Although Page modeled for only a short period, the poses she struck (in bondage and fetish apparel) caused such a stir that she eventually became the center of a Senate investigation into pornography. To this day, Page still inspires a legion of fans who admire the Tennessee beauty who's considered to be one of the world's most famous pin-ups.
Tackling the Part of Bettie Page: Gretchen Mol admits that playing such an iconic figure was a little scary. "I mean, it was probably the first time that I was ever as involved in a film as I was in this so it was a huge opportunity for me. I took the challenge, and it was such a departure from what I had done. I wasn't sure that I could do it myself when I first got involved.
Initially Mol didnt believe she had a shot at the role. I didn't think that Mary would hire me so I had nothing to lose when I walked into the room in the first place. Then once she was interested in hiring me, it became about proving to the people that would put the money up for the project that I could do it. And I don't blame them. I wouldn't have thought of myself as someone for an original film about Bettie Page.
That whole process was like that from the get-go, and then this film was kind of going to go for a while and then I think that I did another project in between. So there was almost a year or two where I felt attached to this thing and then I felt like it might slip away, but then it finally came back to life. Frankly, just having the lead in a film I really hadn't had that opportunity before.
Gretchen Mols Figure vs. the Real Bettie Page: Mol doesnt believe she would have been able to exactly copy Pages voluptuous body no matter what she did. She had a really healthy '50's figure. But also I remember people asking me if I was going to gain weight. The thing is, if I did gain weight, who's to say that it would've gone to the right places? I couldn't really do that so a lot of it was figuring out how to move my body to look as much like her as I could. The costume designer was brilliant and came up with such great artful patterns, and then it was the magic of film, I think. It was the black and white and all of that.
The Real Bettie Page Never Got Involved with the Film: Mol didnt have the opportunity to meet Page prior to the film but she did know a little about the acclaimed model before taking on the role. Mary [Harron] started writing this, the film, I think about eight years ago. So it was very clear when I got involved that she had tried that avenue and Bettie, for different reasons, wasn't going to be involved and so I had to respect that.
The truth is that I didn't really know much about Bettie Page. I knew the image, the iconic image of the vixen with a whip and the leopard print bathing suits and all of that. Then I had seen an 'E! True Hollywood' biography of her and I remember that at the end, she came on and she was all kind of blacked out. She didn't want anyone to see her today. She wanted them to remember her as she was. Her voice just really struck something in me because she has this really kind of earthy Southern accent and a very melancholic quality to her voice. After looking at all these images where she was so joyful and healthy, I just wondered who this woman was, that there was this dichotomy with her. That proved to be what I found with her when I started getting involved.
Finding the Right Tone: Despite the fact shes posing naked or in bondage apparel, Mol portrays Bettie Page with a certain innocence. It was definitely on the page. It was subtly on the page, explained Mol. Bettie was the one who would look at boots and sort of not know what they were. I had to kind of go and strip away everything that I know about what's on every street corner with the bondage and fetish thing.
You kind of have to look back and realize that this was really the first time that she was seeing this. But I also think that Bettie was able to maintain that kind of innocence because I felt that she had something in her had sort of been halted by those early experiences in her life. It was almost that she was arrested then, and then when she was in front of the camera she was able to kind of tap into that and go to that other place where she could just be purely alive and herself. She was sensual and sexual, but it was innocent and she wasn't sort of playing with any need for anything. It was sort of an innocence, a very childlike quality that she maintained. I did think that it did have a lot to do with probably the abuse that she had suffered.