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Casting Marilyn Monroe

Having sat through My Week With Marilyn earlier today, a few things occurred to me – that may or may not have before. For a start, how accomplished Kenneth Branagh is, becoming Laurence Olivier with that grouchy expression and flat bottom lip. Another great resemblance was Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller – sure, he did not have a lot to do, but they got his look down. And that Eddie Redmayne – he is going to be a star. Okay, I am cheating there. But is this creative casting? That is what I have always wondered whenever I have asked myself who would or could play Marilyn Monroe. Michelle Williams is nothing short of brilliant in My Week With Marilyn – but is she capable or suitable of playing this iconic woman?

Marilyn Monroe had bold and beautiful features. That is a fact. Though we tended to see her with the light shining on her face (did you really think that was her complexion?), we have seen her off camera. And before she was blonde. Before that light came on. For me, and I am not shallowly dismissing anything else about her, she has everything in the right place,  conventionally speaking. Is she the most perfect looking woman ever? So casting a movie about Monroe is not simple at all. How many actresses have you seen over the decades and thought – she could / should play Marilyn? Her hairstyles are so famous, that should not be a problem. And her mannerisms, and voice, practiced enough, can be pulled off by any decent actress. Who are the biggest young actresses right now that can “look” like her? Jennifer Lawrence? Natalie Portman? Emma Stone? Kristen Stewart? None of them are ever playing Monroe. Sorry.

If I was casting a movie about Marilyn Monroe 20 or 30 years ago I would have put Madonna as a serious consideration. That is a choice far from impulsive too, amidst all the ooh’s and aah’s at such a suggestion. There was always the Marilyn Monroe comparison when Madonna hit the big time running in the 1980s. She very often modelled herself, her pop videos, her style, on the iconic starlet. That was not a secret. But she does have a similar look.

I still think now, and back then before the internet and all it’s negativity, it was clear that Madonna wore her love for Monroe on her sleeve like you would wear your heart. That she unashamedly wanted to look like her, be like her. And why not? You could Google the comparison now, but don’t expect a zillion articles about how Madonna paid homage to the movie legend, or how she styled herself to look like someone she truly admired and respected. No, it might be rather that she copied her, ripped her off, is not original as an artist, and blah blah blah. I read Madonna being called a thief somewhere – that she stole Monroe’s look. I think if you asked Madonna, or figured it out for yourself, you may find she also mimicked / idolised the look of Greta Garbo or Jean Harlow. And Marlene Dietrich too. Even Brigitte Bardot and Gina Lollobrigida. And?

When I first saw Michelle Williams would be playing Marilyn Monroe, my first instinct was to unfaithfully think that does not quite work for me. Not that working for me matters to whether or not Hollywood succeeds. Maybe I was being naive. A little bit. Somehow forgetting how talented Williams is (she was rightly Oscar nominated for Brokeback Mountain and Blue Valentine). I guess the consensus too is that she has taken giant steps since Dawson’s Creek – though she was pretty competent in that. It is fair to say her roles tend to be downbeat too, so she can’t play the vibrant Marilyn Monroe surely.

Except what we are talking about is not Some Like It Hot with Michelle Williams, Michael Fassbender and Joaquin Phoenix, for example. My Week With Marilyn is a movie about a woman who wished she could be just loved for who she is, and not because she is Marilyn Monroe. A woman, not a movie star. Not the most famous woman in the world. The woman, with self-esteem and abandonment issues. It was no secret she had her personal problems, and I have to say Williams nails this throughout. What she also nails is Marilyn Monroe’s eccentric body language we all know so well, and switches between the icon and the woman with (sometimes painful) ease. My doubts that Michelle Williams does not even look like Marilyn Monroe were diminished not long into the movie – it is an immeasurable and convincing portrayal.
A post about Miss Monroe is never complete without a photo gallery. But first, have a look at the gallery of 6 Other well-known Marilyn Monroe copycats (Mira Sorvina; Ashley Judd; Scarlett Johansson; Charlize Theron; Gwen Stefani; Christina Aguilera). What I am not going to do though is post any images of Anna Nicole Smith, Jenna Jameson, Paris Hilton – I feel guilty enough just mentioning their names. Neither will you see James Franco here either in that pink dress from the Oscars. Who needs me to now I have just planted that image in your head.




And 10 of my favourite photos of Marilyn Monroe should soothe that head (again, should open in a gallery).







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