It’s after 9 p.m. in Prague and Ana de Armas, who appears on our 2023 Hollywood cover, has every right to be exhausted. She’s in the middle of filming for the action-packed John Wick spin-off, Ballerina, in which she stars as a dancer turned assassin out for revenge. But when the Cuba-born actor logs onto a Zoom with Vanity Fair—to discuss her turbulent portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik’s Blonde and her plan to get more hands-on through producing—she’s got the energy of someone brimming with ambition. “I’m looking for projects where I don’t feel like I’m on autopilot,” de Armas says. “I want to work hard because it’s fun, it’s what I love to do, and it’s the only way to get better.” Excerpts from a conversation about Hollywood, old and new.
Ana de Armas: There was a lot there that I could relate to. If you put Marilyn Monroe “the movie star” aside, she’s just an actress trying to navigate life and this system, which is so hard to navigate for anybody. On top of that, you add this point of view of Andrew’s, which was to see that through her trauma. I truly thought it was going to do justice to a more dimensional human being, because I wouldn’t want to be remembered just for one thing. I am more than just an actress on the cover of a magazine.
Does Hollywood still produce movie stars like Marilyn?
I feel like the new generations don’t have that concept, because of social media. There is so much information out there and oversharing. The concept of a movie star is someone untouchable you only see onscreen. That mystery is gone. For the most part, we’ve done that to ourselves—nobody’s keeping anything from anyone anymore.
Did Blonde’s portrayal of the entertainment business make you reconsider what it’s like to work in Hollywood?
Oh, yeah, for sure. The sad part for me—and the most challenging—is to see not only what happened in the ’40s and ’50s and ’60s but to see patterns continue to happen. It’s definitely made me more protective of myself and set boundaries and know my limits for how much I’m willing to give—and how much I want to keep to myself. But at the same time, it clearly is a place where incredible opportunities happen. I’m very grateful to be working in the industry.
Has deleting social media helped you set those boundaries?
Yeah, at this point I only have Instagram, and I barely use it because I just feel like things are always wrong on social media. If it was up to me, I would delete Instagram right now, but I can’t. I understand that I’m not just an actress. I have other brands that I’m working with and I have other commitments. It’s been good for Blonde and for films that I want to talk about. It’s tricky because you feel the pressure to share some personal insight, or something about your private life, to keep people interested in you. You have to find a balance somehow, which I find very difficult.
What was it like to face so much scrutiny during the period after you broke out with Knives Out but before your other projects were released?
The pandemic was horrible for everyone. In any other city, people were just hanging out with their families or bored at home or walking their dogs. The problem in LA is that, I guess, they were so bored that all they had to do was scrutinize someone else’s daily life. It was kind of frustrating that my work wasn’t coming out—Bond got delayed three times and then Blonde wasn’t coming out either. But also, I was working nonstop, literally one thing after the other, and that was good.
Have you been getting different calls since Blonde came out?
After Bond, there was kind of a wave of all these action roles, and that was fun. I chose from the ones that I thought were more exciting or with people I wanted to work with. I feel like Ballerina is going to be the end of that, at least for now, because I’m craving a wave of Blonde-type films. I want to do work with directors and do character work. I have had the opportunity to meet directors that I want to work with. The people that I’m getting access to is changing, and that makes me very excited.
You’ve started producing and getting more involved in the projects you work on—including helping bring on Emerald Fennell as a writer on Ballerina. How has that changed your experience as an actor?
Once I get to set to film, I’m an actress and I just want to focus on that, and I want to enjoy that part. But in the making of a film, sometimes the director wants the actors to be involved, but it’s not a given. So having a place as a producer at least guarantees that you have a voice and you are in the conversation.
On Ballerina, it was important that I got a great script. At the beginning, when I met with Len [Wiseman, the director], I said, ‘we need a pass with a female writer,’ and that was great. What I liked about that is they heard what I said, and what I requested was done for all of our benefit. And now we’ve got a really cool script with a female touch and then Len’s side, which is also very smart.
Is there anything you haven’t been able to do that you still want to try?
I’d like to keep doing exactly what I’m doing. Producing, maybe finding a small story and actually doing a full production of that film. I don’t want to have to jump from job to job to job. I feel like I’ve been going at such a fast pace. That’s been good, but I want to find a better schedule to combine the things that I want to do and time to brainstorm and create my own things. That’s my goal for the next couple of years, not slowing down but slowing down to do more. [Laughs.] Does that make sense?
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.