“I spent a lot of time in the director’s prison, and then my friend Brad Pitt went down and talked to the parole board and convinced them to release me. Then I go out and stumble again, I’m not good,” said director Andrew Dominik when he spoke to an audience at the Red Sea Film Festival about why he doesn’t get the chance to direct as often as he’d like.
The hour-long interview held in Jeddah focused on the making and reception of Dominik’s latest, “Blonde,” based on Joyce Carol Oates’ fictional book about the life of Marilyn Monroe, and Ana de Armas. “I was expecting a huge success and no one will see the film. That’s what I usually do, films that have an obvious answer and people don’t see it. ‘Blonde’ was the opposite, at least in America. They hated the movie, they were angry about it. But a lot of people saw the film, I was surprised by it.”
Despite the setback, Dominik is not bothered. “Criticism only hurts if you agree with it, and I didn’t agree with anything,” he said, describing the critical response in the US to Americans who want “celebration of that person according to the behavior of the time. .”
“We live in a time where it’s important to show women as empowered and they want to reinvent Marilyn Monroe as an empowered woman. That’s what they want to see, and if you don’t show them that, it pisses them off. Americans don’t like it when you are honest with their myths, they always jump to the solution without looking at any situation.
On the claims that “Blonde” used the presence and legacy of Monroe, Dominik said that “it’s kind of strange”: “She’s dead, the movie doesn’t make a difference to her one way or another. What they’re saying is that the movie used their memory of her, her image, which is fair enough – it happens. That’s the whole idea of the film. That’s the whole problem with Marilyn Monroe, if she inspires a desire for redemption. Everyone feels that she knows what’s good for her.”
The film, which famously took the director over a decade to make, only happened when Netflix jumped on board, something Dominik attributes to his friendship with Pitt. Dominik’s 2007’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” was one of Pitt’s first production efforts and their first collaboration. They went on to work together again in 2012’s neo-noir “Killing Them Softly” and “Blonde.”
“[Netflix] I agreed to do ‘Blonde’ because I got into Brad Pitt, too. Then we found Ana and she saw that it was a good idea.” The director went on to say that only the Cuban actress “believed” Monroe’s version. “There are a lot of movies about Marilyn Monroe and the problem is that I don’t believe it’s Marilyn. I’m looking at Michelle Williams, Mira Sorvino, she’s not,” he said, referring to 2011’s “My Weekend with Marilyn” and the 1996 made-for-TV movie “Norma Jean & Marilyn.”
Dominik has spoken at length about how what he sees as society’s shift to conservatism has affected the reception of his film. “I think that society, in general, is going to hold back a lot, on both sides. People have armed their values against each other. There used to be more talks, people were ready to talk and now they don’t.” He went on to conclude, “Cinema is getting worse, he makes up bedtime stories.” Do you know when you read a child a bedtime story and they know everything about the story? It’s the kind of thing that American movies have turned into, where they know every word of the story and it brings comfort. I don’t want to make up bedtime stories.”