Fox Searchlight Pictures
Filmmaker Andrew Dominik’s long-in-the-making attempt to turn Joyce Carol Oates’ Pulitzer Prize finalist “Blonde,” a loose (and beloved) 700-page take on the life of Marilyn Monroe, into a feature film has steadily become a prime candidate for inclusion on listicles that chart great-sounding films that never happened. It’s like Dune! Or The Man Who Killed Don Quixote! But it could still totally happen!
But the news that Dominik’s feature has snagged a new leading lady to play the Monroe part, despite the long-time attachment of another famous blonde and little public indication that he needed a fresh face, seems to indicate that this thing might actually happen after all. The Wrap shares that Dominik’s film has now cast Jessica Chastain as Monroe, with an eye to start filming in August. As much as we really want to see this film – a true passion project for Dominik, as cliche as that may sound – we’re still skeptical. After all, we’ve learned from the past.
Back in 2010, Dominik and his then-leading lady, Naomi Watts, hit the Cannes marketplace with limited materials – like, a single still of Watts in costume as Monroe – but she sure looked the part, and the marrying of their talents seemed like something that cinephiles could get really excited to see. At the time, the real “story” of the production centered on how Dominik and Watts would be facing off with another film about Monroe, the Michelle Williams-starring My Week With Marilyn.
A year later, My Week With Marilyn had been filmed, hit theaters, and earned Williams her third Oscar nomination. Blonde had not shot even a minute of film, as the feature was delayed so that Dominik could film what would become Killing Them Softly. The “story” had changed – now it was about if the film would ever acutally get made.
By the end of 2012, Dominik was still banging the drum on the feature, promising that it would be his next film and that Watts was indeed still set to star. By the end of 2013, he was doing the same thing at the New York City revival screening of The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (via The Playlist).
That story has changed again.
The Wrap reports that Chastain is “nearing a deal” to star in Dominik’s Blonde, a sprawling story that “reimagines the inner, poetic and spiritual life of Norma Jeane Baker – the child, the woman and the fated-celebrity better known by her studio name of Marilyn Monroe.” Oates’ book may not be a traditional biography, but the author drew on a number of biographical bits and historical sources to craft her novel, and the book has been lauded for its richness, imagination, and compelling take on Monroe’s life.
Despite the unexpected nature of this news, the outlet reports that Watts “hasn’t been involved with Blonde for some time” and that even Dominik indicated that he wanted Chastain for the gig back in February, at a different revival screening of Jesse James.
The potential attachment of Chastain appears to be a natural one, especially considering her ties to Brad Pitt, who will produce the film through his Plan B shingle. Pitt and Dominik are, of course, old pals, as the star appeared in both Dominik’s Jesse James (in what may be the best role of his career) and Killing Them Softly. Chastain and Pitt starred alongside each other in The Tree of Life, and Pitt was reportedly “instrumental in convincing her to tackle the challenging role of Marilyn Monroe, which comes loaded with expectations.”
As of now, it appears that only scheduling could get in the way of Chastain taking on the gig, as The Wrap shares that things need to be worked out with The Zookeeper’s Wife, which will also be filming this summer.
Blonde is not the only long-in-the-making and much-anticipated feature Chastain is attached to – she’s been set to star in Denis Villeneuve’s American Darling since 2011. Wait, is that film going to happen?