An Inside Look Behind Ana de Armas’ Iconic Transformation Into Marilyn Monroe
From director Andrew Dominik, and based on the bestselling novel by Joyce Carol Oates, the NC-17 film 'Blonde' boldly re-imagines the life of one of Hollywood's most enduring icons, Marilyn Monroe. From her volatile childhood as Norma Jeane, through her rise to stardom and romantic entanglements, 'Blonde' blurs the lines of fact and fiction to explore the widening split between her public and private selves.
Blonde | A Look Behind Ana de Armas’ Iconic Transformation
Cultured Focus Magazine spoke to the makeup and hair department heads, Jaime Leigh McIntosh and Tina Roesler Kerwin, behind Ana de Armas' iconic transformation as Marylyn Monroe. The film has received both positive and negative feedback from the audience but Ana’s transformation into Norma Jeane and Marylyn seizes to amaze many viewers. The NC-17 film can currently be seen on Netflix and in selected theaters.
“I appreciate when a film challenges the norm. It's not a normal Marylyn movie. It's based on a book and a novel. It is great to see something that makes you feel. Just feel. Marylyn had a quote - “If you can't accept me at my worst you don't deserve me at my best.” We did a bit of both!” said Kerwin.
Both McIntosh and Kerwin worked tirelessly with a small team of two under them to make the director’s 10-year vision and research of Marylyn Monroe come true. With time not on their side, they managed to not only deliver Dominik’s vision but to transform Ana de Armas into her most iconic look yet as Marylyn Monroe.
“All I could do was watch Ana’s performance. She was amazing,” said McIntosh.
Transforming Ana was not an easy process as one would imagine. It took the team a couple of tries to get the Marilyn look right as well as a few misses and hits in the beginning. But thanks to advice from the director, the team was able to make Ana’s transformation successful. “Don't put Marilyn’s makeup on Ana, transform Ana into Marilyn,” Kerwin recalls the director telling her.
“It was very emotional for all of us! We figured it out and we knew what the next two months would look like. It was also emotional for Ana,” said Kerwin in regards to the first time they transformed Ana into Marilyn.
According to McIntosh and Kerwin, Ana’s transformation took on an average two to two and a half hours each day. They would then take everything apart and do it all over again.
McIntosh said the process can be very disconnecting. “The first time we tested bold caps and the wig was down here. It took a while before we saw everything done at the same time and you only get Ana for a certain amount of time,” she added. She had to use prosthetics in order to make Marylyn’s wig look natural on Ana’s dark hair and change many different wigs such as a long brunette wig, a longer blonde and creamy blonde to achieve the 50s, 60s look.
She said part of the challenge was not having enough wigs, creating a natural head of hair, and trying to copy Norma's natural hair and the style. But the biggest compliment that they received is that despite the challenges, they made her and the cast look “real,” which according to Kerwin is the biggest compliment they could receive.
“For everybody that worked on the film the biggest challenge was time. We had a lot to accomplish in a short period of time. We were shooting in color and in black and white. Trying to find colors in black and white and in color and still match the famous footage was a challenge. It was an enormous amount of work and I was surprised when we pulled it off,” said Kerwin.
In regards to the feedback they received, Kerwin said: “This is one of those movies not only appreciated by peers but regular makeup and hair people. It is reaching audiences past the film business. It's got its own legs. It's unusual when a film comes out and challenges the viewer so much. It’s a hard path to walk in Monroe’s shoes with illness, childhood trauma, and male dominated industries. Those are hard shoes to walk in.”
“I think controversy is great! It's art and people are talking about it!” added McIntosh who also urged people to go see the film and talk about it.
What made the transformation process easy was Ana herself: “Ana was so collaborative and she was helping me with the prosthetics. She was fully on board with this and she was like “How can I help?” Not everybody can be that patient with the process, be in a good mood with us and be on set and perform the way that she did,” said Kerwin.
“If there is an award for hair and make-up people could give to actors, we would give it to Ana. She is so conscious and so professional and would help us in any way that she could. She gets the award for best to work with,” McIntosh said.
In regards to Marilyn, Kerwin said: “Our goal is to honor her the best that we could. Ana embodies Marilyn in such a way. She is incredible and so brave. It's a difficult film to watch and probably not easy for her to do but she was all in. She brought Marylyn to life and without her none of this would have worked.”