Wednesday 03 Sep 2014
Freddie Fox plays pop star Marilyn, and though he was not born until after the Eighties he soon became fascinated by the era and the characters.
"When I started to research Marilyn, which I did for the audition, I thought: 'I have to play this guy' – he's so bizarre, rude, cool, gutsy, funny, you sort of want to be around him. He's magnetic, but so different to me, so I was desperate to get it."
Becoming Marilyn involved a long transformation process, with the production's hair and make-up supervisor Donald – who has been a long-time friend of George's – creating the iconic look. Freddie wasn't the only one excited to see it take shape.
"It's a make-up test I will never ever forget, a screaming Donald, enormously excited, as piece by piece the puzzle – which was my face – became built. As the fake eyelashes go on and the lipstick, it's like you create the character. As the make-up and the wig go on, the character sort of comes with it.
"I felt probably like my sister [Silent Witness actress Emilia Fox] feels almost every day she's on location, which was nice so I could compare facts and figures with her about the difference in blusher and toner, which I might never be able to do again!"
Along with swapping make-up tips, Freddie has shared the journey of Marilyn with his older sister, who has been a sounding board for preparing for the role. "Mils and I have a very close relationship. After I read the script just before I did my recall I sat down with Mils and said, 'help!' And we just talked it through, and she just occasionally dropped me a hint – how to pout properly, certainly we did a bit of pouting lessons with each other!
"We talked a lot about it, and I would send her a new picture almost every day of me in a different costume, or a different wig, and she would send me texts back with plenty of laughs and 'omgs', and 'lols'!"
People have also commented on the physical resemblance between brother and sister, something which Freddie has ribbed his sister about. "I basically tease her permanently that I'm more beautiful than she is as a woman. Which I don't think is really true!"
Once the make-up, hair and clothes were in place, there was another aspect to Marilyn's appearance that Freddie had to master – the high heels. He describes it as "an arduous task, to say the very least!"
"The way Marilyn walked, the way he moved his shoulders, it was a parody of Marilyn Monroe. I watched the real Marilyn Monroe, you know in Some Like It Hot, watching how she walked. The mission statement of walking in heels was for me was that Jack Lemon quote 'Jello on springs'."
As well as looking at footage of Marilyn online, Freddie has been lucky enough to talk to some of Marilyn's friends from the era, who gave him an insight into his character. From his research and these insights Freddie sums Marilyn up succinctly as a "magnetic bitch".
"I have this image of him like a beautifully preening wasp sat on a throne. When I had lunch with [Culture Club drummer] Jon Moss he described Marilyn like that. He was incredibly beautiful. When all the boys would come up to him in the club thinking he was a woman they'd say 'what's your name', and he'd say 'Marilyn'. And they'd say, 'no, what's your real name' and he'd say 'Norma Jean'!.
"And somehow he'd manage to get them home, get all their money out of them, get dinner, get everything paid for him, and then just when they were getting to what they wanted, he'd say 'all right, see you later', and walk out the door.
"So to me he was that kind of magnetic, beautiful, sensual, rude, brash, abrasive, and five-star bitch that everyone wanted to be around, because he was so cutting and wonderful and witty."
Marilyn and George were good friends in the era in the film, and were both part of the Blitz Club scene. Freddie says of their relationship: "There's enormous love between them, and enormous rivalry I think. Those are the two keystones.
"You see them both at the very bottom, being broken-hearted and let down, and you see the love comes from the other one where they try and pick the other back up – 'come on darling, let's go in and have a cup of tea', that kind of thing. But at the same time Marilyn still felt 100% entitled to be more famous and better and more loved than George because he was more beautiful."
Like many of the Worried About The Boy cast, Freddie listened to a lot of music from the decade to get himself into the Eighties mood. He was wary of being too sentimental about the Eighties, however, as he explains: "I think George said it to be honest, everybody now looks back at the Eighties and goes 'oh how wonderful it was', whereas at the time everyone was all, 'oh this is a crap old sack of shit, this era'! Now we look back on it through rose-tinted glasses.
"But I love a lot of the music of the Eighties. I mean, a lot of it is crap, but I listened to all that old Culture Club stuff, and even some of Marilyn's first songs, and the potential soundtrack of the film before we started shooting, and I loved it. You just can't resist really getting into it.
"I remember we did a Top Of The Pops scene to a big old Status Quo track and I cannot remember having enjoyed a dance song, a disco dance number, so much! I think when it all comes on my friends are gonna give me a hard time for getting myself off to Status Quo!"
Coming from an acting dynasty (his father is esteemed actor Edward Fox), Freddie is keen to create his own career path and to take on a variety roles that he can make his own.
As he explains "My family are so supportive of me and love the fact that I'm playing a drag queen! It's very early days but I love what I'm doing, and I think Marilyn's really confirmed that."