Getty ImagesMake the scene: From left

Getty ImagesMake the scene: From left

Simon Curtis ponders the mystery of Marilyn Monroe

After working some 20 years in British film and television, Simon Curtis this week makes his big-screen directing debut with “My Week with Marilyn,” a movie about making a movie.

In the film, which opens Wednesday, Michelle Williams stars as Marilyn Monroe in 1956, at a crucial turning point in the actress’ life, when she is tired of being a giggly sex symbol and wants to be taken seriously.

Having recently married playwright Arthur Miller and taken a part in Laurence Olivier’s new movie, “The Prince and the Showgirl,” her insecurity comes out on the set; she finds solace in a flirty relationship with a young third assistant director.

“It’s a moment in time, it’s not a biopic,” says Curtis, who produced 1996’s “Twelfth Night” with Helena Bonham Carter, and 1997’s “Mrs. Dalloway” with Vanessa Redgrave. “Apart from all the emotional ramifications, this is the story of all those things collapsing before her.”

Williams is magnificent in a daunting part, as a great 20th-century icon. She finds a subtle connection between her own experience and Monroe’s mysteries.

“I think all actors identify with their characters at some point,” says Curtis. “All performances are a collision between an actor and a character. Michelle is very different from Monroe, but I think that all actresses can understand some of those dilemmas in Marilyn’s life.”

Likewise, Kenneth Branagh perfectly embodies the great Olivier in a fascinating hybrid, remarkable given that the two have been linked since the early days of Branagh’s career.

“Ken is the same age now that Olivier was in 1956,” says Curtis of the serendipitous casting. “It’s been a quarter of a century in the making.”

Curtis’ production was filled with happy accidents; it also used many of the same sets and locations as “The Prince and the Showgirl.”  He says, “It just got richer and richer, because there’s so much material.”

Sadly, the behind-the-scenes story in “My Week with Marilyn” is more interesting than Monroe’s film.

“I like bits of it,” says Curtis. “It’s not a great film, of a not-great play. But it has some wonderful things in it. Marilyn is breathtaking in moments, such as the little dance that Michelle does so well.”

Though she is still a mysterious icon, spending so much time on Monroe has given Curtis some ideas: “I think she was happiest when she was just doing reaction shots, like she was modeling. Like Olivier says, you don’t survive in Hollywood unless you’re super-tough and super-smart.”

IF YOU GO

My Week with Marilyn

Starring Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh

Written by Adrian Hodges

Directed by
Simon Curtis

Rated R

Running time 1 hour, 36 minutes

8 great Marilyn Monroe films on DVD

  1. Some Like It Hot (1959)
  2. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
  3. Monkey Business (1952)
  4. The Seven Year Itch (1955)
  5. Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)
  6. Niagara (1953)
  7. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
  8. Clash by Night (1952)

artsMarilyn MonroeMichelle WilliamsMoviesSimon Curtis

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs spoke to San Francisco’s new Guaranteed Income Advisory Group on April 16. (Courtesy SFGOV)
City launches task force to explore Universal Basic Income programs

San Francisco on Friday launched a guaranteed income task force that could… Continue reading

Muni’s K-Ingleside line will return six months earlier than previously announced. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
K-Ingleside train to return on May 15

Announcement comes on the heels of pressure from Supervisor Myrna Melgar

Demonstrators march from Mission High School towards the San Francisco Police station on Valencia Street. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Vigil, march honors those killed by police

Deaths of Daunte Wright, Roger Allen and others prompt renewed calls for defunding

A Recology employee stands at the comapany’s recycling facility on Pier 96 in 2016. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)
Nuru scandal: Feds charge second former Recology executive with bribery

A second former Recology executive is facing charges for allegedly bribing ex-Public… Continue reading

Skier Andy Padlo crosses a frozen Spicer Reservoir. (Courtesy photo)
Stormy weather tests skiers’ mettle on Dardanelle traverse

Overcoming challenges makes outings more rewarding

Most Read