With four Oscar nominations and one win behind her, Jennifer Lawrence has proved herself to be an immensely talented and versatile actress. Her most fruitful collaboration has been with David O'Russell, winning a nomination every time she works with him, his freewheeling films allowing her explosive talent to flourish. Whilst O'Russell is not attached to the upcoming Marita, one of the screenwriters, Eric Warren Singer, of American Hustle has been employed to adapt the story of Marita Lorenz' ridiculous life. With so much material to cover, one wonders how it will all fit into a tidy narrative feature, or if its multitudinous sprawl will require an epic approach to storytelling.
With Marita Lorenz, it is difficult to separate the fact from fiction; although her stories are based somewhat on historical events, she seems to have an immense capacity for invention and hyperbole. An FBI report from 1980 seems to describe her in such terms: “Lorenz has provided information in the past, some of which is reliable, however, she does have a tendency to exaggerate.” What follows will be an account of her life gleamed both from what can be verified and from what she claims. It may not all be 'true', but it sure makes for an amazing story.
Survivor Of Belsen
Marita Lorenz was born in Germany in August 18, 1939 to an American woman and a German father. A mere couple of weeks after her birth World War II was instigated by the German invasion, leading to her father being sent to work in the navy and her mother, Alice Lofland, to rebel and work for the British as a spy. Alice would work on and off in intelligence her whole life, proving clear inspiration to her daughter. She was caught and for her mother's sins, Marita was sent to the nightmarish Bergen-Belsen concentration camp for children. The family survived the war, but Lorenz was later raped by an American soldier outside Bremerhaven. She was only seven years old.
They moved to Manhattan in 1950.
Affair With Castro
Not content with a normal childhood, Lorenz accompanied her father as he captained luxury liners around the Americas for several years. It was on one fateful day in February 1959 that the Berlin stopped in Havana. One of the men to greet them was Fidel Castro, who had only been Prime Minister for less than two weeks. She was attracted to him immediately. When he came into her cabin two hours later while she was getting dressed, she did not resist his advances:
"He was the sweetest, tenderest. I guess nobody ever forgets their first lover"
Mere days later, back in New York, she was depressed, so he sent over his private plane to go pick her up. She would live in Castro's hotel room in the Hilton as his mistress. It was in the hotel she first became acquainted with Frank Sturgis, a double agent working both for Castro and the C.I.A. He would later become famous for his role in Watergate. He recruited her as a spy, a role perfectly suited for a young girl who wanted to live a glamorous, jet-setting life.
Lorenz claims she and Castro had a child together, named Andre Vasquez. She claims not to have known of this kids existence until many years later. Other sources report either an abortion or miscarriage, or that she adopted a child. At the time in 1959, she recalls being drugged, possibly due to poison intended for Castro, and waking up in a doctor's office in Cuba, being told the child was aborted before being sent back to the States. Angry at the way Castro had cheated her, she obtained a job for C.I.A. through Sturgis. Her first assignment: assassinating the Cuban dictator.
After a quick hop back and forth, which according to F.B.I reports was under the guise of looking after an "adopted child", Marita was sent to Cuba to kill him for good. She was given two small capsules that she was supposed to slip into his drink, apparently killing him in thirty seconds. Yet when the plane landed in Cuba, she knew she couldn't do it. He knew she was there to kill him. He didn't mind. They made love instead.
She returned to the USA just a few days later. He would be the first in a many long line of lovers, some notable, most of them disposable, all of them reprobable in some way.
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Affair With Jiménez
It was working with the C.I.A in Miami in conjunction with anti-Castro groups that she met the exiled dictator of Venezuela Marcos Pérez Jiménez, who had gotten away from the country with vast amounts of stolen money. Because one dictator isn't enough, she fell in love with him too. A month later she was pregnant. Again. Her daughter Monica was born in March, 1962. Despite Jiménez's vast wealth, scheming on behalf of his lawyer David Walters made sure that she never got a cent of his money. When he was extradited back to Venezeula for five easy years in prison, she was left broke and alone
Apparent Involvement in The Kennedy Assassination
She wanted to kill Walters, but was convinced not to by Sturgis. She went back to gun-running instead. It was in the summer of 1962 at a training camp she met a guy called 'Ozzie', better known as Lee Harvey Oswald, who before he apparently killed Kennedy, worked with both pro and anti-Castro groups. In a testament that has been disproven by official records she claims to have gotten in a car with Sturgis, Oswald and others on a car journey from Miami to Dallas carrying guns necessary for Kennedy's assassination.
