six months immersing herself in all things Monroe. She read biographies, diaries, letters, poems, and notes, pored over photographs, listened to recordings, watched movies, and tracked down obscure clips on YouTube. “I’d go to bed every night with a stack of books next to me,” she recalls. “And I’d fall asleep to movies of her. It was like when you were a kid and you’d put a book under your pillow hoping you’d get it by osmosis.” Her turn from indie waif to Hollywood sex goddess involved working with a choreographer to perfect Monroe’s walk and gaining weight to approximate her curves. “Unfortunately, it went right to my face,” she says, puffing up her cheeks to illustrate. “So at some point it became a question of, Do I want my face to look like Marilyn Monroe’s or my hips?” (She opted for the former and filled out the latter with foam padding.) In the end, she says, “it felt like being reborn. It felt like breaking my body and remaking it in her image, learning how she walked and talked and held her head. None of that existed in my physical memory, and I knew I needed as much time as possible to make it part of me.”

Sex appeal: “Any messages that I got as a child about what it is to have a woman’s body or to be sexual were all negative—that people wouldn’t take you seriously or that they would take advantage of you… The expectation to be beautiful always makes me feel ugly because I feel like I can’t live up to it,” she says. “But I do remember one moment of being all suited up as Marilyn and walking from my dressing room onto the soundstage practicing my wiggle. There were three or four men gathered around a truck, and I remember seeing that they were watching me come and feeling that they were watching me go—and for the very first time I glimpsed some idea of the pleasure I could take in that kind of attention; not their pleasure but my pleasure. And I thought, Oh, maybe Marilyn felt that when she walked down the beach.”

On the paparazzi, and her daughter: “That’s what seems the most rotten thing about it to me,” she says. “And I’m going to do everything in my power to make her feel safe and protected, and to extend her childhood for as long as possible.”

On Heath‘s death: “Three years ago, it felt like we didn’t have anything, and now my life—our life—has kind of repaired itself… Look, it’s not a perfectly operating system—there are holes and dips and electrical storms—but the basics are intact.” Still, she says, in a fundamental way nothing will ever be the same: “It’s changed how I see the world and how I interact on a daily basis. It’s changed the parent I am. It’s changed the friend I am. It’s changed the kind of work that I really want to do. It’s become the lens through which I see life—that it’s all impermanent.” Williams shuts her eyes, then opens them again and says, “For a really long time, I couldn’t stop touching people’s faces. I was like, ‘Look at you! You move! You’re here!’ It all just seemed so fleeting, and I wanted to hold on to it.”

Her love life: Williams speculates that she may be drawn to stories about the vicissitudes of romantic love because “relationships have always seemed very mysterious, and therefore worth exploring. I’m single, so it’s still kind of a mystery—a worthwhile mystery, one that I want to be on the scent of.” She confesses that she misses having a guy around when it’s time to haul wood at her house upstate. But, unlike Monroe, she doesn’t define herself through the men in her life: “I’m not lonely, and I think that has a lot to do with what’s on my bedside table rather than what’s in my bed.”

[From Vogue]

Yeah, I don’t even believe she’s single. I think she’s dating Cary Fukunaga, the director of the latest version of Jane Eyre. I just think she doesn’t want to talk about who she’s dating, which… I kind of wish she would just say, “I don’t want to talk about it” rather than lying. We’re not going to hold it against her if she’s dating, for the love of God.







Photos courtesy of Vogue.

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79 Responses to “Michelle Williams does Marilyn Monroe drag in Vogue: tragic or interesting?”

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  1. S says:

    but that’s the beauty of the situation! There are two Marilyn movies coming out – which I bet Linnocent would have LOVED to be involved in, and she probably wasn’t even considered for either. I think Michelle is usually pretty subdued, but I’m interested to see how she does with this

  2. Bite me says:

    YeAh… Ok… Any reviews about this movie out yet…

  3. teehee says:

    She definitely is too subdued and timid to pull of the vibrant charm that Marilyn had–
    Marilyn loved the cameras and wanted to catch your eyes but here Michelle seems suspicious and wary of the camera.

  4. CarinC4 says:

    I just………don’t see it….
    I mean, when Jamie Foxx portrayed Ray Charles in the movie about his life…WOW, he had it to a T. His movements, everything.

