NC-17 Movie About Marilyn Monroe Will "Offend Everyone," Director Says
Ana de Armas plays the star in a highly anticipated Netflix biopic.
While it definitely happens, it's pretty unusual to hear about a major star appearing in a movie with a rating above an R. But Knives Out actor Ana de Armas' turn as Marilyn Monroe in the upcoming Netflix film Blonde will be a strictly adults-only affair. The Motion Picture Association (MPA) slapped Blonde with an NC-17 rating, making it the first Netflix original film to have that distinction. Fans won't find out exactly why the Monroe biopic earned the rating until Blonde is released later this year. (Netflix hasn't announced an exact premiere date just yet.) But in a new interview, the film's director Andrew Dominik hinted at what he thinks the reason might be—and promised that his movie will "offend everyone." Read on to find out what else he said.
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Blonde has been in the works for years.
Ana de Armas wasn't the first star to be considered for the lead role in Blonde. It was first announced in 2010 that Naomi Watts would play Monroe; later, it was reported that the part belonged to Jessica Chastain. De Armas was cast in 2019.
"It was the most intense work I've ever done as an actress," de Armas told Entertainment Weekly. "It took me a year to prepare for that—research and accent and everything you can imagine." She added, however, that the work was worth it. "It was the most beautiful thing I've ever done," she said. "Can't wait for it to come out. It's a very special film, and Andrew's a genius. He's one of the best filmmakers I've ever worked with."
Blonde is an adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel of the same name and is a fictionalized retelling of Monroe's life.
It earned an NC-17 rating from the MPA.
Per The Hollywood Reporter, Blonde was hit with an NC-17 rating in late March. The MPA decision didn't go into detail, only noting that the rating was necessary due to "some sexual content."
In a Feb. 2022 interview with Screen Daily, director Dominik was anticipating the adults-only rating. He called the decision "a bunch of [expletive]" and said it was the result of "the ratings board being political" over Monroe as the subject. "If I look at an episode of [HBO drama] Euphoria, it's far more graphic than anything going on in Blonde," he added.
Dominik addressed some rumors about the content of Blonde.
In the same Screen Daily interview, the director laughed off rumors that Netflix objected to one graphic and unprecedented sex scene, calling the claim "hilarious." He did confirm, however, that Blonde does include a sexual assault scene that's also in the novel—and that he had to negotiate with Netflix about how far it could go.
"It's controversial, there's a bit for them to swallow," Dominik said. "It's a demanding movie—it is what it is, it says what it says. And if the audience doesn't like it, that's the [expletive] audience's problem. It's not running for public office."
He later said that the NC-17 rating "surprised" him.
Speaking to Vulture this month, Dominik said he hadn't set out to make an NC-17 movie. "I thought we'd colored inside the lines," he said of the rating. "But I think if you've got a bunch of men and women in a boardroom talking about sexual behavior, maybe the men are going to be worried about what the women think. It's just a weird time. It's not like depictions of happy sexuality. It's depictions of situations that are ambiguous. And Americans are really strange when it comes to sexual behavior, don't you think? I don't know why."
But he has no regrets about the way the film tells Monroe's story. "On the one hand, I think if I'm given the choice, I'd rather go and see the NC-17 version of the Marilyn Monroe story," he added. "Because we know that her life was on the edge, clearly, from the way it ended. Do you want to see the warts-and-all version or do you want to see that sanitized version?"
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He thinks Blonde will challenge viewers.
By all accounts so far, Blonde isn't a movie meant to make an audience feel comfortable. In an April interview with Collider, in fact, Dominik described it as "a tragedy" and "a nightmare."
"Blonde is a movie for all the unloved children of the world," the director said. "It's like Citizen Kane and Raging Bull had a baby daughter."
In his conversation with Vulture, Dominik noted that his movie might have been received differently if it had premiered around the rise of the #MeToo movement.
"We're in a time now, I think, where people are really uncertain about where any lines are," he said. "It's a film that definitely has a morality about it. But it swims in very ambiguous waters because I don't think it will be as cut-and-dried as people want to see it. There's something in it to offend everyone."
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