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The Private Practice alum plays the late icon in Anna Nicole, based on the true story of Vickie Lynn Hogan, a pretty but plain girl who grew up in a small Texas town who transforms herself into the voluptuous, Marilyn Monroe-esque Playboy pinup and model.
Also starring in the movie are Martin Landau as Smith’s millionaire husband, J. Howard Marshall; Cary Elwes as his son, E. Pierce Marshall; Virginia Madsen as her mom, Virgie Arthur; and Adam Goldberg as her attorney/confidant, Howard K. Stern.
Ahead of the movie’s premiere at 8 p.m. Saturday, Bruckner talked to The Hollywood Reporter about playing an icon, transforming for the part and the most surprising thing she learned about the late pinup.
The Hollywood Reporter: Anna Nicole Smith is obviously very iconic. What attracted you to the role?
Agnes Bruckner: What attracted me to the role was that the script was so deep and cool and different. … And I met with Mary Harron, the director — I’d always been a big fan of American Psycho [which Harron helmed] — and that really attracted me to the role. We wanted to show people a different side of Anna Nicole that they hadn’t seen before. That was really intriguing to me. It was a chance to do a little more work and research and try to find out why she did some of the things she did. That was the selling point for me, to be able to show a deeper side of her.
THR: What kind of research did you do into her life story?
Bruckner: I was young when she was in her heyday, and I didn’t follow her career, but I was fortunate enough to get a “life packet” from Lifetime of every interview she’d ever done — magazine articles, pictures — and also there is so much of Anna Nicole on YouTube and anywhere you look online.
THR: What did you learn about her while doing your research?
Bruckner: One of the biggest things I noticed about Anna Nicole is the love for life she had. She had a very outgoing personality; she was very bubbly, fun, feminine. So that was kind of completely opposite of me; as Agnes, it was so scary at first [to portray that kind of personality], to be honest. She loved attention and wouldn’t mind if one person was watching or if 50 people were watching. So it was really kind of hard for me to break out of my little nervous shell and be as open as she was to the public. That was the most challenging thing for me. I had to remember that I was playing a character and not being myself and let loose and and let go and be bigger than life, as she was.
THR: Did anything surprise you about her?
Bruckner: One of the biggest things that touched me about Anna Nicole was how she didn’t ever really have a support group or support system. She had a poor relationship with her mother. She got married when she was so young [at age 17, to her first husband, Billy Wayne Smith]. She started stripping and didn’t really have a very strong support system that me, as Agnes, fortunately had. So that was really eye-opening for me and made me understand why she made the choices she did in her life and career.
THR: Judging by the trailer, it looks like the movie takes a pretty dark tone.
Bruckner: There are very dark sides to the movie, and very real sides, but also there’s the beautiful side to her relationship with [son] Danny and her love for life and her soft side. I think that people don’t really think about that when they think about Anna Nicole; she was a good balance of the two things. She had her darker moments but she also had beauty and love.
THR: How much time did you spend in hair and makeup transforming into Anna Nicole?
Bruckner: There were definitely prosthetics involved — wigs and eyelashes and heels and dresses. Definitely a big part of becoming Anna Nicole was the physical transformation. The transformation that they made to help me become Anna Nicole was really amazing. They could not have made me look more like Anna Nicole than they did.
THR: What do you think viewers will take away from the movie?
Bruckner: I think that people who are fans of hers — or who aren’t fans — are going to get the chance to see a completely different side to her. Martin Landau, Adam Goldberg, Virginia Madsen, Cary Elwes — all the cast really wanted to make a different kind of movie and show a side that people might not have thought about.
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