Jessica Chastain cast as Marilyn Monroe in ‘Blonde’: good choice or bad idea?

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I read Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde years ago. It’s a really depressing version of Marilyn Monroe’s life, although to give Oates credit, it was very well-written. I’ve actually considered proposing it for our Celebitchy Book Club. But, yeah, it’s really depressing. Oates mostly focuses on the tragedies in Marilyn’s life: Norma Jean Baker’s childhood, the first marriage when she was a teenager, some quick WWII years, getting the part in The Asphalt Jungle… and that’s like the first third of the book. Oates spends a lot of time on Marilyn’s New York years, when she studied at The Actors Studio and fell in love with Arthur Miller (who comes across like a complete schmuck). And then the last years, as a play thing to the Kennedy brothers, zonked out on pills and whatever else. There’s very little joy in the book.

I bring this up because for years now, people have been talking about making a film adaptation of Blonde. I would think that could only really do the later years, or focus on one section, but who knows? As it turns out, Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, stepped up to the project a few years ago, and according to sources, Brad has convinced his friend Jessica Chastain to play Marilyn.

Two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain is nearing a deal to play Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik’s passion project “Blonde,” multiple individuals familiar with the project have told TheWrap. Representatives for Chastain and Worldview Entertainment did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

First announced in 2010, “Blonde” is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ 700-page novel of the same name, which reimagines the inner, poetic and spiritual life of Norma Jeane Baker — the child, the woman and the fated-celebrity better known by her studio name of Marilyn Monroe. Oates drew on biographical and historical sources to paint an intimate portrait of Marilyn that reveals a fragile, gifted young woman who repeatedly remade her identity to overcome the odds and define stardom in the 1950s.

In 2001, Oates’ imagined memoir was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and the prolific author believes it may be the book for which she will be best remembered. Dominik adapted “Blonde” on spec and his agency, CAA, will represent the film’s domestic distribution rights. Worldview Entertainment optioned the long-gestating project in May 2013, and will produce the film with Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner’s company Plan B — which according to the LA Times, boarded the project in June 2012.

Not only does Pitt have strong ties to Dominik, after starring in the director’s “The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford” and his most recent film, “Killing Them Softly,” but he’s also close with Chastain. The actors shared the screen in “The Tree of Life,” and an individual familiar with “Blonde” told TheWrap that Pitt was instrumental in convincing her to tackle the challenging role of Marilyn Monroe, which comes loaded with expectations.

[From The Wrap]

Jessica went blonde (or wore a blonde wig) for The Help, but every other film she’s done has been as a redhead (her natural hair color). While I almost always think Jessica needs help on the red carpet, in films she’s a chameleon and I don’t have any problem imagining her as some interesting, compelling version of Marilyn. There’s always the question of whether we really NEED to revisit poor Marilyn’s life over and over again though. But… considering the source material, I don’t have a huge problem with this. And I’m saying all of this as someone who sat through Michelle Williams’ performance in My Week With Marilyn and I still don’t know why she got an Oscar nomination for it. If Michelle can do that, than surely Jessica can do this.

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Photos courtesy of WENN.

 

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102 Responses to “Jessica Chastain cast as Marilyn Monroe in ‘Blonde’: good choice or bad idea?”

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  1. Audrey says:

    Stop making Marilyn movies

  2. BabyCakes says:

    I myself do enjoy anything Marilyn …she’s not what you’d expect, it could turn out okay though.

  3. paola says:

    Can please someone tell me why Hollywood keeps making films about Marylin Monroe?
    I really don’t see the point anymore. It feels like she’s been studied under the microscope in every possible way. And there is nothing new we don’t already know. Plus wearing a blonde wig doesn’t make you a Marilyn unlike EVERY celebrity out there seem to think.
    Are writers in Hollywood in such a down fase to not find anything new to talk about?
    If it isn’t a film about the same person over and over again it’s the remake of an old film.
    I’m bored to death.

  4. Etheldreda says:

    I think Jessica is a good choice. Sure, she doesn’t look like Marilyn, but she’s a great actress which is what counts.

    And I disagree about Michelle Williams. I thought she was amazing in ‘My Week with Marilyn’. Even though, again, Williams doesn’t look like Marilyn, there were times when I actually thought that was Marilyn herself up there on the screen.

