Agnes Bruckner — star of the Lifetime biopic Anna Nicole, about the famous Playboy Playmate, Texas native and reality TV train wreck — doesn’t look very much like Anna Nicole Smith in real life.
Bruckner has a “tomboyish frame,” and she was a brunette when she auditioned for the role.
To look the part in the movie, which premieres at 7 p.m. Saturday, the actress would sit with a team of makeup artists for up to four hours every day.
That included the daily application of special-effects DD-size breasts — or, as Bruckner calls them, “fake fake breasts.”
“It is definitely movie magic, the transformation that I went through to become Anna,” Bruckner says. “The first time I saw myself in the mirror, it just blew me away, because there was no CGI involved. It was all real.”
Well, genuinely false anyway.
Bruckner endured the extensive makeover sessions because she felt it was essential to look as close as possible to how people remember the voluptuous blonde.
An actor can’t play Abraham Lincoln, after all, without the beard and stovepipe hat. And an actress evidently can’t convincingly portray Anna Nicole Smith without there being countless cleavage shots.
The real Anna Nicole
After that was achieved, however, Bruckner was able to focus on her real goal, which was to capture the essence of Smith and to discover what made her tick (until her drug-related death in 2007).
“I definitely didn’t want to make her into some kind of caricature or, for the entire length of the movie, show only the crazier and more outrageous moments of Anna Nicole’s life,” Bruckner says. “I don’t think it’s fun to watch a movie where it’s all one shade like that.
“I wanted to show all the ups and the downs, and I think we accomplished that.”
It’s not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s not Bruckner’s fault. It’s more because Anna Nicole chronicles a life that wasn’t especially well-lived to begin with.
In the movie, after all, Anna Nicole states that her greatest ambition is to become famous and to be remembered. The problem was that she didn’t particularly care how she achieved that goal.
“I think she had a lot of pain and a lot of turmoil within herself that she couldn’t really handle on her own,” Bruckner says. “And she was constantly surrounded by enablers. When you don’t have a strong support system of family, friends, people in your career, it can be very difficult.
“The only choice she had in her mind, evidently, was drugs and alcohol. And unfortunately that’s what ended her life. It’s heartbreaking.”
The movie dutifully covers all the major moments, good and bad: a troubled childhood in Mexia; teenage marriage and motherhood; stripping to make a living; winning the heart of leering oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall (62 years her senior); becoming Playboy’s 1993 Playmate of the Year and the model for Guess jeans; morphing into a showbiz has-been; further trashing her public image in her own E! reality TV show, The Anna Nicole Show; waging a long and fruitless legal battle over the late Marshall’s billions (a case that went to the Supreme Court); the drug-overdose death of her son, Daniel; and finally her own death months later at age 39.
“She had an interesting life, and we wanted to show a side that people didn’t necessarily pay attention to,” Bruckner says. “It’s easy to judge people right away and to say, ‘Oh, she was an alcoholic, she was a druggie, she was crazy,’ but we wanted to show why she made the choices she made in her career and in her personal life.
“I think that’s relevant, because there are many people out there, not just Anna Nicole, who struggle with some of the same problems, like heartbreak and addiction. I hope that people not only enjoy the movie, but also learn a little about her and maybe gain a little empathy.”