    M. Williams just doesn’t have any “spark” here…i know these are just pics but there’s no familiarity here.

  5. Cherry says:

    Not to mention that Marilyn was voluptuous, an old-fashioned curvy bombshell. Michelle Williams is a pretty girl, but she is also thick-thin and does not have Marilyn’s exceptional charm. Personally, I think MM would be horrified to learn that Michelle was going to play her.

  6. NeNe says:

    I’m not too sure if I am buying her as Marilyn Monroe.

  7. LadyJane says:

    Hasn’t every single personality in Hollywood at some stage done a Marilyn photoshoot? SO over done. You could put anyone in that iconic wig, the white dress, a beauty mark, red lips, and everyone would know who you were trying to be – even if you looked like Rosie O’Donnell to start with (no offense Rosie).
    And while Michelle looks pretty here, she doesn’t have the Marilyn factor at all. She is too thin – metaphorically and literally.

  8. kris says:

    shes way too skinny for this character.

  9. i.want.shoes says:

    This is one bland-looking Marilyn Monroe.

    Somewhere, Linnocent is indignant that she wasn’t offered the part.

  10. Gwen says:

    I don’t mind Michelle but she looks awful here. All wrong for Marilyn :O

  11. Scarlet Vixen says:

    I think she’s a pretty woman, and has a beautiful body–she always wears these Mia Farrow-esque sacks so I never knew how hot her body was! But yeah, I hate to say it but she doesn’t have that ‘spark.’ She’s too loose and relaxed. Women like MM and Sophia Vergara are always “on.” Kinda like they’re always walking around holding themselves in and standing taller. If that makes sense. Unfortunately, Williams doesn’t naturally exude that sexiness that was the essence of MM. Maybe it’ll come out better in film, tho. :-/

  12. Addie says:

    She has very little sex appeal

    HOWEVER rather her than Linnocent types who wouldn’t be able to focus on the deep and meaningful parts of the character, only the sexy/seductive parts..inturn cheapening the movie.

  13. spinner says:

    This is not working for me. Michelle does not have “IT.”

  14. Lila says:

    Michelle Williams is beautiful but so wrong for playing Marilyn Monroe…Her hair looks busted here also…The movie sounds a little strange to me to be honest, I wonder how it will do.

  15. ella says:

    I think it’s best to see the movie first before you say she sucks as Marilyn.

    I think Michelle is a terrific actress and she might just surprise us. ACTING means being someone or something you necessarily aren’t in real life.

  16. Roma says:

    Michelle might not have “it” in photographs but she has grown into a rather spectacular actress. I’m waiting to reserve judgement until I see her on film.

  17. yepp says:

    @ ella, thats excatly what i was thinking.. she is a actess she has a very good range. maybe she does not photograph well but she can act her ass off! so im hoping for the best for her.

  18. Shaye says:

    An aside..Cary Fukunaga is hot!! So so hot…sigh

  19. Mimi says:

    I agree Ella. Michelle is an amazing actress and might have all you MW haters eating your words. But, lets be honest. No actress, no matter how talented will ever do Marilyn justice.

  20. Eve says:

    Tragic or interesting? More like boring…or maybe that’s just me: I’m really tired of Marylin Monroe’s impersonators. In fact, I don’t find Monroe that interesting herself.

    I know this (photoshoot) is because of her movie but still…meh.

  21. Ell says:

    @ella, I think the same, people are underestimated Michelle’s versatility as an actress. You only have to think back to the way she played Jen in Dawnsons, she was a sassy character.

  22. kimmy says:

    MW may not have the same sex appeal that MM had, but this girl can act circles around most of her contemporaries. I think they picked her b/c they needed someone to show us the OTHER side of MM. Makeup/wardrobe can do wonders. With that said….shame on Vogue for this BUSTED photoshoot!!!

  23. Frieda says:

    It is ALWAYS tragic when an actress does a Marilyn Monroe photo shoot. It just proves that NO ONE has, does or will ever look like Marilyn except Marilyn.

  24. Liz says:

    i personally find Michelle more likeable than Marylin – but agreed; theres a wisdom or lived quality in her personality that is clear in these photographs that Marylin just did not evoke.

  25. Sigh. says:

    This pictorial is a terrible representation, I hate to say. I think she’s supposed to languishing like a sex kitten, but it comes off as sloppy in some, and disconnected boredom in others.

