Fans of movies, celebrity and Hollywood gossip are all going to find a lot to like in My Week With Marilyn. The film, which opens November 23, tells the amazing true story of a young go-getter named Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) who developed a unique and magical relationship with Marilyn Monroe when the legendary blond bombshell traveled to England to film The Prince and the Showgirl with Sir Laurence Oliver. Michelle Williams is Oscar-worthy as Monroe, Kenneth Branagh is fantastic as Oliver, but no one would have seen this story on screen if it wasn’t for director Simon Curtis.

My Week With Marilyn is technically Curtis’ feature film debut but he’s no rookie. He’s been directing some of the most talented actors in the world for 20 years. However, it was Clark’s two revealing books that finally drew Curtis to the big screen. He first found them well over a decade ago and has been struggling to get this incredible slice of Hollywood history made ever since.

I recently sat down with Curtis to talk about the genesis of the project, its historical accuracy, potential awards praise and much more. Read some choice quotes, as well as the full interview if you choose, after the jump.

Because this was a fairly lengthy interview (it ran about 20 minutes) I’ve decided to pull a few of Curtis’ best quotes out first. After, you can go read the full interview if you like. I hope you do, it was a lot of fun and well worth it for a fantastic movie.

On why he chose to make this movie:

It wasn’t Marilyn, it was Colin getting this sort of golden ticket to work in the magic of films and it is a sort of love letter to films in that way

On if there was a temptation to broaden the story out:

We couldn’t, because we were telling Colin’s version so there were quite a few other added elements in the books that were Marilyn that we kept out, because we wanted the Marilyn thing to have more space in the movie if that makes sense. But you know other things happened in this period and when we researched other things that happened in 1956 and this time, but they weren’t really our story.

On what would have happened if Michelle Williams, the only actress considered, had said no:

I think there’s a risk if she had said “no” that we wouldn’t have had the film.

On how this experience helped Monroe’s real life:

I think it rescued a potentially awful situation for her, because she had come to London with such high hopes that this would be the start of her being taken seriously as an actress and the marriage to Miller, the production company she had set up, and working with Olivier were all part of her dream of becoming taken seriously as an actress and actually our story is the story of how those things let her down.

On what it would be like for the performances to get awards recognition:

Someone said that Ann Margret had given Michelle the thumbs up. That’s really exciting to hear, really exciting, and you know next year is the fiftieth anniversary of Marilyn’s passing, so if anything I just want the film to do very well next week when it opens and for people to enjoy it and then for the actors without whom I couldn’t have done the film to get some of the recognition that they so clearly deserve would make me very happy.

On what he wants people to get out of this movie:

This young man’s exciting adventure in this film world happens to shine a light on who the real woman was behind the iconic Marilyn.

And now, the full interview.

/Film: What I loved the most about the movie is that it was like this wish fulfillment. Today we all want to hang out with celebrities and this is the story of hanging out with the ultimate celebrity. What was it about the story that attracted you?

Simon Curtis: That. I mean you know it wasn’t Marilyn, it was Colin getting this sort of golden ticket to work in the magic of films and it is a sort of love letter to films in that way. Do you know what I mean?

Did you know that you were going to make it a feature film as opposed to for TV?

I think so, yeah. I think so, because it’s a love letter to film, it’s about film and iconic characters and you know I was hungry to make a film frankly.

Yeah, so once you had the rights [To Colin's book] did you have any cooperation with Monroe’s estate?

No.

No? Did you ask or did they contact you? Was there anything like that?

No, because I mean I don’t know quite how that works actually. You should ask one of the producers, but you know we weren’t using many that many Marilyn images. We were making it all ourselves, so I think that is something else.

Some of the stuff in the movie, frankly, seems too good to be true. Obviously the book is published and that’s your source material and as a journalist I know if something is published you can just go by those laurels, but did you guys go any deeper to see how much of what Colin said actually happened?

Well it’s hard to actually do that. The only thing that is quite clear were the scenes that everyone witnessed like the press conference and the arrival or the tension on set. All of those things are supported elsewhere in our research, but the private visits and so on I don’t know and he describes them as a fairytale that nevertheless were true and you know I decided that my job was to tell this published account. Do you know what I mean? And yes, we enhanced it without the research along the way and so on, but essentially what made it interesting to me was that it was Colin’s point of view.

Was it intimidating just to recreate a lot of these iconic scenes like you said with the arrival or the scenes from the movie or things like that?

