Anna Nicole Smith made headlines when she died of a prescription overdose in 2007, leaving behind a hot mess of a legacy that included the death of her 20-year-old son Danny from drugs, the undetermined paternity of her infant daughter Dannielynn, and a trial to try to straighten out her affairs and determine who, if anyone, was culpable for her death.
Now, Lifetime Television is taking a look back at the controversial model/TV personality with the premiere of the original movie, “Anna Nicole,” starring Agnes Bruckner in the title role, airing this Saturday night.
“I thought it would be interesting to show how she became that way,” Bruckner said. “I wanted to show both sides of Anna. Make the character human. People saw her as if she wasn’t a real person.”
One of the biggest challenges facing Bruckner, who had previously starred in another reality-based Lifetime movie “The Craigslist Killers,” was transforming her B-cup size breasts to a DD — without surgery. The solution was provided by Academy Award winner Greg Cannom (“Mrs. Doubtfire”), who devised state-of-the-art, gel-filled prosthetic breasts that jiggled almost as if they were the real deal.
“It took a lot of glue,” Bruckner joked with xfinityTV. “We worked with a special-effects team to decide what size we wanted the boobs to be because we didn’t want them to be ridiculously large. We wanted people focusing more on the story than on her boobs. The first day, it took 3-½ hours [for the makeup artists to glue them on], but we got it down to 1-½ hours, which is amazing.”
Watch an Extended Preview of Lifetime’s “Anna Nicole”:
There was more to the transformation than bust size. Bruckner also dyed her brown hair platinum blonde, but still needed to use hairpieces and wigs for the more Marilyn Monroe-look they employ in the movie — and then there were the false eyelashes.
Other than an awareness of Anna Nicole’s appearance, Bruckner says she wasn’t familiar with any of the aspects of Anna Nicole’s life prior to landing the role, so she did a lot of research watching video interviews and reading magazine features on the late model. The one thing she didn’t do was speak with anyone who knew Anna Nicole, including Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead.
“I wasn’t around in her heyday,” Bruckner says. “I remember my mom really following her story, but I never did. After doing all the research and filling in the missing pieces, I really got protective of her. Some of these videos that you see of her, where she is on drugs, or the clown makeup video was very heartbreaking to me, especially because I was becoming her in a way. I wanted to reach out and shake her and tell her, ‘Stop doing this.’”
Bruckner’s favorite aspect of playing Anna Nicole was working with the three actors who played Anna Nicole’s son Danny at various stages — Luke Donaldson (young Danny), Caleb Barwick (middle), and Graham Patrick Martin (oldest).
“It was such a special relationship and there was so much love,” she says. “I think he was her rock, and her best friend at the end of the day. He was like her mirror. He never lied to her. He was always truthful with her. We had a lot of fun with the actors, who were unbelievable. These kids were so professional. They really made Danny a loveable, genuine, special character.”
Roles like Anna Nicole, which cover a lifetime and run the gamut of emotions from A to Z, are a big challenge for an actress, but as much as that makes them thrilling, it is also a scary enterprise and Bruckner admits to having anxiety attacks.
“I had about two weeks to do research, then I went to Atlanta and I had another week there. It was such a challenging role for me. I never played a character like this before, so I really had to step back and tell myself, ‘It is going to be okay,’” she says. “After we started working with the makeup and hair team, wardrobe and we did camera tests and actually saw what I was going to look like, and I worked with the voice coach and got together with [director] Mary Harron, all these things came together and put me at ease. We really found her, I think.”
“Anna Nicole” premieres on Saturday, June 29 at 8/7c on Lifetime Television.