    Maybe this flick will concentrate mostly on the fragile, needy, behind-the-scenes side of Monroe, not the same bombshell schtick that we’ve seen a thousand times before. If so, Williams might pull it out.

  26. curleque says:

    Should they not have picked an actress with sex appeal to play MM?

    I really like MW, and I think she’s really talented, but she’s sexless to me.

  27. KLO says:

    She is completely a different type from Marilyn. Her body shape, her face shape. Her hair (Marilyn’s hair was actually long, auburn colored and naturally curly before she bleached and cut it).
    But I think what the filmmakers are going for is the “real” Marilyn, the essence of the woman when the cameras were turned off. And I think Michelle just might be able to portray that very fragile, yet very strong person.
    But again – she looks nothing like her.

  28. cmc says:

    “I’m not lonely, and I think that has a lot to do with what’s on my bedside table rather than what’s in my bed.”

    I really like that quote, whether she’s single or not! Also, I agree with all the above commenters…nice try, but no.

  29. JaisyMaisy says:

    She’s too squinty to play Marilyn, that’s the problem. But a pretty girl in her own right.

  30. Trillion says:

    Her eyes and lips do not engage the viewer/camera in any way, IMO. Anyone can put on a Marilyn dress and a Marilyn wig, but very very few can give even halfway decent Marilyn face. I’ll still see the movie though. I think.

  31. Original Tiffany says:

    Really bad. Does not have the oomph to play MM. She’s a good asexual actress. Not Marilyn. When she puts on weight she reminds me more of Zellweger.

  32. 4Real says:

    Yeah I’m not feeling her as MM…she’s not voluptuous or sexy enough to pull this look off.

  33. Stubbylove says:

    The cover is a total miss – she looks like a little girl playing dress up – disappointed Vogue would green light that. The pics are just okay – she’s not pulling it off.

  34. G says:

    Michelle is an excellent actress, but the cover and the layouts are just silly. Leave it to Vogue to be so out of touch.

  35. Emma says:

    They should have gone with someone like Christina Hendricks or that blonde girl from The Help, who both have that curvy, MM-esque figure/appeal. Just MHO…

    I will give MW props on her acting, though. Blue Valentine was great acting from her.

  36. Scout says:

    She’s trying but she doesn’t even come close to eating the camera the way Marilyn Monroe did!

  37. Megan says:

    I like Michelle, but she looks nothing like Marilyn, and looks bored in most of the photos. The only one where she’s mildly convincing is the photo where she’s reading a book. She has a completely different face structure to Marilyn, and it just doesn’t work dressing up and having your hair blow dried. Bad casting.

  38. TXCinderella says:

    The Marilyn thing is so overdone already. Unless they are actually playing her in a role, what is the point? She actually looks more like Shelley Winters in these pics.

  39. Happy21 says:

    Not buyin’ it. She can’t pull off Marilyn’s sex appeal. She’s cute but just not even close to Marilyn…

  40. DeE says:

    That really cute/sweet blond volup girl from the help would have be spot on!!!!!

  41. Turtle Dove says:

    Another great icon I love is Marilyn Monroe. Again… as long as it’s not LiLo doing it, I’m thrilled to see new reinventions and interpretations of her work.

  42. thinkaboutit says:

    This is indeed tragic. Odd, too, that the cover photo they chose is the worst of the bunch.

    I never noticed but her nose is huge.

  43. K.C. says:

    While I understand that a great actress can become their character or what-have-you, when it is Marilyn Monroe being played, having the look is essential. End of story. I think this movie would be fascinating, but I do not think Michelle Williams can pull it off, physically. Attitude, maybe.

  44. jover says:

    Not buying it – didn’t marilyn visit the troops back in the day; something only a few of today’s “stars/starlets” do; As others have commented 40-50 years from now what “stars” will be emulated of today? probably no one but they will still be trying to do marilyn – really an indication of the complete decline of the hollywood system and outside of the NY/La media entertainment world these little actresses have only a slight hold on the public’s imagination.Emulating an icon won’t make them one.

  45. Ashley says:

    @Emma – I’ve been thinking of Christina Hendricks too. She’s got that soft voice that’s not babyish, and the body. Plus she’s engaging.

    I used to like MW, a LOT. But after I started seeing her interviews she weirded me out.