Intimidating and sort of helpful actually, because you know in some ways as a director “How do we do the scene of the arrival at London airport?” “Well, we will do it that way.” “I want a TWA plane and I want that to be carrying flowers.”

Yeah, sure. It just makes it easier that you have the right source materials and things. Now obviously like you just said this is Colin’s story and Marilyn is just a character in it, but during the development was there ever pressure to make Marilyn more of a main character or even so far as to say “Well this is really a great story, but maybe let’s do something with a spin off type of thing?”

We couldn’t, because we were telling Colin’s version so there were quite a few other added elements in the books that were Marilyn that we kept out, because we wanted the Marilyn thing to have more space in the movie if that makes sense. But you know other things happened in this period and when we researched other things that happened in 1956 and this time, but they weren’t really our story.

Okay. Now in developing this casting is obviously going to be difficult and I know you only always looked at Michelle [Williams], what would have happened if she had said “no?”

I think there’s a risk if she had said “no” that we wouldn’t have had the film, because Harvey came on board because we got Michelle, so I don’t know.

Now obviously a big part of the movie, the fun of the movie, is the sexual tension. I’m curious about the development of the movie, because it seems like the movie, if somebody else had made it like a bigger studio had made it and you guys hadn’t made it on your own, they would have been like “Well they have to have sex” or something like that, you know?

Right, exactly.

And that’s not in your movie, which is what makes it sort of great. Were there ever any discussions like “We could do that in there…”

Yeah, but again it’s that same point of if we stopped telling Colin’s version… But I was very inspired by Lost in Translation, but they don’t have sex in that.

That’s true. Now the film also suggests that Monroe’s relationship with Colin sort of inspired her work after it, like in Some Like It Hot where in the end titles you sort of mention that. My question is, is that a safe assumption or if not, how do you think her working on the film and her events in your film affected her perception?

I don’t know. That’s a smart question and A, I can’t say and B, I don’t know. I think more of this would be a something like a little cherished memory that she took with her and when people leave films they often leave people behind, don’t they?

Yeah, but putting that statement in at the end of the movie, that was sort of what I got out it.

And that is potentially right, but more it was a sense of we wanted to make the point that “This film might have been a disappointment, but as it happened both Olivier and Marilyn went on to great work next.”

So as somebody who was so involved in the material and obviously who is a student and fan of Monroe and Olivier and everybody in the movie I’m sure, what do you think as a fan that this specific period in her life, this week and a half, did to…

I don’t know, but I think it rescued a potentially awful situation for her, because she had come to London with such high hopes that this would be the start of her being taken seriously as an actress and the marriage to Miller, the production company she had set up, and working with Olivier were all part of her dream of becoming taken seriously as an actress and actually our story is the story of how those things let her down.

Do you feel that Colin was in any way betraying the trust of these people in publishing these books?

That’s an interesting point and I think he waited long enough to make it okay. I mean it was forty years later.

Did you ever talk to any of his family?

Yes.

What sort of tidbits… Did you get anything?

Not really much, because it was such a long time ago and obviously his son and his widow weren’t around at that time, but it is a tricky area. I’ve often been tempted to write an inside account of something I have directed and you feel to really do it properly you would be betraying people, but I think in forty years time I might be prepared to write the story of the making of this film. (Laughs)

In the movie, Marilyn says to Colin something along the lines of “Everyone who loves me wants Marilyn Monroe, but when they find out I’m not her they leave” or something like that. To me that seems like a very important part of her personality and almost secretive part of her personality. Is that actually what she had said? Is that from Colin’s book? It almost seems too perfect. It almost seems like you guys, the screenwriter, wrote it.

To be honest I can’t remember. We would enhance some things, but my guess is it was in the book, but I can’t be sure.

What about the rest of the dialogue in general?

Almost all of it is from the book, but you know if someone once said to me “There’s a book version of a film… there’s the script version… there’s the shooting version… then there’s the editing version” and you know some things change and I can’t actually remember all of everyone of those phases. Going back to the same point that our starting off point was Colin’s version. We did definitely enhance some of those things around the edges.

How did your relationship work with the screenwriter? Obviously this is your material that you have been developing and you have the rights… What was the process like? It’s his writing credit, but how much did you…

Well you know, I mean the actors and I would have lots of ideas and work with him and he’s an incredible supportive and open guy, so that like everything was a collaboration, like the directing is a collaboration. Everything is a collaboration.

