Fact vs Fiction: Is Blonde based on a true story?

Ana de Armas looks at her smiling reflection as Marilyn Monroe in Blonde
Ana de Armas as Blonde's leading lady, Marilyn Monroe. (Image credit: Netflix)

Blonde is the latest film to examine the life of Hollywood star, Marilyn Monroe. 

Written and directed by Andrew Dominik, Blonde reimagines the life of Marilyn Monroe (here played by Knives Out's Ana de Armas), depicting her journey from her volatile childhood right the way through to her rise to stardom and looking at her life in brutal detail.

The synopsis for the controversial Netflix film states that Blonde "blurs the lines of fact and fiction to explore the widening split between her public and private selves", and there have been many viewers who have asked whether the film is a true depiction of Marilyn's life.

So, is Blonde based on a true story? We've addressed some of the biggest questions that Blonde viewers have below.  

Is Blonde based on a true story? 

Aside from the fact that Blonde is about Marilyn Monroe, it isn't really based on fact; Blonde is instead primarily based on the events that occurred in the fictional novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates

Details from both the movie and its source are inspired by Monroe's life, but writer-director Andrew Dominik has made it clear that the basis of the film is the book, rather than Marilyn's real life. 

In an interview with Deadline, Dominik said: "I know an awful lot about Marilyn Monroe now. I’ve read all the major stuff. There’s over a thousand books written about her, and I haven’t read a thousand, but I’ve read all of the big hits. I’ve read all that stuff, and I’ve met people that knew her and I’ve been to most of the places (that you can still get into) where she lived. 

"I’ve read all the biographies of all the other people that were in her life too so I’m aware of what they think happened in most of the situations in her life. And I’m aware of how that’s different to the book Blonde. I did all that research and I used very little of it in the movie. Blonde the book was pretty much the bible for the film."

Did Marilyn Monroe date Charlie Chaplin Jr? Was Marilyn part of a throuple?

In the movie, Marilyn meets both Charlie "Cass" Chaplin Jr. and Edward G. Robinson Jr. at the Actors Circle in LA. They strike up a connection and form a throuple, beginning a three-way relationship together.

In reality, there is no evidence that Marilyn had been in a throuple with the two men, and it wasn't confirmed whether she had actually dated Edward G. Robinson Jr., either. 

Rumors did circulate around Hollywood that there was an affair between Charlie and Marilyn, and Charlie did confirm these rumors in his memoir, My Father, Charlie Chaplin.

Did Marilyn Monroe have an affair with JFK?

One of Blonde's most difficult scenes comes towards the end of the film when Marilyn is taken by members of the Secret Service to a hotel room where she is subsequently sexually assaulted by "The President" (played by Caspar Phillipson).

Marilyn and JFK's relationship has been a subject of historic public interest. There are rumors and conflicting reports about whether they had had a sexual relationship, and where and when the pair first met. 

According to Donald Spoto's book, Marilyn Monroe: The Biography, the only time the pair supposedly spent the night together came in 1962 at Bing Crosby's home in Palm Springs. He cites Monroe's friend Ralph Roberts who claimed she called him and told him that was the only night of her affair with President Kennedy.

Irrespective of whether the pair had an affair or not, there is no evidence to suggest that Kennedy ever assaulted Marilyn Monroe.

Did Marilyn Monroe's mother really try to kill her?

Blonde depicts Marilyn's early childhood as Norma Jeane as a very unstable period in her life due to her relationship with her mother, Gladys Pearl Baker.

In the film, Gladys is abusive towards Norma and her behavior towards her daughter grows increasingly more dangerous, culminating in a harrowing scene in which Gladys tries to drown Norma in the bathtub. After this event, Gladys is hospitalized in psychiatric institutions, with Marilyn growing up in the care of multiple sets of foster parents and spending a portion of her life in an orphanage.

Although Gladys experienced mental health issues and Marilyn did spend time in care as a child, there is no historical record for the bathtub event, suggesting this particular moment was entirely invented for Blonde.

Did Marilyn Monroe have children?

Although she wanted to have a family and did have multiple documented pregnancies during her life, Marilyn Monroe did not have any children before her passing in 1962.

She is reported to have been pregnant three times during her third marriage to the playwright, Arthur Miller. However, it is thought Marilyn was unable to carry any of these children to full term. It is reported that she lost her first child to miscarriage in 1956, then she had an ectopic pregnancy in 1957, and then a second miscarriage in 1958 (according to the Netflix documentary, The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes). 

Marilyn Monroe is widely reported to have had endometriosis, which Endometriosis UK states can impact someone in a variety of ways including, sadly, making it difficult to have children.

The film also shows her having multiple abortions (in graphic detail), though there is no evidence anywhere to suggest that Marilyn ever underwent this procedure in real life. 

Blonde is now available to stream on Netflix.

Martin Shore
Staff Writer at WhatToWatch.com

Martin is a Staff Writer with WhatToWatch.com, where he produces a variety of articles focused on the latest and greatest films and TV shows. 

Some of his favorite shows are What We Do In The Shadows, Bridgerton, Gangs of London, The Witcher, Doctor Who, and Ghosts. When he’s not watching TV or at the movies, Martin’s probably still in front of a screen playing the latest video games, reading, or watching the NFL.