Just over an hour and a half into Blonde, audiences finally meet Adrien Brody’s playwright. After scenes and scenes of tragedy faced by Marilyn Monroe, Brody’s character—based on Monroe’s husband, Arthur Miller—comes along during yet another low point in the actress’ story. Andrew Dominik’s film—a fictionalized re-telling of Monroe’s life inspired by Joyce Carol Oates’s novel of the same name—drags the actress from one tormented male relationship to another. By the time we get to Miller, it’s clear everyone is in need of a win. Unfortunately, no one is a winner in Blonde, and a marriage that initially seems like a possible saving grace ends up being Monroe’s last lift before her final, crushing fall.
It’s a tragic story, but Brody says he was drawn to the role because of its rawness—and Dominik’s vision. Six decades after her death, Monroe is still making headlines. But Blonde makes it clear the actress was never fully understood in her life, nor is she today. “Her suffering and her mental difficulties and traumas are not what comes to the forefront of people’s minds,” Brody tells W. It’s Brody’s Miller who is a direct witness to this suffering, which is prevalent throughout the three-hour long film, but takes over Monroe just as her relationship with Miller begins to disintegrate. Brody describes the experience as a “painful” one, even in the manufactured environment of a movie set. Below, the actor opens up about watching Ana de Armas transform into Monroe, filming “heartbreaking” scenes with the actress, and whether or not we can expect to see his return as Josh Aaronson in Succession season three.
Andrew Dominik tried to launch this film for about a decade before it finally got made. When did you join the project?
I came along closer to this iteration, which was, I would say, close to four years ago. I don’t believe they had Ana yet, but Andrew may have had his sights on her already. He’s poured a lot of love into this film, even though it’s such a tormented story; he’s been deeply immersed in trying to honor this.
What drew you to the role?
First was working with Andrew—he’s a brilliant filmmaker. And I think it’s a fascinating story. Marilyn Monroe is so deeply a part of so many people’s lives in so many ways. I don’t think this perspective is as considered, even though there are many fictionalized elements within this aspect of her life.
I’ve always felt a degree of empathy for her and her struggle as an artist, as a woman. This story really immerses people into those aspects of her hardships and the universality of those hardships. In seeing someone who’s so widely celebrated live a reality that’s so far from that adulation speaks to me so much. The relationship between the playwright and her and Arthur Miller’s history and that time in Hollywood is fascinating as well. So all of it was pretty intriguing.
Let’s talk about Marilyn’s relationship with Arthur Miller. From the movie’s perspective, it seems like the healthiest relationship she finds herself in, but there are seeds of betrayal there. How would you characterize their relationship?
Again, this is an interpretation of that, and a window into one of her deeper relationships. There are obviously tragic elements to it, but there was definitely a profound bond and love there. The circumstances were just very complex. Her life was incredibly complex, as was his. What I tried to convey within all of that was a sense of hopefulness and love; whether it fully manages to come to fruition or not is a different story.
There’s a need for some of her longing and loneliness to be fulfilled, and she sees a great deal in him. Her aspirations as an artist, as an actor, were always to bring a thoughtfulness to her work, an approach to character work that is honored and cultivated within theater more so than in the film work that was being done at that time. I think he saw a lot in her as well. And obviously she was very alluring.
One thing I found really interesting within the relationship is that both of these people seem to have a connection to lost people in their lives. For Arthur, it was Magda; for Marilyn, it’s obviously her father. Did you sense that connection at all?
I do feel that way. Clearly, there are some interesting and sad parallels. So many of Arthur’s plays reference families and tragic dynamics within the family structure where their relationship is flawed.
Some of the most tragic scenes, in my opinion, are at the end of the relationship when Marilyn really starts to succumb to her mental illness. Were those difficult to film?
They were incredibly painful for me to film, actually, because I have to honor the character that I’m portraying and the vision of the filmmaker and the storytelling. There were moments specifically where we were shooting Ana’s closeups on the beach, where she trips and has the [miscarriage]. She’s heartbreaking in this movie and the character’s heartbreaking, but she managed to tap into this in a way that was deeply moving. I was off camera for all of that, but was still there, supporting her work. It just was brutally painful to not be able to go to her and help her in that anguished state.
You said the first time you saw Ana as Marilyn, you were blown away. What about her embodiment of the character had that effect on you?
It’s hard to put into words. It’s more of a feeling. It really transported me to another time and place. I can’t describe it in any other way, other than I left set and felt that I had this privilege of actually working with Marilyn Monroe.
Why do you think our culture has this obsession with Marilyn decades after her death?
She’s been immortalized. She has something that’s very special and she represents this glamorous time in Hollywood. From afar, it all looks incredibly beautiful, magical, and blessed, and I think that’s what most people see.
I want to talk about some of your other projects. You’re set to star in Asteroid City, another Wes Anderson movie, with many of his other regulars returning as well. What draws you back to working with Wes so often?
I consider Wes a dear friend. He’s a remarkable person and filmmaker, and he’s got this incredible, unique sensibility and imagination. It’s always exciting to go on a journey with him; he’s enriched my life many times. I’ve made many friends, I’ve played wonderful characters, so it’s a treat when Wes calls.
So is it safe to say you will continue to answer those calls?
From your mouth to God’s ears, right? Yeah. I love him. I would love to continue to work with him. He’s an amazing person. Really.
You also had a cameo in Succession last season, which earned you an Emmy nomination. Will we be seeing Josh Aaronson in season three?
That, I don’t think, is in the cards. You never know, but I think I would’ve heard from them by now. But it was a wonderful experience, and I had such a great time.