I also read that Monroe was drawn to Colin because of his family status and his access and all of those kinds of things. When you see that in the film you see that he takes her to all of these places and gets her into places, it’s not really harped on. Was that a conscious decision?

Yes. I think we played it down to give the film a bit more universality. It occurred to me that she was drawn to him, because of his stable loving, well more loving than her, background. Michelle had an insight that she, Marilyn, was drawn to Colin because she was researching that part in The Prince and the Showgirl where Marilyn’s character shows an interest in the young prince. I thought that was quite interesting.

Definitely. Now obviously when you hire this caliber of actors for your movie you don’t need to talk too much about them with their performance, you hire these people because you know that they are going to do the research and all of that, but what kind of conversation do you have with Michelle and Kenneth [Branagh] specifically about portraying these such iconic and recognizable people?

I’ve been asked that quite a lot and I can’t really tell you. I mean my instinct was to sort rely on them for the sort of impersonation amount of it and then talk to them specifically about the scene. Does that make sense? “What’s this character doing in the scene?” People say “What was it like playing an icon?” Actually we weren’t thinking “How would this icon behave?” We would say, “How would this human being behave in this moment?” We did that to just stop it from being such a mountain all of the time.

If you start thinking about it, it’s probably very self-reflexive where you are directing a guy who is directing somebody who is… It’s hard to get your mind around that.

Yeah, exactly that and it was great A, because it wasn’t a biopic, it was a moment in time, and B, because you look at Helen Mirren as the Queen or Frank Langella as Nixon and they wouldn’t be mistaken for their characters if you saw them in the street, they were just great actors acting brilliantly and I knew that was the key.

So you do a movie like this and you are watching these amazing performances, do you ever… You don’t think about the awards then, but you have to think about how incredible the performances, like Michelle specifically obviously is turning in, do you ever see a point where you are like “She is going to be recognized for this?”

Well I don’t know about that, although frankly for her to get any sort of recognition for what I consider a great performance, but her and Don Murray, Marilyn’s costar in BUS STOP talking about this performance is an honor in itself. Do you know what I mean?

Sure, yeah.

And he is happy to speak about it. At the Q&A last night someone said that Ann Margret had given Michelle the thumbs up. That’s really exciting to hear, really exciting, and you know next year is the fiftieth anniversary of Marilyn’s passing, so if anything I just want the film to do very well next week when it opens and for people to enjoy it and then for the actors without whom I couldn’t have done the film to get some of the recognition that they so clearly deserve would make me very happy.

Now besides those two leads you obviously… It’s stacked… Judi Dench has like three scenes and she is just insane. Did you go out to everybody or did they come to you? Was it sort of a mish mash?

No, I didn’t really go out to people, but I’ve worked with a lot of them before and you know if you’re not afraid of hearing the word “No,” you can ask anybody to do anything and you are flexible… Also I think Michelle and Ken were such magnets for other actors, so yeah we got very lucky.

It’s such an awesome cast. You also shot in a lot of locations and studios where this stuff actually happened. How important was that to you and how at all did it affect your direction or the actor’s performances?

It was important. I mean I don’t know how it quite was important, but basically it just felt that we were anchoring ourselves in a real event, in real history and you know I think we looked at the catalog of Marilyn’s personal effects that were sold after she died and saw that that book was in it. That was the spirit of the whole production, was to make it as authentic as possible.

This is your feature film debut, but you’ve done and worked with everybody in the world, so what, if anything, did you find surprising about making a feature film…

Well it’s this sort of process. It’s the amount of scrutiny that goes on and all of that. Someone said to me the other day “Were you aware that this film has more potential pitfalls than any film in history?” And you know I feel that people are buying Marilyn and Olivier to the extent they are, that’s something I’m very, very proud of.

What is next for you? Do you have any idea? Are you going to do another feature? With TV, do you have anything you are developing?

I’m developing and meeting a lot of things and it’s certainly given me a hunger to make another film. I think I’ve learned so much from making this one I think that will help me on my next one.

As you said this is your first time going through this process with all of the press and all of the scrutiny and you’ve got to read every stupid review and the whole thing, what do you want the story of this movie to be in that way?

That’s a good point. I think that this young man’s exciting adventure in this film world happens to shine a light on who the real woman was behind the iconic Marilyn, if that makes sense.

Would you ever go back to Monroe as a character or do you think you did it…

Not right now, but never say “never.”

My Week With Marilyn opens on November 23 and 25.

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