Jessica Lange Told PEOPLE in 1977 Being Compared to Marilyn Monroe ‘Upsets’ Her — Here’s Why

After her film debut in 1976's 'King Kong,' producer Dino De Laurentiis called Lange "the next Marilyn Monroe"

<p>Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty; Bettmann Archive</p> Jessica Lange and Marilyn Monroe

Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty; Bettmann Archive

Jessica Lange and Marilyn Monroe

Jessica Lange has played a few icons over the course of her career, from Frances Farmer in 1982’s Frances (a role which earned the star her first Academy Award nomination) and Patsy Cline in 1985’s Sweet Dreams (another Oscar nod for that one) to Joan Crawford in the 2017 limited television series Feud: Bette and Joan (Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, naturally).

Along the way, she’s become a two-time Oscar-winning icon in her own right — a fate famed Italian film producer Dino De Laurentiis seemingly predicted from the very start of her career, when he compared her to none other than the blonde bombshell to rule them all.

“Dino said I’m going to be the next Marilyn Monroe,” Lange told PEOPLE in a January 1977 cover story around the time of her film debut in De Laurentiis and director John Guillermin’s audacious 1976 remake of King Kong.

<p>Dino De Laurentis Company/Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty</p> Jessica Lange in 1976's 'King Kong'

Dino De Laurentis Company/Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty

Jessica Lange in 1976's 'King Kong'

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As Lange recalled recently, back in the mid-'70s, she was working as a waitress in New York City and taking acting classes on the side, when someone suggested she sign up with a modeling agency. She took that advice, and while she says she never actually got any modeling work, De Laurentiis did contact her agency looking for models who were also aspiring actresses. She was sent to Los Angeles for an audition, and ended up landing the role of damsel-in-distress Dwan in the producer’s modern retelling of the classic 1933 monster movie.

Lange’s character, of course, was an update of the role played by Fay Wray — another screen icon into whose shoes she stepped — in the original, and as Barbara Wilkins noted in the 1977 PEOPLE profile, critics likened Lange “to a smaller Margaux Hemingway, a taller Tuesday Weld, an Eva Marie Saint ‘under the influence of Spanish fly’ or the next Carole Lombard.”

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But while Lange went on to play several film and music legends — and, as she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, still hopes to play Marlene Dietrich in a biopic she’s been developing — early in her career, she bristled at the thought of being likened to Monroe.

“That really upsets me,” she said of De Laurentiis’s comparison in 1977. “She was a tragic figure who led a tragic life and who wasn’t taken as the serious artist she was. I don’t want to compete with her memory or with anyone.”

<p>Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty</p> Jessica Lange at the 1977 Golden Globes

Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty

Jessica Lange at the 1977 Golden Globes

Nearly 50 years later, Lange says she doesn’t recall that comment. “I don't have that memory of myself,” she told PEOPLE recently, adding that she’d have to revisit the 1977 cover story sometime.

Related: Jessica Lange Calls Mother Play with Jim Parsons and Celia Keenan-Bolger 'One of the Great Joys of My Life'

She does, however, share other memories of filming King Kong in this week’s issue of PEOPLE.

“We shot for nine months and we'd have a lot of downtime,” she recalls. “I spent a great deal of that schedule shooting by myself on a green screen and in a hydraulic giant gorilla hand. And [my costar Charles] Grodin said to me, ‘This isn’t what movies are like. When you finish this one, just remember there’ll never be another, nothing like this.’ And it was [true]. Maybe it was good that I had no other experience. I just did it because I was naive, and I didn’t know any different, I guess.”

<p>Taylor Hill/Getty</p> Jessica Lange at the 2024 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Taylor Hill/Getty

Jessica Lange at the 2024 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

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And she’s clearly gotten over her fear of being compared to other influential women. While she’s currently starring on Broadway in Paula Vogel’s Tony-nominated Mother Play, she also recently starred as Broadway legend Lillian Hall in HBO’s The Great Lillian Hall.

“Every era in someone’s life,” Lange says, “it’s important to find what still fascinates you.”

Read more with Lange in PEOPLE's latest issue, on newsstands now.

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Read the original article on People.