  46. John Wayne Lives says:

    god, she so un-sexy. I mean, she has her own appeal, but Monroe she is NOT!
    and that pic of her leaning over the highrise ledge in the sparkly beige dress, please! Monroe had to be sewn into that dress. It wasn’t hanging off her.
    Take it off girl, doesn’t fit you.

  47. Susan says:

    While I don’t think MW’s eyes are expressive enough to even come close to capturing the ditzy/drunk/high-on-life look MM had, I like the clothing in this spread.

    Williams has that inbred cat, derp expression going on though. Dare I say, Hipster Marilyn even?

    This MM tribute is way better than anything LiLo has done.

  48. Kelly says:

    Ummm… nope. No friggin’ way. I also am fatigued by the Hollywood trend of “Marilyn” photoshoots. Marilyn was a complex, messy, probably annoying person, but she had transformative powers and wattage like no other. (Her hairdresser said that sometimes she wouldn’t wash her hair for weeks and would smell bad, but would come into the studio and be transformed by the end of the day.)

    I do like Michelle Williams as an actress, and she has cute style. But ditto @Original Tiffany – she does get that Zellweger chipmunk/pumpkin face the minute she puts on a pound.

  49. Ally says:

    The only photo that works here is the one of her reading on the couch. The rest, as you say, looks like bad drag.

    This isn’t just on Michelle Williams (though she hasn’t caught Marilyn’s heavy-lidded look at all), but on the hair and make-up people, and photographer, on this shoot. They should be embarrassed.

    I wish Kevyn Aucoin was still around:

  50. Turtle Dove says:

    Ally – great link. Those photos are amazing. Kevin was an amazing makeup artist (emphasis on the artist).

  51. Kelly says:

    I like Michelle Williams too but those pictures are laughable. Yuck, couldn’t they find someone more suited to play Marilyn Monroe?

  52. Jaxx says:

    I cannot believe they cast someone who has the body of a twelve year old boy to play ultra curvy Marilyn. And she must have bought the breasts in those pictures because I remember her in a one piece on a balcony with Heath and she was flat as a board. Talk about mis-casting.

  53. Angel says:

    I love MW but even I am not yet entirely convinced. The thing that strikes me is the complete lack of a genuine smile in any of these photographs. That just rubs me as wrong. Marilyn had her more serious, smoldering moments, but what always strikes me is the life in her face, her gigantic, open smile. she was THRILLED to be photographed, because she knew the camera LOVED her back, and it showed. Almost as if it was the only thing in the whole world she knew for certain loved her back. Having said that, these photos are all much too demure, and somehow sad and unsure. I do like the one of her reading, though. That seems to capture something Marilyn-esque. Which makes me wonder if perhaps they don’t have something in common that doesn’t immediately become apparent? I’ll wait for the movie to be sure.

  54. Seal Team 6 says:

    I think Williams will do a great job, and this movie has a terrific cast. MW is very good at playing vulnerable very subtly.

  55. Camille says:

    So, so wrong. Nothing about MW as MM is right at all.

  56. Madrid says:

    love michelle, I think she always says very sensible things in the interviews. Like above, I only buy the pic in the couch, the others, better glam lighting next time.

  57. joan of snark says:

    she’ll be so great. she’s an amazing actress, and monroe was a very “subdued” person. she was insecure and heavily medicated most of the time. it’s a nice fite.

  58. ORDINARYGIRL86 says:

    I know people are going to get upset by this but if there was any role meant for Scarlett Johannsson it was the role of Marilyn- she’s got the curves, acting chops, the sex appeal, and the personality to pull it off!

  59. bored@work says:

    Oh god, she looks bored and so out of her depth. Terrible casting.

  60. Tiffany says:

    @ Kaiser. To answer your question about her not talking about her personal life. She is going to ride Ledger’s death until the very end because that relationship is the only thing of interest when interviewing her. Notice how she never talked about their relationship while they were together and when they broke up when he was alive. Yeah, somebody in her camp is telling her how to play this.

  61. skeptical says:

    meh… better her than lilo. At least MW will show up and do her job without any crack drama. I think she’s a decent actress. Perhaps she best carries whatever vision this director is going for.

    I’m just thrilled that there are TWO Monroe movies that Linnocent the Persecuted didn’t get. That’s gotta be driving lilo crazy. Crack drama on the way?

