Marilyn is this girl's best friend (with video)
By Kathleen Allen
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 01.09.2009
Sunny Thompson most definitely did not want to be Marilyn Monroe. • But thanks to a persistent husband, a primo Monroe impersonator and an actor's curiosity, the platinum hair, luscious lips and heavy-lidded eyes are now part of her. • And Invisible Theatre brings her one-woman show, "Marilyn: Forever Blonde," to the Old Pueblo this weekend.
Sunny Thompson plays Marilyn Monroe in the one-woman show, "Marilyn: Forever Blonde," which Invisible Theatre brings to the Old Pueblo.
Photos by Howard Petrella / Courtesy of Invisible Theatre
Her husband, Greg Thompson, had spent much of the last decade perfecting his script, based on interviews with and writings by Monroe, who died in 1962 from what may or may not have been an accidental suicide.
The last six years of that decade he spent trying to persuade Sunny, an accomplished singer and actress, to take on the role.
"I didn't think I needed to be compared to Marilyn Monroe," said Sunny, explaining why she nixed her husband's idea.
"Nobody ever, ever has come close to what she's done, and they know her everywhere around the world. What did I think I could bring to the character? I didn't need that pressure and that criticism."
But her husband kept after her. Finally, she agreed to do it. But only as an acting exercise.
Then, being a professional, she had to do it right, even if it were just an exercise.
Along the way, she met up with Monroe impersonator Jimmy James.
"I saw a DVD of his Marilyn," recalled Sunny. "I cried when I first saw it. So I asked him to come work with me. He worked with me for a week, walking, talking and makeup. It took eight hours the first time to put on the makeup."
James had gained fame for his Monroe impersonation but was ready to hang up his gown.
"I said if Jimmy said I could do it, I would," said Sunny. "He wouldn't lie to me. At the end, he said he thought I could do it. He passed the torch to me."
Thompson's confidence was strong. She felt her Marilyn was solid.
"Then my husband announced we were going to open on Hollywood Boulevard, and all my confidence melted away."
It shouldn't have. Since that 2007 show in Los Angeles, Sunny has traveled around the country with her Marilyn, and the one-woman show has received glowing reviews.
And she keeps working on perfecting the role.
"I have almost 400 books about her, all of which I've read," said Sunny.
"I have all her films on tape, and every piece of footage of her that we could find — press conferences, outtakes from films when she didn't know the camera was running, and listening to her audio."
In learning Monroe, she also learned to embrace her.
"I love her tremendous kindness," said Sunny. "I really love that about her. She wanted to please the truck driver as well as the millionaire. And she wanted to make her work wonderful — she never stopped trying to make it better.
"I wasn't a real fan when I started. I didn't really know how bright she was, how street-smart and tough. She was funny and smart and insecure and tough all in the same breath."
On StarNet: Watch Sunny Thompson transform herself into Marilyn Monroe: http://videos.azstarnet.com/p/video?id=2788679
● Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at email@example.com or 573-4128.