Interview with Julianne Nicholson: “Blonde has been adored and brutalized and I know both sides

AAs a teenager, Julianne Nicholson was a Marilyn Monroe “fan girl”. The Emmy-winning star of Mare by Easttown and the jungle thriller monos devoured every book she could find about herself. She watched her movies, listened to compilation albums of her songs, had photos of herself taped in her locker. “I was obsessed,” she recalls. “I found her so beautiful and tragic and kind of unrecognizable.” Now, a few decades later, she’s playing her mother in a film so inflammatory that everyone involved — including star Ana de Armas — was forced to come forward in her defense hurry Nicholson has to give her credit that it won’t be for everyone. Especially those who don’t want to see her as a child molester in the grip of schizophrenia.

if Blond is a Marilyn Monroe biopic that has been doused in gasoline and set alight, Nicholson playing the match that lights it. In just 15 minutes of filming as Marilyn’s mother, Gladys, Nicholson suffers a nervous breakdown, speeding through the streets of Hollywood as it bursts into flames and attempts to drown her daughter in the bathtub. “I feel like I have to prepare certain people in my family,” she says, making a face. “Or, dare I say, actually discourage them from looking at it. I get cast in darker dramas a lot, so now when they go through my work they’re like” – she sighs wearily – “’Here we go again!’ This time I’m just going to say, ‘Listen, you don’t have to watch it.'”

Nicholson, all ocean green eyes and freckles, is calling from her daughter’s bedroom in Hampshire, sunlight streaming through the window behind her. She has just relocated to the UK from New York with her actor husband Jonathan Cake – a native Brit – and their children after a pit stop at the Venice Film Festival to watch Blond for the first time. She was nervous — her youthful admiration for Marilyn made her feel protective of the star’s memory, right down to the women she’ll have to play on screen — “but Ana blew me away.”

Has this sense of protectiveness expanded from Marilyn’s memory? Blond even? “Yes,” Nicholson says quietly. She repeats it, more firmly this time. “I think the book was written with so much love, as was the screenplay. Meeting Andrew and talking to him about the process and the years he put into the project and the story he wanted to tell… it felt totally worthwhile and special.”

Blond distills Marilyn Monroe’s brief life into a parade of chilling encounters and existential soul-smashing. She has turned into a pound of flesh for America to feast on. That premise—from writer-director Andrew Dominik, who adapted Joyce Carol Oates’ doorstop from a bestseller—understandably resonated Blond already in trouble. An impressionistic art film punctuated by scenes of abuse, orgies and flashes of joy curdling into misery – plus a talking fetus! – was called from “ridiculously vulgar”. The New Yorker and “a slow motion death march” by NPR. The Independent‘s Amanda Whiting called it “a new low” in Hollywood’s treatment of the star. Others were friendlier, and Mark Kermode signed up The Observer that it is a “Gothic melodrama”. [and] Fever Dream”. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Blond is currently a delicious 52 percent “fresh” – so close to “rotten” that you can practically smell it when it turns over. “I think it’s a remarkable film,” says Nicholson. “But it’s already been worshiped and brutalized and I understand both sides. I imagine it will get more and more of that over time.”

There seems to be some discrepancy between some of the reactions to the film and the spirit in which it was made – both Dominik and De Armas, for example, have denounced the adult-only NC-17 certification he received in the US had received . It means Blond joins a somber line that includes show girls, Emmanuelle 2 and, uh, Flesh Gordon meets the cosmic cheerleaders. I admit I found Blond much less offensive than I expected. “I too thought it would be more explicit,” says Nicholson. “I feel like I’m regularly watching a lot more sexually explicit or violent movies that are aimed at kids as young as 7, 8 or 9, which is awful. So much of what we see [in Blonde] is artistic and beautiful, but I wonder if it’s because the sex and violence here evokes feelings in us that don’t typically arise when we’re watching a more straightforward R-rated film. I don’t know if people are uncomfortable with it.”

Nicholson as Marilyn Monroe’s mother Gladys in Blonde

(Matt Kennedy/Netflix)

One of her big hopes for the film is that it could introduce her to people. “It might make them want to dig a little deeper into my work, or maybe it will remind someone of me,” she says. “I expect a lot of the directors I admire will be curious about it.” But she’s also pragmatic about possible outcomes — Nicholson’s career has never been a straight line, always zigzags. Even the Emmy didn’t feel like a big change. “It’s that rare actor who gets the part that changes everything,” she says. “We think that all the time. That’s the perception. But it’s still fucking slog. Like, ‘Oh my god, am I still not getting this offer?’”

There were more than a few false starts. In 2000, she was a few years away from drama school when she was chosen by Steven Spielberg to direct a supernatural drama series he was producing entitled The others – Nicholson had worked with Spielberg’s wife, Kate Capshaw, on a rom-com called The love letter one year ago. The others was creepy and ambitious (and all on YouTube if you want to check) but was canceled after 12 episodes. She had a short run-up Ally McBeal Soon after, he starred in a few more short-lived television shows and played supporting roles in films such as Kinsey, Black mass and I Tonya. Watching her stealing scenes is almost like being invited to a secret club. Call it the cult of Julianne Nicholson.

Whenever she gets a rare showcase like the 2017 indie series that packs a punch who we are now — in which she plays a destructive, desperate mother fighting for custody of her young son — critics howl about the “amazing, unsung Julianne Nicholson” or that she would win an Oscar “if there was any in this sick, sad world.” justice gives”. . Does she ever notice the words popping up around her? “How underestimated?” She laughs. “That’s honestly been the story of the last 10 years or so. I feel like my name isn’t mentioned without “underrated” before it. And that’s okay! But it’s a weird feeling.”

Nicholson and Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown

(HBO/Sky)

She remembers how surreal it was to win the Emmy and go to awards shows mare of easttown, the HBO crime thriller starring Kate Winslet. People came up to her to tell her how much they loved her work. “When I’m not on set, I don’t really go out much,” she says. “I’m not very ambitious, so sometimes it feels like I’m just operating in a void. Like I do the work and then just go back to my life. So it’s really moving then to meet people in the industry and hear them say nice things or get a lot of kindness from them.”

Which is an awkward way of saying that she wants to be less surprised that people noticed her. What might help are larger parts. “It sounds weird,” she admits, “but I want my characters to be more of a focus as the story progresses. I love being part of ensembles, but I’m at a point now where I’d like to get more involved.” When she’s working on something, she finds that she always learns more about her characters as she makes them plays. “But if you only have four out of five scenes, that means the character is closed [early]. I want to go deeper.”

This is Nicholson’s dream. Plus, she adds, no more childhood trauma. If anything other than Nicholson links Blond, monos, Mare by Easttown and her 2020 HBO limited series The outsider, it is violence inflicted on children or by them. Hardly the nicest coincidences. She recalls something she told her agent earlier this year — halfway between a joke and an assignment.

“If you send me another dead child, I swear I’ll go.”

Blonde is now streaming on Netflix

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/julianne-nicholson-interview-blonde-ana-de-armas-b2175560.html Interview with Julianne Nicholson: “Blonde has been adored and brutalized and I know both sides

JOE HERNANDEZ

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