Marilyn’s un­told story

It took a lit­tle time and a lot of ef­fort for the stars to align in My Week with Marilyn, write John Carucci and Steven Rea

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

DI­REC­TOR Si­mon Cur­tis says he spent the bet­ter part of a year – in­clud­ing count­less emails, phone calls and a cou­ple of trans- At­lantic meet­ings – to per­suade Michelle Wil­liams she was the right ac­tor to play Marilyn Mon­roe.

And it prob­a­bly took that long for Wil­liams to per­suade her­self.

‘‘ She was quite un­der­stand­ably and quite ap­pro­pri­ately ner­vous,’’ the Bri­tish film­maker said.

‘‘ She ob­vi­ously had a hunch about it, but she ob­vi­ously needed re­as­sur­ance that I wasn’t a com­plete buf­foon, and I hope I did re­as­sure her – but maybe I didn’t.’’

Although on- set flare- ups be­tween Mon­roe and Sir Lau­rence Olivier ( played by Ken­neth Branagh) are a big part of

My Week With Marilyn, the plot piv­ots around – and is based on the mem­oirs of – a young Bri­tish film as­sis­tant’s ‘‘ amour fou’’ with the plat­inum blonde.

Colin Clark, a gofer work­ing his first back- lot job, ap­par­ently spent seven days in the in­ti­mate com­pany of the ac­tress in 1957, when Mon­roe and Olivier had come to­gether to make the film The Prince and

the Show­girl, which Olivier also di­rected. Clark’s books The Prince, the Show­girl

and Me and My Week With Marilyn of­fer giddy ac­counts of a naive 23- year- old just out of univer­sity and his im­prob­a­ble re­la­tion­ship with a some­what less naive, but by no means self- as­sured, mega movie star.

‘‘ That’s how this project be­gan. It came from me fall­ing in love with the books, the Colin Clark diaries,’’ Cur­tis said.

‘‘ I didn’t come to it as a big Marilyn ob­ses­sive. I came to it as an older guy look­ing back to a young man’s first job, and this sort of golden ticket he got to be in­side the mak­ing of this amaz­ing, complicated film.

‘‘ And then the ex­tra- spe­cial golden ticket of gain­ing this unique in­sight into Marilyn at the height of her pow­ers.’’

In Cur­tis’s view, get­ting the right ac­tor to por­tray Olivier was nearly as key as get­ting the right Mon­roe.

‘‘ The truth is Ken­neth wasn’t avail­able be­cause he was do­ing Thor,’’ said the di­rec­tor, re­fer­ring to the Mar­vel Comics ad­ven­ture about Norse gods that Branagh di­rected.

‘‘ But then our dates shifted – I can’t ex­actly re­mem­ber how or why – and sud­denly it seemed that even though he was still do­ing Thor post- pro­duc­tion, he was avail­able for a limited time.

‘‘ And I was so pleased, be­cause he ob­vi­ously brings an aura with him, as an ac­tor and a di­rec­tor who has di­rected him­self, you know, it just res­onates so won­der­fully with Olivier’s ca­reer.’’

Long be­fore Branagh stepped into the role of Olivier, there al­ready were strong par­al­lels be­tween them.

Both are syn­ony­mous with film adap­ta­tions of Wil­liam Shake­speare, de­liv­er­ing lines with im­plau­si­ble re­al­ism and earn­ing ac­co­lades for their trou­bles.

Each starred in and di­rected their own suc­cess­ful adap­ta­tions of Ham­let, and

Henry V, that earned Os­car nods for their work on both sides of the cam­era. ( Olivier re­ceived an hon­orary award that in­cluded di­rect­ing the film).

With such sim­i­lar­i­ties, it seems fit­ting that Branagh earned Golden Globe, Screen Ac­tors Guild, Os­car, BAFTA, and Crit­ics Choice nom­i­na­tions for his per­for­mance as the leg­endary ac­tor.

‘‘ He was a mas­ter of his craft, and at the same time very vul­ner­a­ble,’’ Branagh said of Olivier.

‘‘ When they were mak­ing these films, Olivier saw it as a means to rein­vig­o­rate his ca­reer, es­pe­cially in the States.

‘‘ But he found it a chal­lenge to work with Marilyn [ Mon­roe], whom he con­sid­ered less than pro­fes­sional.’’

Olivier even­tu­ally light­ened up to Mon­roe, ad­mit­ting she was won­der­ful in the film.

But Branagh said Wil­liams was won­der­ful to work with from the start.

‘‘ Be­fore we ever started film­ing, she learned ev­ery­thing she could about Marilyn and played her flaw­lessly.

‘‘ Af­ter some time you live the char­ac­ter and stop play­ing it,’’ he said.

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