It took five wigs and a ton of lipstick swatching.
When Netflix unveiled the first trailer for Blonde this summer, the internet went wild over how much the film's star Ana de Armas resembled Marilyn Monroe.
The highly anticipated film by Andrew Dominick is based on Joyce Carol Oates's 2000 novel of the same name and explores the troubled star's identities of her stage persona and her given name, Norma Jeane Mortenson. And the lead up to its release has been just as controversial as the blonde bombshell. Blonde made headlines for receiving Netflix's first-ever NC-17 rating and there were rumors of reshoots and revisions on Instagram account DeuxMoi.
Internet noise aside, the film provides a hauntingly dark and personal look at the iconic star, thanks in no small part to de Armas successfully embodying Monroe. The entire process of transforming the actress into the iconic blonde took two to three hours every day during shoot. Ahead, Blonde's hair department head, Jaime Leigh McIntosh, and makeup department head, Tina Roseler Kerwin, share the full details on what went into transforming de Armas into Monroe.
The Photo Research
After reviewing the script, the team went to work figuring out which of Monroe's iconic looks they had to recreate. Given there are many photos of the star, they spent pre-shoot days studying as many as 36 images of a single look, and partaking in a ton of trial and error to get each one just right. However, it was vital that the hair and makeup didn't read as de Armas wearing a Monroe costume.
"One of the first things that Andrew [Dominick] said to me is that I can't put Marilyn's makeup on Ana; I have to transform Ana," Kerwin tells InStyle. "So it was important to find the little tweaks that would make it more Ana. It just took us a little trial and error."
The Hair Color
Iconic is the only word that adequately describes Monroe's platinum blonde hair. The hairstyles in the film were created using five wigs by L.A.-based wigmaker Rob Pickens under the direction of McIntosh.
When dyeing the wigs, it was important to land on a bright blonde shade that was also complimentary to de Armas's skin tone. Two shades were also created to represent Norma Jeane's darker hair.
"We had a brunette Norma Jeane, we had a very golden blonde Norma Jeane, and both were customized," McIntosh says. "They were store-bought and [we] customized the front to have the Marilyn hairline. Then, I had two creamy blondes that we see a lot in the film; just two different lengths of those that were set with wet rollers. And then we had our platinum wig that you see mainly towards the end of the film."
A half bald cap prosthetic was the real key to making the wigs look believable. "Because of the fine detail and the lightness of the hairline on those wigs, there was just no other way to hide Ana's dark hair, McIntosh says. "We just had to completely erase Ana's hairline and the depth that was under there."
"Jaime Lee had figured out before I got there that the blonde wigs didn't work going straight on her hair. So, there was a bald cap that was basically the front part of her hair," Kerwin adds. "There was a prosthetic for transparency and durability so we could unglue and re-glue the wigs as needed."
Once they decided to use the prosthetic, the team realized de Armas's naturally full, dark eyebrows would need to be altered, too. "As soon as she put the wig on, we knew we had to change her eyebrows," Kerwin shares. "We turned to an eyebrow specialist to minimize and bleach her brows the first time, then we would do the upkeep during shooting. Jamie Leigh would mix the color and we'd re-bleach them every couple of days."
The Hair Texture
"When we were doing research for the wigs, we had to consider Marilyn's hair texture," McIntosh says. "We had to find images of her natural texture that had not been styled, just so we had the correct foundation and base to work on when I was doing the hairstyles."
McIntosh says that many Marilyn wigs have too much hair on them and it makes them look costumey, so she worked with Pickens to get the density just right. Once the wigs were set with wet rollers, McIntosh would "brush it out so it was looser and messier, and [would] spritz it down with a little water" to match the reference images for the scenes. She would also fake shorter lengths by tightening the curls.
The internet is ripe with articles and tutorials on how to achieve Monroe's makeup look, and her lipstick is the element that ties it all together. Kerwin says she tried a "truckload" of lipsticks to find the perfect shades that not only embodied Monroe, but also worked with the film's color and black-and-white lighting.
"I had one that I renamed "Niagara Pink," and it was the only one that really worked in that sort of technicolor image that we were doing," Kerwin says of the Guerlain lipstick. "I don't think there's a lip company that we didn't put through the ringer trying to figure it out. And certainly we went to Guerlain because that was one of the companies Marilyn used."
The Glowing Complexion
Monroe was also known for her clear, glowing skin, and her coveted skincare routine has been beauty folklore with reports that she liked to slather Vaseline on her face. One of Monroe's favorite skincare brands, Erno Laszlo, has even shared the exact products she used from its line.
To replicate Monroe's radiant complexion, Kerwin relied on Charlotte Tilbury's Hollywood Flawless Filter. "I tried several foundations to try to replicate Marilyn's glow, but this one was very reflective, so it would bounce the light back and give that sort of period's look, but also that sheen that she had on her face," the makeup artist shares. "This was a game-changer for this part of her look, so I was really grateful to have found it."
The final piece of Marilyn's look is the beauty mark on her left cheek. Kerwin reached for a Make Up For Ever black-brown Liquid Eyeliner to create the mole on de Armas. "We tried several different ones and the black was too black," Kerwin says. "We decided on this one and then it was a matter of finding the right spot that worked on Ana's face."
Kerwin notes you'll see the mole on de Armas's chin a few times in the film to align with the periods when Monroe moved it there.
Blonde is now streaming worldwide on Netflix.