Along the way she (bizarrely) met Jack Ruby, who of course, became famous for murdering Oswald. She got in a fight with Ruby, had had enough of being there, and asked Sturgis for fare money home. The next day Kennedy was killed. She would spend the next twenty years in and out of court being investigated for any potential involvement, of which no concrete evidence was found. With so many people apparently being involved in the Kennedy assassination, Lorenz's account doesn't even get a mention on the vast Kennedy Assassination Wikipedia page.
Stuck In The Jungle!
Six months after the whole Kennedy thing, she decided to go see Jiménez again and explain how his lawyer screwed her over with regards to her entitlement to his wealth. When she got there she was put in jail, and could only talk to him through the wall. Always known for her naivety, upon release she was offered a sight-seeing tour of Venezuela by two special agents. They flew her to a remote part of the rainforest, and when pretending to go get her bags, legged it and left her to survive in the jungle by herself and her two year old daughter. She had to fend for herself for a soul-crushing nine months, flagging down any plane flying overhead she could see.
In 1973 Watergate happened, and involved many of the same players Lorenz was associated with, most notably her old friend Frank Sturgis. When he got out of jail he decided to tell the press everything about his time as a double agent, most notably his involvement in the attempt on Castro's life. Naturally, and much to her consternation, Lorenz was implicated. Despite getting a $320,000 advance for a book regarding the story, Lorenz claims that there were multiple attempts on her life, including a suspicious hit-and-run, a mysterious fire in her apartment, and an apparent poisoning.
When she moved to Connecticut to get away from the heat, her house was shot down by automatic gunfire. In 1977, her mother died from unknown causes, something Lorenz claims was a deliberate assassination by the C.I.A. stemming from her knowing too much. In the will, her mother left a photo of her son Andre, her lovechild from Fidel Castro. He was alive, and lived in Cuba.
Seeing Fidel And Her Son Again
Panicked, harried and fearing for her life, claiming that she was being constantly monitored by the FBI, she went to the Cuban mission in New York, and was granted a visa to go to Havana in 1981. She was met by a grey-haired Castro, who allowed her to see her son:
"I just looked, and, my God, it’s alive. It’s real. My God, it’s mine. It’s got my mouth, my eyes. Oh, God, it’s got Fidel’s nose. The first thing I noticed was his white, white skin and Fidel’s curly hair. And I started to cry."
After spending the night with Castro, she had breakfast with her son. That would be the last time she ever saw him. She went to Cuba one more time in 1988 but her son was posted at that time in Nicaragua.
The Vanity Fair article written about her in 1992 describes her as "depressed", having "few relationships other than those with her children, a neighbor, and some “ops” from the old days." Yet in 1993, she finally published her autobiography, entitled Marita: One Woman's Extraordinary Tale of Love and Espionage from Castro to Kennedy. It was lauded by Kirkus Reviews, describing it as:
"the wild—if nearly incredible—adventures of a new Jane Bond"
Why Jennifer Lawrence Is Perfect
When this story makes it to the big screen it surely has the potential to be an incredible tale of love, loss and espionage, with a whole load of conspiracy thrown in there too. Lawrence has a history of playing off-kilter yet determined women, making her the perfect choice as Marita Lorenz. She may have to work on her German accent, but given her track record, there isn't much that she can't do.
A clever approach to the story would be telling it exactly as Lorenz says it happens, with all the knotty contradictions working together into a compelling character study. If it captures the flavor of the era well, filtering historical epochs through the experience of one woman, it could end up being very Academy-friendly and worthy of extreme critical buzz. I, for one, can't wait for it to hit the big screen!
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