    • don't kill me i'm french says:

      If a day Hollywood does a movie on Liz Taylor,i’m for Angelina Jolie
      If Hollywood does the Sorkin’s movie on Jobs,i’m for Christian Bale ( Dicaprio is a bad idea)
      If Hollywood does a movie on Frank Sinatra,i’m for Leo Dicaprio
      If Hollywood does a movie on Richard Burton,i’m for Russell Crowe
      If Hollywood does a movie on Cary Grant,i’m for Clooney
      Why? They don’t look like the real persons but they have something of the real persons
      Jessica Chastain has nothing of Marilyn Monroe like Meryl had nothing of Margaret Tatcher

    • Michelle Williams did a great job in that movie. It’s not always about looking exactly like an iconic figure, sometimes it’s about embodying that spirit and getting the affectations and mannerisms down.

      • Etheldreda says:

        Exactly. Williams really portrayed Marilyn as described by those who worked with her – an absolute nightmare to work with, and yet utterly, utterly charming. Like child, you couldn’t be angry with her for very long, no matter how unprofessional she was.

        Williams portrayed this really well. I also think it was a great idea to focus on just one week in Marilyn’s life, rather than attempt to tell her whole life story in the space of 2 hours. I think bio-flicks of the latter type rarely offer much insight into the person they are portraying.

      • itsetsyou says:

        I LOOOOOOOVED Michelle’s Marilyn! That movie was amazing overall, I’m gonna need to watch it again this weekend.

    • Kimmy says:

      I also thought Michelle Williams was amazing in My Week with Marilyn. She nailed the voice, the mannerisms, she drew you in, but you could always feel that underlying sadness and complexity.

      • Sugar1 says:

        Well stated & i agree with you & w/all who thought Michelle Williams did an amazing job. Took me a while to watch the movie & actually got the DVD thru my library. I watched it 3 times before returning it & even had tears in my eyes. I have read several books about the life of MM. I too felt Michelle captured that vunerability she had.

  5. Deftie says:

    Why new Marilyn movie? It’s not like she was some kind of amazing role model and we should be inspired by her.

    • jinni says:

      Exactly. She was a mess and had a crappy life filled with people abusing her and taking advantage of her. Why are people idolizing her? It’s not like despite her background she was able to overcome the crappy things done to her and become an icon to look up to?

      I don’t hate MM she was one of the few famous people of that time that was an ally to black people and help people like Ella Fitzgerald and I admit she had some good comedic timing. But I do dislike how she was a part of/ used to help introduce a fascination with grown women that still act childlike, naive, baby voiced, and helpless as a form of sexiness that since her death the media has been brainwashing young women to want to emulate.

      • Kiddo says:

        I can’t attest to the truth of it, but I recently watched a show on BIO that said that she was basically passed around in Hollywood. Supposedly a good number of actresses were used that way, as call girls. If they were game, they’d get famous. In that sense, she was used. But I think she also was very very ambitious.

        She had a troubling childhood because her mother was mentally ill. The vulnerable, ever-put-upon victim was partly true but also a bit of her own making in marketing herself. She also used people, like Joe D and Arthur Miller, to raise her profile and craft her public persona. She wasn’t dumb, nor naive, but played that role well.

        Since she died young, the legend is accepted, versus all of the nuances of the person, who was far from pristine innocence.

      • Jackson says:

        +1@jinni
        Ugh. Just stop with MM already. I really like JC but I will take a pass on another MM movie.

      • Faith says:

        I think the reason I am such a Marilyn Monroe fan apart from the glamour of old hollywood was for some reason I found her relatable I liked that deep down she was intelligent and I often feel due to being dyslexic and the way I look people don’t assume I am not very bright which is far from the truth, I related to suffering with mood troubles and self improvement, education and even self medication as well as wanting to be a good actress. Do I emulate her? God no well maybe expect for the say she dresses I loved her style. It’s not that people should not emulate Marilyn Monroe its that you shouldn’t emulate any celebrity you should find your own sense of self instead trying to be somebody else. I feel like I should say I am more of a Old Hollywood nut than just a Marilyn Monroe nut.

  6. Miss Jupitero says:

    Great book, blatant oscar bait, but…. Oh please not another Marilyn movie. It’s been done to death.

