'Blonde' Director Says His Movie Didn't Exploit Marilyn Monroe: 'She's Dead'

Filmmaker Andrew Dominik is proud to have "outraged so many people" in his refusal to portray Monroe as an "empowered woman."
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Andrew Dominik has no regrets about creating one of the year’s most polarizing films.

During an appearance at Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival over the weekend, the Australian filmmaker addressed the heated backlash that ensued following the fall release of “Blonde,” his Marilyn Monroe biopic.

Noting that American viewers had mostly “hated” the film, Dominik said he was “really pleased” that the film’s treatment of Monroe had “outraged so many people.”

“Now we’re living in a time where it’s important to present women as empowered, and they want to reinvent Marilyn Monroe as an empowered woman,” he said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s what they want to see, and if you’re not showing them that, it upsets them.”

Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 novel, “Blonde” has an NC-17 rating and is, by accounts, a graphic interpretation of Monroe’s life, including scenes of miscarriages, sexual assault and substance abuse.

Director Andrew Dominik (left) and actor Ana de Armas, who plays Marilyn Monroe in "Blonde."
Director Andrew Dominik (left) and actor Ana de Armas, who plays Marilyn Monroe in "Blonde."
Michael Buckner via Getty Images

Oates has described the book version of “Blonde” as a fictionalized retelling of Monroe’s life that should not be read as a biography. To viewers accustomed to more celebratory biopics like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” however, Dominik’s film adaptation felt gratuitous and woefully out-of-step. Though critics praised actor Ana de Armas’ portrayal of Monroe, the movie as a whole was widely panned.

“What’s missing is any sense of what made Monroe more than just another beautiful woman in Hollywood: her genius,” The New York Times wrote, while Entertainment Weekly deemed the film a “jumbled, misogynistic melodrama.”

Later in his Red Sea International Film Festival chat, however, Dominik noted that the general consensus among “conservative” U.S. audiences was that “Blonde” had “exploited” Monroe, who died in 1962.

“Which is kind of strange, because she’s dead. The movie doesn’t make any difference in one way or another,” he said. “What they really mean is that the film exploited their memory of her, their image of her, which is fair enough. But that’s the whole idea of the movie. It’s trying to take the iconography of her life and put it into service of something else, it’s trying to take things that you’re familiar with, and turning the meaning inside out.”

“But I don’t want to make bedtime stories,” he added.

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