20 actresses who have played Marilyn Monroe in movies and TV

Ana de Armas in a pink dress
Ana de Armas in "Blonde."Netflix
  • Ana de Armas plays Marilyn Monroe in the 2022 Netflix film "Blonde."

  • She's not the first actress to take on the task of playing Monroe.

  • Since the '70s, at least 20 women have played versions of the blonde bombshell.

Marilyn Monroe is one of the most famous figures in American history. Many people have portrayed her on screen over the years.

marilyn monroe
Marilyn Monroe.Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson, became a huge film star in the '50s due to roles in films like "The Seven Year Itch," "Some Like It Hot," "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "Niagara," and more.

Between her films, her status as a sex symbol, her marriages, her relationship with John F. Kennedy, and tragic (if somewhat mysterious) circumstances of her death, Monroe remains one of the most famous and highly scrutinized people of the last 100 years.

Here are some of portrayals of Monroe on screen.

The first biopic about Monroe came 14 years after her death: "Goodbye, Norma Jean" in 1976, starring Misty Rowe as Monroe.

Misty Rowe goodbye norma jean
"Goodbye, Norma Jean."Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This film claims to be the "true" story of how young Norma Jean Baker evolved into Monroe, one of the world's most iconic (and tragic) figures. It doesn't go into her film career at all, and instead follows her early life through her modeling career.

According to The Biopic Story, the film begins with the disclaimer "Not the legend, nor even the way she told it. This is the way it was." But the website describes the film as "sleazy" and that "any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental."

"It was a lot of pressure but I got so much publicity out of it because I was the first actress to ever play Monroe in a feature film and I went all over the world with it," Rowe told The Irish World in 2020.

In 1980, Catherine Hicks played Monroe in a made-for-TV film "Marilyn: The Untold Story."

catherine hicks marilyn monroe
"Marilyn: The Untold Story."ABC

The TV film is based on Norman Mailer's 1973 biography, "Marilyn: A Biography." The adaptation received positive reviews and four Emmy nominations, including one for Hicks' performance as Monroe.

"When I think about her, I'm never thinking that its an adoration of a great movie star, but that she's my dead older sister. I felt then, and still do, that I have to act as a sort of defense attorney on her behalf so that her story can be told, and that the facts aren't twisted," Hicks told TV Store Online in 2021.

Also in 1980, Constance Forslund played Monroe in "This Year's Blonde" on NBC.

Constance Forslund in this year's blonde
"This Year's Blonde."Brownie Harris/Corbis/Getty Images

This TV movie was based on the Garson Kanin novel "Moviola." It primarily focused on Monroe's relationship with her first talent agent, Johnny Hyde, who was in love with her and repeatedly tried to enter into a romantic relationship with her

In real life, days after Hyde secured Monroe her contract with 20th Century Fox, he died of a heart attack.

Madonna channeled Monroe in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" in the 1984 music video for her stone-cold classic "Material Girl."

madonna material girl
"Material Girl."Sire Records

Madonna took the legendary design for the number "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" in the 1953 and made her it own for "Material Girl," which deals with similar subject matter: materialism.

Madonna has remained connected with Monroe ever since. She played Monroe in a 1985 "SNL" sketch. She also channeled the star on the cover of a 1991 issue of Vanity Fair, and again, controversially, in a 2021 issue of V Magazine, in which she was inspired by the last shoot Monroe ever did.

 

During the 1985 alt-history film "Insignificance," Theresa Russell played a woman only known as "The Actress" who was clearly meant to be Monroe.

Theresa Russell insignificance
"Insignificance."Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

"Insignificance" stars Russell as The Actress, Gary Busey as The Ballplayer (Joe DiMaggio), Michael Emil as The Scientist (Albert Einstein), and Tony Curtis as The Senator (Joseph McCarthy).

The film imagines a meeting between these four 1950s cultural icons who might've met (but most likely didn't) while all four were at the height of their pop culture relevance inside a New York City hotel.

Thirteen years after "Goodbye, Norma Jean," the creative team reunited to follow Monroe's acting career in the 1989 film "Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn," now starring Paula Lane.

Paula Lane goodnight Sweet Marilyn
"Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn."Off Hollywood Video

As "Goodnight, Norma Jean" followed Norma Jean Baker's early life, "Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn" picked up where that film left off, now following Monroe's acting career and eventual death. Lane starred as the older Monroe, while Rowe also returned to once again play young Monroe.

After "Goodnight," Lane only appeared in one more project in 1992 before retiring from acting for good. She died in 2015.

Susan Griffiths made a living as a Monroe lookalike, most famously playing her in the 1991 TV movie "Marilyn and Me."

susan griffiths marilyn monroe
"Marilyn and Me."ABC

According to IMDb, Griffiths has played Monroe (or a Monroe impersonator) in: "The American Snitch," "Growing Pains," "Marilyn and Me," "Quantum Leap," "Pulp Fiction," "Dark Skies," "Cybill," "Timecop," "Operation Splitsville," "The Strip," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Nip/Tuck," and "The Defenders."

"Marilyn and Me" is based on the life of writer Robert Slatzer, who claims he secretly married Monroe in Mexico in 1952 (even though there's no evidence of this). He wrote a book, "The Life and Curious Death of Marilyn Monroe," in 1974.

Slatzer died in 2005.

In 1993, Melody Anderson played her in the TV movie "Marilyn & Bobby: Her Final Affair."