    “Done to death” though will never stop Hollywood from doing anything…..

  7. allons-y alonso says:

    Please stop with all the Munroe films. I understand the intense interest in her legacy and her life – the good and the bad- but she needs to be left alone.

  8. betsy says:

    Boring. Where’s the audience for this. Vanity project looking for oscars.

  9. Sarah says:

    She will be far better than the charisma void that is Michelle Williams. She was dead behind the eyes and captured none of Marilyn’s shine and magnetic appeal. I always think Isla Fisher would do a good Marilyn actually!

  10. Sabrina says:

    I think Jessica is a great actress and would do well in the role. I don’t however see the need for this movie. There was already a miniseries done based on this book in 2001.

  11. Maria says:

    Meh.

    I’m not very impressed by her acting to be honest so I wouldn’t watch it, plus, I’m over Marilyn.

    Hollywood really loves beating a dead horse.

  12. Kiddo says:

    Marilyn’s features were soft, Chastain’s are angular and hard. Marilyn was curvy and Chastain is on the thinnish straight side. What drove Marilyn’s appeal was ‘her type’ and her looks. I don’t see how Chastain can pull that off, no matter how good of an actress, because she doesn’t have the same innocence in the face, coupled with the va-va-voom in her figure. I don’t think anyone in that role would have to look exactly like Marilyn, but they should at least be a similar ‘type’. Absolutely bad choice in casting. That said, who is the market for this film? Enough already. Why don’t they dig back to actresses in the 20′s and 30′s, with all of their racy roles, for something different?

  13. Lark says:

    I love Jessica and the novel, but I’m sick of Marilyn films. If people are so insistent on making films about old Hollywood figures, there are other interesting people too. What about Ava Gardner, Rock Hudson, Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth, Dorothy Danridge (the HBO film was good but a proper feature film), Bette Davis, etc.? A film about the relationship between Ava and Frank Sinatra would be fascinating or Hedy’s invention. There are a lot of fascinating old school Hollywood characters out there besides Marilyn.

    • Mia4S says:

      What about Carol Lombard? We’ve done Marilyn, we’ve done Taylor and Burton; Lombard and Clark Gable is such a tragic love story.

    • Artemis says:

      I’m for Bette Davis! She was one of the first actresses who uglified herself (Of Human Bondage) and she took huge risks since she did it early in her career. She wasn’t considered beautiful (I find her attractive,e.g. the eyes) and she was truly unique, versatile, talented and troubled of course. She was a boss when it came to her career and challenged the studio system. She became a caricature of herself in the 50s but kept on acting to the bitter end.

      Why nobody wants to do a film about her astonishes me. I’m tired of Monroe, there are other interesting women from that time and before.

      • Etheldreda says:

        I think a lot of the reason is because Hollywood is fascinated with ‘tragic’ women who can be portrayed as ‘victims’. Why do you think they made a film about Tina Turner, but not about so many other fascinating female performers?

      • Artemis says:

        Rita Hayworth though, one of the most tragic and nobody cares. Linda Darnell ( Original Jolie face-wise), Frances Farmer, Judy Garland (Hathaway is going to portray her), Lupe Velez, Veronica Lake…There are lists and lists of the most tragic ones (take your pick, Hollywood ruins almost everybody) and MM is hardly that tragic compared to them. She had the ‘luck’ to die young (like River Phoenix for instance). She never grew old, public didn’t grew tired of her, we didn’t know her limits and failures when it came to acting because her life was unfulfilled (and people can fantasize because ‘what if…’).

        In stark contrast, Bette Davis was unwanted in film and forced herself on screen. They basically let her play ‘Bette Davis’ over and over again. She was broke, unattractive, her daughter used her etc. She died pretty much alone because she grew bitter. That’s more tragic because you literally see them grow old on screen and there is no mystery.

        Maybe Hollywood doesn’t want to employ more black actresses. They already have Berry, Saldana etc as their token black actresses. I think racism is definitely the issue when it comes to black female performers.

      • morgane says:

        i would love to see kristin scott thomas (gosford park style) as marlene dietrich but i really doubt they would cast her

    • Lucy2 says:

      I agree- Jessica is a talented actress, but no more Marilyn stuff. And you make a good point about all the other classic stars as possible subjects- I ‘m actually surprised there weren ‘t more after the success of the Aviator.

