Witness Anna Nicole Smith’s Meteoric Rise and Tragic Fall
Anna Nicole had it; that indefinable quality that catapults one into a celebrity stratosphere reserved for just a chosen few out of the millions of wannabe actors and models who dare to glimpse it. A big part of her intoxicating allure lay in that she took ownership of her image and sexuality. I never would have imagined, at least in the early years before her downward spiral into addiction, that beneath her glamorous facade was a fragile and lonely girl whose childhood was fraught with sadness. All these aspects of Anna Nicole Smith’s life are powerfully brought to the forefront in the Lifetime Original movie Anna Nicole.
In the film we're introduced to Anna Nicole as a little girl named Vickie Lynn. We see her desperate attempts to detach herself from her emotionally abusive and hardened mother by gazing at a cover photo of Marilyn Monroe on a Life magazine and promising herself that one day she too would be just like Marilyn. Fast forward to being abandoned by her first husband, barely legal herself and saddled with a small baby to care for. Turned away by her own mother, Vickie accepts a job as a stripper, gulps down some Zanax with liquid champagne courage, and teaches herself to strip.
Watching the film I was struck and awed most by the relationship she shared with her son. Throughout the film she seemed to exist solely for him. The most heartbreaking moments in the film were the ones in which her son begs her to get clean, she promises she will, and then is sucked back into the cycle of addiction. Even hearing her son tell her that 'he's embarrassed to call her his mother' was not enough to keep her from pursuing her professional aspirations and seeping deeper into a cyclone of drug abuse to perpetuate that dream.
Agnes Bruckner, the actress who plays Anna Nicole in this film is luminous- she is Vickie Lynn- and then seamlessly transforms herself into Anna Nicole. I was lucky enough to chat with Agnes about what it was like portraying Anna Nicole as she offered some really interesting insight into the role.
Me: How did you become Anna Nicole?
Agnes Bruckner: We worked with a special effects team. There were pushup bras, fat suits, neck and cheek prosthetics and a lot of glue! It took an army to make someone look like that every day. I can’t believe the transformation. What I learned about being Anna Nicole- was that she had no filter. Of course working with Adam Goldberg (who plays her lawyer Howard K. Stern) and Martin Landau (who plays her 89-year-old billionaire husband) - the fact that they are both on top of their game- helped me as an actor. When you have really amazing actors-- its' all about reacting.
Me: There are so many tragic elements to Anna Nicole’s life, which parts inspired you?
Agnes: After doing research- I came to the conclusion that she was surrounded by enablers- and had no family support system. It made me feel felt very fortunate that I have people around me --to help me. She was really inspiring to me in her Guess heyday and in those first interviews, she was so full of life and smiling, there was a real light inside of her.
Me: Was there a section in Anna’s life that you had most fun playing?
Agnes: I really enjoyed filming the scenes with the Dannys -- there was so much love. Her son Danny was her rock- he was the only person in her life who was her mirror; he never lied to her he was always truthful to her. I wasn't afraid of playing her when she was over the top- she was very goofy. I think a lot of times people didn’t see her as human. She loved her kids and she was also an addict, addicts disappoint people. Addicts are not heroes in that way, the darker moments were easier to play- the larger than life moments-- were harder for me as Agnes-- and that’s where Anna shined.
Me: Were you able to discover who she was as a person- there were so many layers of her with drug use- and artifice?
Agnes: After doing research I found out her relationship with her mom was very strained. She never had a father figure and getting married and having a kid so young definitely was hard on her. I'm not a mother but I’m very close with my nephews. I tried to bring that into playing Anna with Danny. Theirs was such a pure love- even when she was going through hard times and relapsed there was always love for him. I think having a child so young and being thrust into a crazy business with no family support system was hard on Anna. Danny and Anna were more like kids together and not like a mother and son. She just wanted to have fun and be happy and loving. You can't really live life that way.
Me: Anna Nicole was scrutinized for marring a man so much her senior—what do you think of their relationship?
Agnes: I really think they had something for each other. He wanted companionship, joy and love and she gave that to him with her charisma. She never had good relationship with her family or a father figure and here was this guy showing her love and caring for her. I think they both came to each other for different reasons.
Me: What do you think led to Anna’s demise?
Agnes: Anna Nicole was surrounded by enablers. She put people in a trance, especially men- there wasn’t any man who wasn’t in her trance- only her son said no to her.
Anna Nicole premieres Saturday, June 29th at 8.7c on Lifetime.