Melody Anderson Marilyn & Bobby: Her Final Affair
"Marilyn & Bobby: Her Final Affair."USA Network

While Monroe's relationship with President John F. Kennedy is widely known about and reported on, less people know that Monroe also reportedly had a relationship with the president's younger brother, Robert "Bobby" Kennedy.

This TV film portrays what a potential relationship between the senator and Monroe could've been like.

Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino played Norma Jean and Marilyn, respectively, in the 1996 HBO film "Norma Jean & Marilyn."

mira sorvino and ashley judd
"Norma Jean & Marilyn."HBO

"Norma Jean & Marilyn" took the perceived split between Monroe's two personas to the next level, and cast two different actresses to play each side of the struggling actress, with Judd's Norma Jean haunting Sorvino's Monroe throughout the film.

Both Judd and Sorvino were nominated for Golden Globes and Emmys for their performances.

Barbara Niven played Monroe in a small role in the 1998 HBO film "The Rat Pack."

Barbara Niven the rat pack
"The Rat Pack."HBO

"The Rat Pack" primarily focused on the members of the Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra (Ray Liotta), Dean Martin (Joe Mantegna), Sammy Davis Jr. (Don Cheadle), Peter Lawford (Angus Macfadyen), and Joey Bishop (Bobby Slayton). The film also followed the friendship between Sinatra and John F. Kennedy (William Petersen).

During the events of the film, Sinatra introduces Kennedy to Monroe, as played by Niven.

The first adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates' novel "Blonde" was in 2001 and starred Poppy Montgomery.

poppy montgomery blonde
"Blonde."CBS/Getty Images

"Blonde" was a made-for-TV adaptation of Oates' novel, and is a much more straightforward look at Monroe's life than the Netflix adaptation is.

Of putting on the blonde wig for the first time, Montgomery told Yahoo News in 2014 it was "stressful." She added, "I thought: Oh god — it doesn't look right. Then it all kind of took on a life of its own and it was just beautiful."

Michelle Williams scored an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Monroe in the 2011 film "My Week with Marilyn."

michelle williams as marilyn monroe
"My Week with Marilyn."The Weinstein Company

"My Week with Marilyn" zooms in on a week in Monroe's life, the week she arrived in London to shoot the film "The Prince and the Showgirl" with Laurence Olivier, played by Kenneth Branagh.

While Monroe was experiencing mental health struggles and problems in her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott), she bonded with production assistant Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne).

Williams and Branagh both received Oscar nominations.

That same year, Charlotte Sullivan played Monroe in the Reelz miniseries "The Kennedys."

charlotte sullivan in the kennedys
"The Kennedys."The History Channel

"The Kennedys" follows the Kennedy dynasty from the 1930s all through Joe Kennedy's death in 1969.

Monroe, as played by Sullivan, appears mainly in the seventh episode, "Lancer and Lace." She's seen nursing a growing obsession with President Kennedy, and has to be told by his brother, Bobby, that the relationship is over.

For the landmark 100th episode of "Gossip Girl" in 2012, Blake Lively lip-synced to "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."

blake lively gossip girl marilyn monroe
"Gossip Girl."The CW

The dream sequence starred Lively's character, Serena, as Monroe's part, with the male cast-members of the show playing her dancers, until she's rudely interrupted by Leighton Meester's character Blair dressed up as Audrey Hepburn from "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Watch the scene here.

The NBC show "Smash," which aired from 2012 to 2013, was about the process of bringing a Monroe musical to Broadway. Uma Thurman, Megan Hilty, and Katharine McPhee all got chances to bring Monroe to life.

uma thurman, megan hilty, and katharine mcphee in smash
"Smash."Will Hart/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images; Mark Seliger/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

In "Smash," Hilty and McPhee as Broadway stars Ivy Lynn and Karen Cartwright, who are both vying for the role of Monroe in a fictional musical based on her life called "Bombshell."

However, both are passed over for veteran film star Rebecca Duvall, played by Thurman.

Over the course of the show's two seasons, all three actresses get their chance to play Monroe in "Bombshell."

Kelli Garnrer played Monroe in the Lifetime miniseries "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" in 2015.

kelli garner 'The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
"The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe."Lifetime

"The Secret Life" was based on the book of the same name by J. Randy Taraborrelli. Unlike many of the other portrayals of her on screen, this miniseries focused a lot on Monroe's relationship with her mother Gladys, played by Susan Sarandon.

Funnily enough, Sarandon's daughter Eva Amurri played the younger version of Gladys.

Ana de Armas is the latest actress to take on Monroe, this time in 2022's "Blonde" on Netflix.

Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in Netflix's upcoming film "Blonde."
"Blonde."Netflix

The second adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates' novel was released on Netflix on September 28, 2022. The film has been at the center of a few controversies, including its NC-17 rating.

De Armas totally disappears into the role of Monroe, even if "Blonde" isn't a biopic as much as it's an impressionistic painting of Monroe's life, going from scene to scene while switching aspect ratios and from color to black and white back to color again.

BONUS PORTRAYAL: Rachel Bloom is clearly channeling the star in one of the musical numbers on her show "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."

crazy ex-girlfriend the math of love triangles
"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."The CW

"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" was a musical comedy on The CW from 2015 to 2019. Every musical number on the show was either satirizing, spoofing, or paying homage to something else, whether it was a genre, a specific artist, or an era of music.

In this case, Bloom's character Rebecca Bunch adopted a breathy Monroe voice, blue strapless dress, and a gaggle of men to dance with to perform "The Math of Love Triangles," an almost note-perfect recreation of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."

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