“She Was Dumb Like a Fox, Like Marilyn Monroe”

At Vice, Mitchell Sunderland interviews Mary Harron, the director best known for her adaptation of American Psycho, about her upcoming Lifetime biopic of Anna Nicole Smith. Harron talks about being “attracted to things that have stigmas” and also wonders why “female melodrama [is] looked down on, and other things are cool? Forms that are looked down on… have a lot of energy in them.”

Here is the trailer for the biopic if you haven’t seen it. As for me, I’ve always been intrigued by Anna Nicole Smith because my tenth-grade Bible teacher (I went to an evangelical school in Houston, where Smith was born) had known her as a teenager — his brother, if I’m remembering correctly, had briefly dated “Vickie Lynn Hogan,” and Smith was sometimes held up to us in class as an example of what could go wrong if we turned away from the Lord. Anyway, Harron gives sharp answers in this Q&A:

Did you consider Anna Nicole a gold-digger or a poor girl with a dream?
Well she was both, wasn’t she? I don’t think she would have been with J. Howard Marshall if he had been poor, but on the other hand there was real affection between them. She had grown up poor and feeling ignored and neglected, and he was like an adoring grandpa who wanted to give her everything she wanted. He liked her ambition too, and they kind of understood each other.

Although your Anna Nicole is a bad mother, she’s also smart and easy to sympathize with. Was she smarter than people normally give her credit for being?
She was dumb like a fox, kind of like Marilyn Monroe. I think she had an amazing drive. She went from working at Jim’s Krispy Fried Chicken to being one of the most famous women in the world — she did it herself. She had a great instinct for attracting attention, and intuitively she understood the media. She was irrepressible. If Danny hadn’t died, she’d still be at it, creating more tabloid scandal, doing infomercials, and being on Dancing with the Stars.

Harron calls Smith “something unclassifiable and very modern, with this career created by new media: supermarket tabloids, reality television.” Yes: “unclassifiable” is one word for a life that takes you from failing your freshman year of high school to working at a Houston Red Lobster to support your 2-year-old, to stripping, to Playboy, to Guess ads, to marrying an 89-year-old billionaire, to watching him die, to attempting to climb inside your 20-year-old son’s coffin at his funeral, to marrying your lawyer Howard K. Stern, to overdosing in the Bahamas at age 39. “Created” is a good word too, as is “destroyed.”