Meet the director: my day with Simon

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Teresa Mull
Contributing Writer

Well, the title of this article is complete rhetorical hyperbole, intended to be mildly clever and a representative echo of the film which Simon Curtis directed: “My Week with Marilyn.” Truth be told, I only spent about 15 minutes in Curtis’ company, but after all, “brevity is the soul of wit,” and Curtis’ film, a much-anticipated glimpse into a week in the life of a legend, does a lot of speaking for itself.

The drama of “Marilyn” is based on the memoirs of 23-year-old Colin Clark, third assistant director to Sir Laurence Olivier on the set of his 1957 movie “The Prince and the Showgirl.”  Clark’s account chronicles the ongoing tension between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn’s already rocky relationship with her new husband, playwright Arthur Miller, and the pressures and conflicts that the world’s then-most-famous woman endures beneath a flashy façade of glitz, glamour and sensuality.

Curtis addressed the issue of his college-age audience’s ignorance of the Marilyn Monroe of the big screen versus their recognition only of Monroe’s reputation, who, for generations X and Y, is more of a “household name” and an iconic face than a real person.  The attraction of a younger crowd to this film, Curtis explained, comes from its ability to provide intimate insight into the life a tragic star from a perspective that is familiar to us fledgling viewers.  It’s a “young person’s view,” Curtis said of Clark’s retelling, Clark having landed his “dream first job.”

Michelle Williams is the actress charged with the daunting task of recreating Monroe for Curtis’ film.  “Marilyn” centers around the filming of “The Prince and the Showgirl,” but aside from meticulous attention to the details of this film, Curtis revealed that he and his cast and crew also studied Monroe’s press conferences and multiple other films. He also noted that with such technology as YouTube, it’s amazing what’s available.  When asked what film he considers to be the “epitome” of Marilyn, Curtis conceded that “Some Like It Hot” would likely be the film he would advise people to watch if they could see just one in order to get a sense of the quintessential on-screen Monroe.

Curtis disappointed me when he said that he did not find himself adopting the directing methods that Olivier employs in the film.  (They involve screaming, cursing and on-the-verge temper tantrums at all times.) Curtis commented on working with dramatic master Kenneth Branagh who provided helpful suggestions here and there throughout filming when needed. Curtis shared the amusing anecdote that with regard to Branagh, Curtis was “directing a director playing a director.”

Curtis is a seasoned director and veteran producer, and he considers the current generation wishing to make its mark in the film industry “lucky.”  “The business is changing,” he said, and with the continual advancement and ready availability of iPhones, video recorders, etc., he encourages young people to “go off and make their films.” He says that he has dedicated many years of hard work to get the chance to create “My Week with Marilyn,” which he considers his “passion project.”

The “passion project” of an Emmy award-winning director is not to be missed. The film, apart from being fascinating, fun and bittersweet, is aesthetically beautiful because of the era of its events and the charm that is the English countryside.  “Marilyn” is set to be released in theaters Nov. 23.
Oh! And don’t forget to watch “Some Like It Hot” before … and maybe afterward as well. (It’s hilarious!)

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