Marilyn Monroe biopic filmed in Interbay: Distribution to include Internet

A week's worth of filming wrapped up a couple weeks ago at Victory Studios in Interbay for a new movie about Marilyn Monroe. It's a full-length biopic that stars Queen Anne actress and singer Sunny Thompson, a woman who bears an eerie resemblance to the famous movie star.

Written originally in the 1980s as an award-winning play by her husband, Greg Thompson of Greg Thompson Productions on 15th Avenue West, the story takes place during the last photography shoot Monroe did before she died more than four decades ago.

"This is a very, very famous photo sitting she did," said Kelly Johnston, executive producer. And the dialogue was woven together using only quotes from Monroe, she added.

Monroe starts out upbeat at the photo shoot, but she's drinking the whole time and gets drunker and drunker, and also starts popping pills, Johnston said. And she's a mess by the end as she talks to the photographer about the men in her life and everything that has happened to her.

"First, she really has no regrets; she did what she had to," Johnston said. "But there's still that desperation. All she wanted to be was loved, but she was used by everybody."

It was her idea to film the play, Johnston said of the $350,000 production. "I've actually been working with Greg for two years on this project," she added.

However, it's not the first time filming the play has been discussed. HBO optioned it in the mid-1980s for a movie, but HBO wanted to add characters such as Monroe's husband Joe DiMaggio and have Greg write dialogue for them, he said. Thompson wasn't interested, he said.

"Then they (HBO) sold it to BBC," Greg said of the option. "They came to me in 1995 and also wanted me to add characters," he remembers. "So I got it back."

But the movie isn't the same as the original play, said Seattle Shakespeare Company artistic director Stephanie Shine, who was the director for the filming. "It's been completely rewritten and developed over the past 18 months," she said.

The script was a collaborative effort that included Sunny Thompson, who has a collection of more than 400 books on Monroe. "She's been our main researcher," Shine said of Thompson.

Also part of the 25-member crew was award-winning director of photography, Karl Hermann, whose film credits include "I-Robot" and "Freddie vs. Jason."

The production was lucky to get Hermann, according to Shine. "He's literally on a one-week break," she said on the next-to-last day of shooting. "He's very talented. He just has the eye we needed for the beauty shots."

Also part of the crew was Robin Burki on the steadycam. Burki's television and music-video credits include "Northern Exposure" and Whitney Houston.

The shooting schedule was intense and covered 16 pages of dialogue a day, Johnston said. "And it's hard dialogue," Shine chimed in.

The days were easily 15 hours long, and they were also very productive, Johnston added. "We're averaging three takes per scene for each camera, which is really good."

Taking a brief break from shooting, Sunny Thompson said the filming was a great learning experience, and she had high praise for both Hermann and Burki. "It's been tremendous fun and humbling to stand in front of such great people."

The film will also be edited at Victory Studios, which is a pioneer in high-definition filming, Johnston said. "It was not just convenient, we actually picked them because they have what we need."

Greg Thompson hopes the film will be a success. "I think there's several audiences for this," he said. That includes diehard fans who thought of Monroe as an icon in the 1950s, collectors, gay fans and a whole new crowd of young kids, Thompson added.

The film will be available on a pay-for-view basis using Internet Protocol Broadcasting, Johnston said. The film has no rating because of the Internet connection, but that might change, she said. "If the networks want to pick this up, great." They will also try to get the movie entered in the Sundance Film Festival, she said.

Going full circle, the stage version of the film will open this coming winter at the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood, and it will also be staged next spring at the world's largest Marilyn Monroe art exhibit at the Dayton Art Institute in Ohio, Johnston said.

"Now she (Sunny) has to think about the stage," her husband said. "So it's going to be a whole new thing."[[In-content Ad]]