By Jazz Tangcay
A photo shoot for the stills of Marilyn Monroe that would feature throughout Andrew Dominik’s “Blonde,” now streaming on Netflix, was essential to the hair and makeup team in transforming Ana de Armas into the celebrated icon.
Jaime Leigh McIntosh, hair department head and makeup department head Tina Roesler Kerwin spent two and a half hours each morning applying hair and makeup to de Armas.
“That photo shoot for stills gave us a chance to try out a lot of different colors and figure out what worked. It gave us a chance to figure out what worked better in black and white as opposed to color,” explains Kerwin.
The mandate was “to find our Marilyn in Ana and not put Marilyn’s hair and makeup on Ana, but to define our Marilyn and define her as best as we could.”
It all began with a silicone cap, as opposed to a regular bald cap. De Armas’ hair was dark and thick, so it needed to be completely hidden, and a regular cap would not work due to the number of changes the actress would sit through in a day.
The shoot session was done before principal filming began, and it helped immensely since they would have to recreate many of Monroe’s most iconic moments. Adds Kerwin, “Once we knew what the day and schedule was going to look like, we knew a bald cap would not survive.”
So, three custom-made silicone pieces, each side and a top, were made for de Armas that could endure the nine-week rigorous shooting schedule.
First, a stocking cap was placed over the actress’ head and three new silicone pieces were applied daily. Says Kerwin, “We needed something sturdy that could hold up with the gluing and ungluing of wigs.”
While the duo created over 100 looks, only 50 or 60 made it into the final cut.
De Armas sported blue contact lenses for the film, and for perfecting the eye shape, Kerwin used false eyelashes on the corner of the actress’ eyelids. “It changed the eye shape,” Kerwin explains.
To recreate 1955’s “The Seven Year Itch,” in which Monroe’s character walks over a subway grate and her dress blows up in the breeze, McIntosh went through her normal process of prepping de Armas’ hair.
As Kerwin blended in the skin tone to match the silicone appliances and put on lashes, McIntosh says she would step in, “and the last thing we would do would be to put the wig on.”
Admittedly for that look, McIntosh says she didn’t have the right wig, “Her hair is shorter in that film, and the one I had wasn’t short enough, so I had to curl it a bit tighter and pin it in places to cheat the shape.” She adds, “It does not match, but it’s as close as I could get with what I had to work with and still have some movement.”
With Dominik shooting in both black and white and color, Kerwin says, “I tried every red, orange and pink in my kit, I think everything was sampled at some point to see what would work in a black and white and what would work in a color.”
She adds, “I had an arsenal where some were only black and white, and others were only color, and a few in the middle where we could translate to both.”
Kerwin says contouring was also important. “When she’s younger, her face looks rounder, and when she’s older, she has that classic look.”
In recreating “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” Kerwin mixed a fuchsia lip with red. “It was mixed to make it a little bit more intense. When you saw her in person it felt too much, but for the camera and the monitor it balanced out. But we also had to match the dancers.”
That was where McIntosh stepped in. Without the resources to get wigs, she faced a challenge. “The gray is painted into their hair to make them more distinguished.” She adds, “There are silvery streaks painted in, and when you look at the original, you think, ‘Why would they do that?’ So we had to copy that.”
McIntosh notes, she made Armas’ wig for this scene a little straighter. “It doesn’t have the curl and bounce.” She adds, “If there’s a story to tell on that one, she was losing her widow’s peak in the lighting, which kept blowing it out, so Andrew made me paint it a bit darker.”
Adds McIntosh, “It was one more in the massive list of recreations that we had to bang out quickly.”