VENICE — There was much talk of Queen Elizabeth II during the premiere of “Blonde” at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday evening as news of her worsening health conditions and then her death hovered throughout the event.
The notion of a spiritual presence was addressed earlier by Ana de Armas, who plays Marilyn Monroe in the film, based on the bestselling novel by Joyce Carol Oates.
“It was like a séance, the first day of shooting was the anniversary of her death, we were filming in her actual house, and I felt she was with us,” said de Armas, who perfectly captured the legendary actress.
“It was a a very strong sensation. I know it sounds mystical, but I think she was approving what we were doing,” continued de Armas, who wore a Louis Vuitton look for the movie’s press conference and then on the red carpet, in a custom hand-pleated pink satin mousseline gown with a plunging neckline, reminiscent of Monroe’s iconic white dress in the 1955 film “The Seven Year Itch,” directed by Billy Wilder.
As for the reaction viewers could have to her portrayal of such a globally famous and beloved actress, de Armas waved those concerns away, treasuring the experience no matter what. “It will be what it will be. This was a gift for me, it changed my life.”
She needn’t have worried as her moving rendition of Monroe drove the audience at the premiere to a standing ovation, which brought her to tears amid the several minutes of clapping and cheers. Cheering was also aimed at Brad Pitt, a coproducer of “Blonde,” and hailed on the red carpet by throngs of fans. Obligingly, Pitt posed for selfies and signed autographs, wearing a black protective mask when approaching the crowds.
Adrien Brody, on the screen in “Blonde” as writer Arthur Miller, said he “could not think of anyone else” than de Armas in the leading role, feeling “privileged,” as if he had actually been working with Monroe. “From the first day, I had a sense of awe. It’s very rare to feel transported to another time and place,” said Brody, accompanied in Venice by Georgina Chapman.
“Anyone with eyes could see how good she is for the role,” enthused director Andrew Dominik. When asked what the biggest challenge was in tackling this project, he said it was “raising the money,” and noted it took him 11 years to finally deliver the film.
Julianne Nicholson, who plays the troubled mother of Norma Jeane Mortenson, Monroe’s real name, said her role allows to “broaden the conversation about mental health, which back then was not even diagnosed.”
Brody also highlighted the “struggles women have faced” over the years, as well as “the great divide between public adulation” and the life of actors, pointing to the “disconnect” that many thespians feel.
Thélios, which has signed a three-year agreement with La Biennale di Venezia to be the official eyewear sponsor of the international Venice Film Festival, organized an event to support the premiere, followed by a dinner at the Belmond Hotel Cipriani.
Alessandro Zanardo, chief executive officer of the eyewear company based in Longarone, a one-hour drive from Venice, said he “loved ‘Blonde.'” It’s a brave movie in how it approaches the less glamorous and difficult side of Monroe’s life with a clear focus.” He was also very pleased with the experience in Venice, as, personally, he is a movie buff — time permitting — with a bucket list of film he’s hoping to see in the near future.