Ana de Armas Slams Blonde's NC-17 Rating

"I can tell you a number of shows or movies that are way more explicit with a lot more sexual content than Blonde," the actress said.

Shield your eyes, Mr. President, things are about to get steamy. Netflix's upcoming Marilyn Monroe film, Blonde, has received an official rating of NC-17. (The rarely given out rating is indicative of content that is not approved for anyone under the age of 18.) Directed by Andrew Dominik and based on Joyce Carol Oates's legendary novel of the same name, the film reportedly—and with this rating, conclusively—does not shy away from the most controversial pieces of Monroe's life and her status as the sex symbol of the 20th century.

Now, after many months of waiting, a first trailer for Blonde has landed. While it doesn't get into the sort of material that the rating promises, it does introduce Ana de Armas as Hollywood's most legendary leading lady. Ping-ponging between glamorous moments on the red carpet and scenes from a private dinner with Joe DiMaggio, with Monroe looking fragile, the actress says of her fame, "I know you're supposed to get used to it, but I just can't. I play Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Monroe. I can't face doing another scene with Marilyn Monroe." Then, the trailer takes a tone shift—no longer at home in the spotlight, Monroe looks uncomfortable on stage, and we catch glimpses of her happy in her private life with her husbands. "Marilyn doesn't exist," she says in voice-over. "When I come out of my dressing room, I'm Norma Jean. I'm still her when the camera is rolling. Marilyn Monroe only exists on the screen." With the tagline "watched by all, seen by none," the film promises to unpack the tension between the actress' public and private personas.

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But not everyone was happy with the early footage. Although de Armas underwent nine months of intensive dialect training to step into Monroe's shoes, some Twitter users criticized her speech patterns, claiming that they could still hear traces of her native Cuban accent. Now, the Marilyn Monroe Estate is standing up to defend Blonde's leading lady. “Marilyn Monroe is a singular Hollywood and pop culture icon that transcends generations and history,” president Mark Rosen told Variety. “Any actor that steps into that role knows they have big shoes to fill. Based on the trailer alone, it looks like Ana was a great casting choice as she captures Marilyn’s glamour, humanity, and vulnerability. We can’t wait to see the film in its entirety!”

As for the controversial rating, the film's cast and creatives are clapping back."It’s a demanding movie. If the audience doesn’t like it, that’s the fucking audience’s problem," Dominik told Screen Daily back in February. "It’s not running for public office. It’s an NC-17 movie about Marilyn Monroe—it’s kind of what you want, right? I want to go and see the NC-17 version of the Marilyn Monroe story."

Meanwhile, de Armas, isn't thrilled either. When asked about it by French fashion magazine L'Officiel, the actress spoke out about her displeasure. "I didn’t understand why that happened," she replied. "I can tell you a number of shows or movies that are way more explicit with a lot more sexual content than Blonde. But to tell this story, it is important to show all these moments in Marilyn’s life that made her end up the way that she did. It needed to be explained. Everyone [in the cast] knew we had to go to uncomfortable places. I wasn’t the only one."

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Blonde may, at first glance, appear to be a biopic, but Oates's 700 page tome is its source material, and the author has always been steadfast in her classification that the work is one of fiction. (Controversially, the novel gets into the idea that Monroe may have been assassinated, as well.) Speaking with Vanity Fair, Oates explained the allure of Monroe, describing her as Emma Bovary dropped in Hollywood. “Both are young women who have a very romantic and probably unrealistic vision of love," the author said. "Marilyn was so insecure, so demanding, that it was hard for anyone to love her or even help her. Many men, including her second husband, baseball player Joe DiMaggio, tried, though, before backing away, afraid.”

Speaking to Netflix Queue about how the film was developed, de Armas said, “We worked on this film for hours, every single day for almost a year. I read Joyce’s novel, studied hundreds of photographs, videos, audio recordings, films—anything I could get my hands on. Every scene is inspired by an existing photograph. We’d pore over every detail in the photo and debate what was happening in it. The first question was always, ‘What was Norma Jeane feeling here?’ We wanted to tell the human side of her story. Fame is what made Marilyn the most visible person in the world, but it also made Norma the most invisible.”

As Dominik describes it, "The idea behind Blonde is basically it details a childhood drama, and mistaken ideas that she carries into her adult life, and she sees the world through the lens of those ideas. And they necessitate a split into a public self which can be loved, and a private self which has no hope of achieving intimacy. She’s not seeing the world, really; she’s seeing herself... on a simplest level, it’s about an unwanted child who becomes the most wanted person in the world and can’t deal with all of that desire coming at them."

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Joining de Armas as Monroe in the Netflix film is Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, and Julianne Nicholson. This is de Armas's second film of 2022 to wade into the mature content waters. Earlier in the year, Hulu released Deep Water—an erotic thriller starring her and ex, Ben Affleck. The film was largely panned, trading off plot for an extra dose of sauce. (Though we are not afraid to admit we liked it!) This one, according to Oates, seems to lean in the opposite direction.

After seeing an early version of the film, the prolific author wrote on Twitter, "I have seen the rough cut of Andrew Dominick’s [sic] adaptation and it is startling, brilliant, very disturbing, and perhaps most surprisingly an utterly ‘feminist’ interpretation." Similarly, early feedback from Vanity Fair writer Sylvie Bommel seems promising; Bommel wrote, "I swear on the heads of all the blondes in my family, including myself, that Blonde is a film that 'got me on board,' to use the words of the critics of the show Le Masque et la Plume. Another way to say it: I was not bored for a minute of the 166-minute film." Dominik, for his part, teases an adaptation that promises to upend everything we know about Monroe. "The idea was to take stuff that we’re familiar with, imagery that we’re familiar with, and change the meaning of it in accordance with her drama," he said. "So it’s like this uncomfortable déja vù thing where you’re seeing stuff you’ve already seen before, but the meaning of it is wrong."

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Best of luck to this bombshell. Blonde hits Netflix on September 28; watch this space for updates as we continue to learn more.

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Justin Kirkland
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he focuses on entertainment, television, and pop culture. Prior to Esquire, his work appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Hollywood Reporter, and USA Today. He is from East Tennessee and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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Adrienne Westenfeld is a writer and editor at Esquire, where she covers books and culture.
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