  14. ldub says:

    i think poppy montgomery did a great job in the tv-mini-series version of oates novel.
    very touching and real.

  15. mia girl says:

    Another role Lohan will claim she was up for.

  16. Tig says:

    If we can have a non-stop barrage of comic book hero movies, why not one more MM movie? I like Jessica Chastain, and think her interpretation would be interesting. Given the tepid/DOA treatments of Princess Grace and Dianna, we’ll prob be waiting quite some time for Ava Gardner. That’s too bad, bec her journey was amazing.

    • MonicaQ says:

      People may be grump over comic book movies but at least those have a different plot every time. This is the same story, told the practically the same way, with the same shots and same plot points every single solitary time. Even the Liz Taylor movies are becoming trite (Thanks Lohan).

      Edited to not seem dismissive of her death. Not enough coffee yet.

      • Tig says:

        Well agree to disagree with the different plot line argument- and don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good comic book caper, but do we need Antman?, for ex? (Ducking from legion of AM fans out there). Sure her story is well known, but she still intrigues after all these years. And I didn’t take your comments to be dismissive of her death.

    • T.C. says:

      Why not? Cause all you are doing is exploiting her sad life over and over again just for actresses to get an Oscar and for us peasants to go poor girl, Hollywood is a bad place. Comic book movies are pure fiction and entertainment. I don’t think MM should continue to be used as entertainment long after her death. Let the woman’s soul rest in peace.

    • Faith says:

      Omg I would love a Ava movie! I just don’t think I would ever like the choice to play her though in my eyes no one will be as sexy or charasmatic.

  17. Cupcake says:

    I think she’s an excellent choice! I think Jessica is so beautiful and she certainly projected Marilyn’s signature vulnerability in the Help. That being said, I agree with most of the commenters that we could do without another Marilyn movie.

  18. Mitch Buchanan Rocks! says:

    Because she looks more like MM, Amber Heard would have been a better choice.

  19. michoko says:

    This book really is worth reading, a amazingly well written piece, never melodramatic nor condescending.Jessica Chastain has a body type far too different from Marylins’s to pull it off in my opinion.And agreed, stop making Marylin movies or let Scorsese do the filming. Which won’t work since he’s only interested in male ordeals.And De Palma will fuck it up. Jane Campion?

  20. Ginger says:

    Yes, Marilyn has been done to death so to speak…but I’m still fascinated irregardless. That being said, I don’t watch every single Marilyn film or read every book about her. Kaiser, I think Blonde would be a great choice for the book club even if it’s depressing. If the writing is that good (and I’m positive it is) that would be worth the time.

  21. CynicalCeleste says:

    A skinny anemic vegan cast as Marilyn Monroe? Don’t be daft.
    Also, I must be the only one but I find chastain’s performances to be quite wooden.
    Agree with all others above who advise scrapping the whole idea of another MM movie.

  22. JJ says:

    She got some big shoes to fill, Michelle Williams was amazing in My Week with Marilyn.
    Don’t know about Brad as a producer either.

  23. Alyce says:

    Blonde is my literary nemesis. It is the only book I’ve ever stopped reading before I finished it. I’ll go back to it one day, just so I finish the damn thing, but I hate it. HATE IT.

  24. melain says:

    it’s not entertaining to watch today’s thin, frigid actresses trying to imitate the inimitable Marilyn Monroe. I’d rather watch a documentary about her with photos, videos and film footage of the real thing.

  25. Saddie says:

    I think Jessica can do anything sexy. She will be great playing any sex pot star.

  26. Lili says:

    I’d like to see Lindsay Lohan in this role. She might not be a great actress, but I think she could really get into this part considering that in her life, tere are a few similarities with the life of Marilyn Monroe. She’d also be perfect for that crack lady look.

    Amanda Seyfried would also have been a good choice: she’s beautiful and a great actress. Or why not Christina Hendricks? I guess after acting in Mad Men, a film about Marilyn Monroe would come natural. She’s kinda busty, too.

    I feel as if Jessica Chastain doesn’t have that many similarities with Marilyn Monroe, nor do I think of her as a particularly awesome actress. But you should never count anyone out. Maybe she’ll do a great job. :)