“I was definitely intimidated, nervous and insecure,” admits Agnes Bruckner of taking on the title role in Lifetime’s “Anna Nicole Story,” debuting Saturday, June 29. “She was so huge and so iconic. It really freaked me out when I read the script.”
The Hollywood-born actress, best-known up ‘til now for her work in “Private Practice” and films such as the chillers “The Woods,” “Blood and Chocolate” and “The Craigslist Killer,” is used to tomboyish, girl-next-door roles. Playing the late, larger-than-life sex bomb was a whole different world. As the doomed centerfold, she is stunning on several levels – particularly appearance. Becoming Anna Nicole involved as much as four hours in makeup a day. She had Double D breast prosthetics that were designed by three-time Oscar-winner Greg Cannon of “Mrs. Doubtfire” fame — and took three hours to attach. Bruckner admits that experience was “freaky.”
Her looks include Anna in her pre-stripper, natural state as Vickie Lynn; Anna the bombshell; Anna in her Marilyn Monroe-esque mode; and Anna the hot mess.
“My ‘Team Anna’ – they were unbelievable,” Bruckner says. “The makeup and hair gave me so much more confidence. They did such an amazing job. Looking at myself that first day, I could feel myself start to act like her. I definitely felt a sense of letting go through the shoot. The biggest challenge for me was letting go and throwing myself into Anna Nicole 100 per cent. She was so girlie and sexy and had out-of-this-world charisma and energy. There was something about her – you couldn’t take your eyes off her.”
The team had iPads full of images of Anna Nicole at the ready throughout the production. “We would say, ‘What year was this? What decade was this? Was she sober or not? There was such a visual record, we could keep track of exactly how she looked at a given time.”
Also helpful to Bruckner, “So much of her life is on the internet. You can find all kinds of interviews and clips.”
According to her, the production team did not get in touch with people who’d been in Anna Nicole’s life for the film. However, she stresses that the movie, directed by Canadian filmmaker Mary Harron (screenwriter of “American Psycho” and “The Notorious Bettie Page”), does delve into “the very vulnerable side of [Anna] that people don’t know. People will see how she grew up, her relationship with her mom. It’s defensive of her,” she believes.
There is a sweetness about Anna Nicole’s relationship with her 89-year-old billionaire oil tycoon husband, J. Howard Marshall (Martin Landau) as depicted in the film. However, it starts with a sort of teeth-grittingly hilarious sequence that includes the old boy getting his first look at Anna’s outsized breasts in all their unbounded glory and reacting with a joyous awe worthy of walking through Heaven’s Gate.
“Working with Martin Landau was one of the best experiences of my career. He’s a true gentleman,” notes Bruckner. “Every time on the set, he would tell stories of the work he’s done. He’s so amazing. He brought out the sensitive, loving side of J. Howard.”
For all the brilliant work that went into her look, it’s interesting – but expected – that Bruckner never looks as bad as the real Anna Nicole looked in her worst phases, as she down-spiraled into the horrific pill dependency that would eventually cost her her life. The inexorable trip toward her disastrous final days is hard to watch. Bruckner does pull a compelling characterization out of what could have been a complete caricature, something that could easy be overlooked in the media race to utilize every boob pun possible in reference to this movie.
Now Bruckner awaits response to the movie and to her work in it. She already has another project on the way – her “The Citizen” independent feature has been picked up for distribution. Carey Elwes, who in “Anna Nicole” plays Marshall’s son, E. Pierce Marshall – the one memorably hell-bent on preventing Anna Nicole from getting a dime of his father’s fortune – also costars in “The Citizen.” It involves an Arab immigrant who arrives in New York City on September 10, 2001 – “and starts this crazy journey.” It couldn’t be much crazier than “Anna Nicole’s.”