Who Are Mr. Z and Mr. Shinn in Blonde? Are They Based on Real People?

Netflix’s period film ‘Blonde’ is a semi-fictionalized account of the legendary Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. The film, directed by Andrew Dominik, traces Monroe’s emergence as a Hollywood actress and her journey to become one of the most celebrated stars in the industry. When Monroe tries to find her footing in Hollywood, Mr. Z, one of the influential studio executives working in the industry, offers her a chance.

When Monroe meets Mr. Z, he ends up raping her in his office. Another significant figure in her early Hollywood days is Mr. Shinn, who is nothing but her godfather in the world of cinema. Since both of them rewrite Monroe’s fate, the viewers must be eager to know about the real-life counterpart of the two characters. Well, let us share what we know!

Who is Mr. Z? Is He Based on a Real Person?

In ‘Blonde,’ Mr. Z is a high-ranking official of “The Studio,” where she kickstarts her Hollywood career. When Monroe meets him concerning a movie role, Mr. Z leads her to a private space in his office and rapes her. Mr. Z can allegedly be modeled after Darryl F. Zanuck, the co-founder of 20th Century Pictures, Inc., the studio which gave Monroe a standard 6-month contract that paved the way for her emergence in Hollywood. “All I had to do, Mr. Zanuck said, was to trust him. He would do everything that was best for me and help me to become a big star for the studio,” Monroe wrote about him in her autobiography ‘My Story.’

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Zanuck was an alleged abuser who reportedly took advantage of his authority as a studio head/executive to abuse actresses who had been working for his company. “He [Zanuck] was not serious about any of the women. To him, they were merely pleasurable breaks in the day – like polo, lunch, and practical jokes,” Marlys Harris wrote in his book ‘The Zanucks of Hollywood: The Dark Legacy of a Hollywood Dynasty,’ which unravels the history of the studio executive and his alleged condemnable actions.

As per Harris’ book, Zanuck had a small part in his office suite where he allegedly abused the actresses as Mr. Z does in the film. According to Harris, Zanuck’s actions weren’t a secret. “Anyone at the studio knew of the afternoon trysts,” the writer added in the book. However, the implication that Zanuck raped Monroe may not be true. Pulitzer Prize-finalist author Anthony Summers, who wrote ‘Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe,’ couldn’t find any evidence that Zanuck raped Monroe even after seemingly interviewing 700 people for his book.

Who is Mr. Shinn? Is He Based on a Real Person?

In the film, Monroe gets established in Hollywood with the help of Mr. Shinn, who leads her to movie roles and controls her professional persona. Mr. Shinn’s influence is also present in Monroe’s approach toward media. The character is allegedly a fictionalized version of Johnny Hyde, a prominent talent agent who worked in Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s. Hyde discovered Monroe when the latter was a model in 1949.

The talent agent, who was the Vice-President of William Morris Agency at the time, signed Monroe as a client and helped her secure a contract with 20th Century Fox. According to Donald Spoto’s ‘Marilyn Monroe: The Biography,’ Hyde “was desperately in love” upon meeting Monroe for the first time. However, the actress reportedly didn’t reciprocate the feelings. “From the night he met Marilyn, Johnny Hyde became a victim of a fierce sexual obsession for this new, formidably young mistress. For her part, Marilyn loved Johnny as if he were her lost father,” Spoto wrote in his book.

The author added, “Within weeks, Johnny was devoting virtually his entire professional and personal time to her [Monroe].” As per ‘Marilyn Monroe: The Biography,’ Hyde allegedly left his wife to marry Monroe but his aspiration didn’t get materialized. “I’m not going to live long, Marilyn. Marry me and you’ll be a very rich woman,” he told her, as per Spoto’s book. Their relationship didn’t last long since he died in 1950, at the age of 55, reportedly due to a heart attack after suffering from heart disease for a while.

As per Spoto’s book, Monroe talked about Hyde in 1955. She reportedly said, “I don’t know that any man ever loved me so much. Every guy I’d known seemed to want only one thing from me. Johnny wanted that, too, but he wanted to marry me, and I just couldn’t do it. Even when he [Hyde] was angry with me for refusing, I knew he never stopped loving me, never stopped working for me.”

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