Marilyn Monroe—and the tragic end of her life—has been the subject of intrigue in Hollywood for decades.
Celebrities, writers, and filmmakers have made plenty of attempts at capturing the essence of Monroe, many focusing on the narrative of the actress being catapulted from humble beginnings as Norma Jean Morton to superstardom as Marilyn Monroe, ultimately meeting her tragic end too soon.
Madonna played a circa–Gentlemen Prefer Blondes version of the star in the 1984 music video for “Material Girl,” Lindsay Lohan re-created Monroe’s final photo shoot (The Last Sitting by Bert Stern) in 2008 with uncanny accuracy, and Kim Kardashian West paid homage to the icon with a Halloween costume in 2017.
HBO’s made-for-TV movie Norma Jean & Marilyn, starring Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino, earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations in 1996, while Simon Curtis’s 2011 film My Week With Marilyn, starring Michelle Williams as the icon, also earned critical acclaim. In 2012, NBC managed to create a cult sensation with two seasons of Smash, which told the story of two competing musical-theater actresses, played by Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee, as they vied for the role of Norma Jean/Marilyn in a fictional Broadway musical titled Bombshell. Lifetime even took a stab with a miniseries called The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, starring Kelli Garner and Susan Sarandon, in 2015. All of these portrayals of Monroe reveal that while we think we know so much about her troubled upbringing, her highly publicized marriages, and her struggles with addiction, the end of her life still remains a mystery.
That’s where BBC Studios has decided to step in. In a television series with the writer Dan Sefton and the producer Simon Lupton attached, the studio will try its hand at dramatizing the final year of the superstar’s life, per an exclusive report from Variety. Keith Badman’s biography Final Years of Marilyn Monroe: The Shocking True Story is set to be the basis upon which the show will be developed, which will hopefully prevent the series from being riddled with historical inaccuracies.
Set in 1962, the year Monroe died, at the young age of 36, from a barbiturate overdose, the series will reportedly chronicle her marriage to Joe DiMaggio and rumored affair with President John F. Kennedy. It will also touch upon her tenuous connections to Hollywood studio executives. (20th Century Fox tried to prematurely end her contract while shooting Something’s Got to Give, which became her final film as she died before production was complete.) “Marilyn’s desire to be taken seriously as an actress and her battle with the powerful men who control the studio system is sadly as relevant today as it ever was,” Sefton told Variety.
Rather than attempt to paint with broad strokes the course of her 36 years, the BBC Studios series will reportedly focus on the gritty details of Monroe’s final moments that have sparked numerous conspiracy theories. In the end of Monroe’s life, she struggled with addiction, and her death has been widely assumed to be the result of suicide, but there have been suggestions that she may have actually died at Frank Sinatra’s Lake Tahoe resort, not in her bedroom in Los Angeles, where she was found deceased. At the time of Monroe’s death, the media was delayed in reporting the news to the public, and many authorities on the subject interpret this delay as potential evidence that she was murdered.
Cinematic accounts of Monroe’s life have shied away from getting to the bottom of how she died, but if the BBC Studios team sticks to the source material and makes appropriate casting decisions, this show could be the first dramatization of the superstar’s life that finally gets it right.