Iconic Star's Biopic Gets First NC-17 Rating for Netflix

Andrew Dominick's Blonde, an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates' fictional novel about Marilyn Monroe, will be Netflix's first NC-17 original film. The movie, which stars Ana de Armas as Monroe, earned the rare rating from the Motion Picture Association late last month. The agency's rating only cited "some sexual content."

Dominick, who previously directed Brad Pitt in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Killing Them Softly, predicted the film would get the MPA's harshest rating. However, in an interview with ScreenDaily in February, he called the rating "a bunch of horses—," suggesting there is nothing more graphic about Blonde than an episode of HBO's Euphoria. The filmmaker also praised Netflix for being "very cool" with the rating.

"I have nothing but gratitude for Netflix," Dominick said. "They don't want an NC-17 movie. But when it counts, they are supportive. And Netflix are the only people that would pay for Blonde. It would not exist without them."

Blonde will include a rape scene directly lifted from Oates' novel. "It's controversial; there's a bit for them to swallow," Dominik said. "It's a demanding movie – it is what it is, it says what it says. And if the audience doesn't like it, that's the f—ing audience's problem. It's not running for public office." 

Netflix did ask Dominick to hire editor Jennifer Lame, whose credits include Tenet and Marriage Story. Domonick was apprehensive about Lame at first but was impressed by her work to tighten up the movie. "I decided that whatever she wanted to do, I would help her do it – I would work for her. We made it better," Dominick said.

Netflix still has not set a release date for Blonde. The movie is Netflix's first original movie to earn an NC-17 rating. (Other NC-17 movies to appear on Netflix, like Blue Is The Warmest Color, were made by other studios.) Unlike the major studios, Netflix can be more open to an NC-17 rating since it does not deal with larger theater chains that do not show NC-17 movies.

In her March 2020 Vanity Fair interview, de Armas said she could not miss a chance to star as Monroe. "I only had to audition for Marilyn once, and Andrew said, 'It's you,' but I had to audition for everyone else. The producers. The money people," the Knives Out star recalled. "I always have people I needed to convince. But I knew I could do it. Playing Marilyn was groundbreaking. A Cuban playing Marilyn Monroe. I wanted it so badly."

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Oates' 2000 novel Blonde is considered one of her best books and is one of her longest works of fiction. In 2001, CBS adapted the book as a miniseries starring Poppy Montgomery as Monroe. Dominick's film has an all-star cast that includes Adrien Brody as Arthur Miller, Bobby Cannavale as Joe DiMaggio, and Julianne Nicholson as Monroe's mother, Gladys Pearl Baker.

In August 2020, Oates saw a rough cut of the film and praised it. "I have seen the rough cut of Andrew Dominick's adaptation & it is startling, brilliant, very disturbing & [perhaps most surprisingly] an utterly 'feminist' interpretation," Oates tweeted. "Not sure that any male director has ever achieved anything this."