  62. Mimi says:

    @Tiffany…I don’t think Michelle talks about Heath too much. And when she does, her words are never disrespectful and always beautiful. I don’t believe she is “riding Heath’s death” at all. If anything she made a point to keep herself and their daughter out of the public eye for a long time. What, do you expect her never to talk about Heath again? They were together for a long time and have a child together. Kinda harsh, no?

  63. Blithe says:

    I like the photos, and I think she looks just like Monroe. But then again, Monroe has never really interested me and I’m not sure I’ll see the movie. I’m kinda tired of all of hollywood trying to portray the old school “sex symbols” over and over again. Monroe, Taylor, etc. The photos are fun, but re-doing their movies and playing the stars in a biopic? Snooooooze….

  64. Ramona Q says:

    No one has what it takes to play Marilyn – that’s the reason she’s a legend: one of a kind.

  65. Home Fancy says:

    Looks nothing like Marilyn in the body OR face. She’s pretty in the lounging couch picture though.

    I didn’t buy her as a sexpot that makes men horny in Dawson’s Creek and I don’t buy it in this movie. I buy her more as, sweet gal to grab some coffee with and play date with the kiddos! In fact, she is so asexual to me, (I’m really not trying to make that sound bad, I like her), I was surprised when she got knocked up by Ledger, especially (gasp)out of wedlock.

  66. Carolyn says:

    Agree with all of you – enough with the youngsters thinking they can be Marilyn just by being styled like her. Quite like her as an actress but not in this role.

  67. Vera says:

    I feel like I’m probably one of the only ones here that have no problem with her playing Marilyn.

    Everyone is passing judgments when they haven’t seen this film. I’ve had my eye on it not only because I do like Michelle Williams, but also since it is produced by David Parfitt (Shakespeare in Love). I was ecstatic when the first shot of her came out as Marilyn.

    Now, I’m not saying that this will be an amazing film as there has yet to be a trailer, but just like the fact that I am unable to say that it will be great, no one here should be able to say she will be horrible as Marilyn Monroe.

    However, it does look like this will be aimed at the Oscars. Michelle Williams is very good at tragic characters – one of her most memorable for me was in Shutter Island across from Leonardo DiCaprio as Dolores. I feel that this will likely have a good deal of the more tragic bit to Marilyn Monroe and I am expecting heavy alcoholism issues to be brought up, but I haven’t read or even looked into the book that this is after, so I could be completely wrong.

    As for this shoot, I noticed some people commenting that it was typical and overdone fro celebrities to do a Marilyn shoot. Sure, but this one has grounds. This isn’t Lindsey Lohan being her cracked out self all the while stroking her ego that she is still relevant and gaining enough money for her next crack hustle.

    I won’t go and say that she looks amazing and this is the best shoot she’s done, but it is by no means bad. I do like the cover shot and a few others, but there are a few that I could pass on. To me, this is just another celebrity promoting their upcoming film in Vogue. When Reese Witherspoon did a themed shoot before Water for Elephants in Vogue, everyone seemed to love that. I really don’t see how this is any different.

  68. Justine says:

    Milk milk milk, that’s all she does about Heath. Two words: Gemma Ward. Heath was happy with her when he died, something he never really was with Michelle and the reason why he left her. Of course, it suits Michelle to play the widow card – without it there would be no Vogue cover. Heath’s real fans know the truth. For those in doubt google the Vogue interview with Terry Gilliam and Nicola Pecorini a few months after Heath’s death.

  69. Vesper says:

    I do agree that the pics lack the seductive self confidence that Marilyn had. I always thought Marilyn had a luminous quality about herself, but it was mixed with a sense of vulnerability – a narcisstic need to been seen as sexy 24/7. However, just because Michelle doesn’t bring that spark to her pics doesn’t mean she won’t do so in a movie. She is an actress not a model and I don’t believe being good in one venue automatically transfers to the other.

  70. Laura says:

    Oh my god she looks NOTHING like her. Her hair looks good, but apart from that NO. I really wish they could have found someone who can at least fake sexy.

  71. Jinko says:

    What a terrible waste! She looks like a sick cat. No sex appeal whatsoever. If you cannot be the most awesome incarnation of Marilyn, forget it! Not an easy impersonation to accomplish, but Michelle was a poor, poor choice.

  72. gfrg says:

    @justine the truth?giliam was lying and ward just just pick me up to Heath

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