Thursday, December 8

Ana de Armas stars in ‘Blonde’: «Before studies controlled your life and now social networks do»

The actress Ana de Armas at the San Sebastian Festival. / Eph

The Spanish-Cuban actress transforms into Marilyn Monroe in a film by Andrew Dominik that Netflix will premiere on September 28

Oskar Belategui

Ana de Armas (Havana, 1988) was called Ana Celia de Armas when, in 2006, she came to Bilbao to promote ‘Una rosa de Francia’, a retro melodrama by Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón set in Cuba in the 1950s. The camera loves her fascinating face”, wrote this journalist praising the work of that 16-year-old girl who was working for the first time as an actress. The following year came her series that made her popular, but at the same time became a small slab, ‘El internado’. Later, Ana de Armas made the Americas and linked hits like ‘Blade Runner 2049’, ‘Daggers in the back’ and ‘007. No time to die’.

‘Blonde’ is something else. The film that could lead the Hispanic-Cuban actress to an Oscar transforms her into Marilyn Monroe and into the person who embodied the myth, Norma Jeane Mortenson. Director Andrew Dominik takes inspiration from Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, moving away from the traditional biopic, and vindicates the tortured and subjugated woman behind the star. Ana de Armas’ delivery in a three-hour film is total, both when she recreates iconic scenes from Monroe’s films, and when she suffers from a disturbed mother, a father she never knew and an industry that led her to suicide. ‘Blonde’, the Zinemaldia surprise film, will premiere on Netflix on September 28.

-Have you identified Marilyn’s life with what you have lived as an actress?

-Some have asked Andrew how he had abused me like that. We have had colloquia in the United States and people have referred to me as Norma Jean. The pattern is repeated, the feeling of protection and of wanting to get myself out of the clutches of the monster that made this film. It is contradictory to say that the character who is in all the scenes is fine and the movie. If he had made a film where that idea of ​​romanticism continued to be perpetuated in his relationships, it would mean that we continue to exploit the image of the icon. I have not lived such intense and traumatic experiences in the industry as her. ‘Blonde’ has given me the opportunity to use all those things that I have inside of me and that I hadn’t been able to express in other works. Marilyn wanted to be valued as an actress and as an intellectual, she wanted to have better opportunities. She was given all of these characters and she was pigeonholed into sexualized infantilism. She really could have done incredible dramatic characters, she was so talented. I understand that desire to build your career, I have been in that situation in one way or another. When I started to build the character I saw the parallels.

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Trailer for ‘Blonde’.

-In the film appears nude on many occasions. Did they have an intimacy coordinator for those scenes?

-We had a coordinator who was there at all times. She is a very important figure on the set, not only for the actress, but for the rest of the cast and crew. But the work started with Andrew so much earlier, I knew what he was doing at all times.

-Hollywood is how you expected it?

-The truth is that I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t have any image of what Hollywood is. It didn’t take me long to realize that it’s harder to navigate than it looks. The good side is the opportunities, the amount of talent there is, directors and stories. You are there and you have direct access to it without intermediaries. Everything else… As in the movie, we all have the private persona and the public persona. When you’re in this position everything gets bigger. Attributions are taken that should not be, unfortunately it is out of your control. As difficult is the struggle to get good characters as maintaining your private life. Or your integrity. Correcting the narrative is a losing battle. At that time, you were under contract to the studios, they controlled your life and you were at their mercy. Now it’s the social networks and the media that put you through the roof and destroy you in two minutes.

Ana de Armas in ‘Blonde’.

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-You, unlike Marilyn, are not an actress of the Method. Were you tempted to change your way of interpreting?

-No, for me the interpretation is something that is spontaneous, I don’t have to make an extra effort. The work is in the preparation of the character, so I enjoy when I have time to do it. Once you’re already on the set, that for me is not work, but doing. I’m not one of those who asks to be left alone to enter a bubble. This is teamwork, you can’t isolate yourself, it doesn’t work like that. What happens on camera is not what is happening on set, and I want to enjoy it. With so much immersion, sometimes you are missing the experience, you are not understanding. It is like the actors who say the text but do not listen. You’re on your own, but you don’t understand what’s going on around you. And you miss a lot of things. Marilyn is too intense and complicated a character to continue with him off set. Sometimes they ask me to speak like Marilyn. It doesn’t work like that, you can’t separate her voice from her physicality, her emotions… Either you do it all or you don’t. The other is just a cliché, an imitation. And the film talks about Norma Jeane.

-There has been some controversy on account of his accent.

-That controversy reflects many things. It was disappointing that the reviews were coming from people who hadn’t seen ‘Blonde’. Not even the Marilyn movies. They criticized not only me, but my accent coach and Andrew. Marilyn’s voice is familiar to us on screen, but in real life it was not like that. I studied a lot out of respect for the work we are doing. Her voice changed a lot from movie to movie, and in real life. She had a coach to get the stutter out of her. Whoever wanted to hear the accent heard it and whoever didn’t wanted to, didn’t. I can not do anything. They have also told me how I can be an icon of America as a Latina. These things of inclusion and opportunities are important, I consider myself an example of the fight for Latinos to play characters of all kinds. But the personal challenges and dreams of the actor who plays that character are left aside. Representing a community is important, but so is individuality, the value that each project has for you as an artist.

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– Do you feel that until now you had not been taken seriously?

-Sometimes you feel that you don’t like it, that it’s personal, but I think you have to work. It takes time to gain trust and respect, there are no shortcuts. Although sometimes it’s frustrating and you feel like you’re pigeonholed, that you’re not moving forward, when you get over it you’re left with a better taste and you feel more proud. Your work is indisputable, it validates what you have done. It’s not that I haven’t been taken seriously, it’s that I haven’t had the opportunity to play a character like that.

Ana de Armas in ‘Blonde’.

And what are your challenges now as an actress?

-What is expected of me? You can’t compete with yourself because opportunities come when they come. I shot this movie three years ago and then James Bond came out. I’ve had a great time, I’m happy to make this type of film, but they are roles along the same lines. My hope is that ‘Blonde’ opens the door to other kinds of characters, that give me another kind of satisfaction as an actress. I give to everything.

-Have you had offers from Spanish cinema in recent years?

-None, but I would love to.

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