The Making of 'Mary Poppins
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“You cannot capture a man’s entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one”.
My Week With Marilyn (2011)
Two different memoirs by Colin Clark form the basis of this excellent biopic. The first was a diary he kept while working as third assistant director on The Prince and the Showgirl. The second memoir, written many years after the event, was his recollection of nine days he spent with that movie’s star. At the centre of both of these storylines is Marilyn Monroe, whose beguiling personality manages to enchant and infuriate all those around her.
Numbered amongst the enchanted is Clark himself. Though little more than a gopher on the film set, circumstances place him with the star when she is at her most vulnerable. Accompanied in a foreign land with an emotionally detached husband and a sycophantic drama coach, Monroe seeks solace in the young man who ignores repeated warnings that she doesn’t need rescuing.
On the opposite end of the scale is Sir Laurence Olivier, who also ignores well-intentioned advice. “Try to change her” a business partner warns “and she’ll drive you crazy”. Yet the demands of filmmaking insist that he at least try, leading to a clash of cultures between British stage craft and the American Method. Kenneth Branagh is ideally cast as Olivier, while Judi Dench turns in a scene-stealing performance as Dame Sybil Thorndike.
Yet much like The Prince and The Showgirl, in which the film-star Monroe outshone her more seasoned British co-stars, it is Michelle Williams’ delicately nuanced performance that illuminates this biopic.
as Marilyn Monroe
as Sir Laurence Olivier
as Vivien Leigh
as Dame Sybil Thorndike
The widow and son of Milton Greene (portrayed in the film by Dominic Cooper), who was vice president of Marilyn Monroe Productions, dispute Colin Clark’s version of events -
"I was there every day, and I knew what was happening. [Clark] was on the set, and he was a gofer — 'Hey, I need a cup of coffee,' or whatever. No one regarded him as anything but a gofer"
"It's a complete lie. It's a fantasy. He was a fourth-rate water boy… There was clearly no interest in trying to make a real movie based on the situation"
Regardless of the story’s historical accuracy, the film’s depiction of Colin Clark is substantially different from the way he describes himself in his books. Far from being the niaïve innocent portrayed by Eddie Redmayne, Clark has no issue with documenting his sexual encounters with both male and female members of the crew. Furthermore, an episode where Clark turns down Marilyn Monroe’s sexual advances is omitted from the film.
Biopic's scene recreations from The Prince and the Showgirl are included in the clip below (04:29).