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How ‘Blonde’ tackles Marilyn Monroe’s style legacy

Written by Marianna Cerini

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Few popular culture figures proceed to dwell as giant in our collective creativeness as Marilyn Monroe, and her standing as a magnificence icon has been pivotal to that.

From the second she grew to become Hollywood’s quintessential “blonde bombshell,” Monroe’s unmistakable options — the hourglass silhouette, pouty pink lips, full eyelashes, dreamy eyes — got here to outline a sort of femininity that is nonetheless broadly idealized in the present day. That enduring legacy bought a nod at this yr’s Met Gala in New York, when Kim Kardashian confirmed up within the $4.8 million crystal-covered nude silk robe Monroe wore to sing “Blissful Birthday” to former US President John F. Kennedy in 1962. The theme of the gala was “Gilded Glamour”; Monroe remains to be the epitome of that.

Marilyn Monroe poses at Idlewild as she boards an American Airlines plane for Hollywood in 1956.

Marilyn Monroe poses at Idlewild as she boards an American Airways aircraft for Hollywood in 1956. Credit score: Bettmann/Getty Photos

Now, a brand new Netflix biopic starring Ana de Armas is resurrecting society’s fixation with Monroe as soon as once more — thanks largely to de Armas’ uncanny onscreen transformation into the Nineteen Fifties star.

Primarily based on Joyce Carol Oates’s novel by the identical identify, “Blonde” — which debuted on the Venice Movie Competition earlier this month — is a fictional account of the lifetime of the girl born Norma Jeane Mortenson, who rose to fame as Marilyn Monroe. Slightly than a conventional adaptation targeted on historic accuracy, writer-director Andrew Dominik presents a controversial, usually brutal portrayal of Monroe’s private and public struggles, adopting a nonlinear, extremely stylized strategy that follows her troubled childhood, ascent to superstardom and tragic descent, recreating among the most memorable moments from her profession alongside the way in which.
In "Blonde," Ana de Armas recreates an iconic Monroe scene in "The Seven Year Itch."

In “Blonde,” Ana de Armas recreates an iconic Monroe scene in “The Seven 12 months Itch.” Credit score: Matt Kennedy/Netflix

In a movie that is at occasions deeply startling in the way in which it bends actuality (among the most out-there scenes embody speaking fetuses and abortions from the attitude of Monroe’s cervix), its portrayal of the starlet’s type — and the methods it drove her private narrative — is among the many extra grounding facets. It is maybe unsurprising then that de Armas’ gorgeous metamorphosis into her character was the results of meticulous preparation and every day hair and make-up periods that lasted practically three hours and went far past the idea of glam.

Changing into Marilyn

“Blonde” make-up division head Tina Roesler Kerwin and hair division head Jaime Leigh McIntosh did intensive analysis to make sure they may obtain essentially the most correct depiction of Monroe’s unmistakable look.

“We reached for each useful resource we might probably discover,” Kerwin stated in a video interview. “We began with the script and the pictures that we have been going to recreate, after which moved onto books, motion pictures, fan websites. And we by no means stopped — we stored researching till the very finish of the movie.”

Some 100 appears to be like have been recreated for “Blonde” — from journal covers that includes Monroe to her red-carpet appearances — though simply over half of these made the ultimate lower. Wigs, McIntosh stated, have been important to make sure de Armas — a brunette in actual life — might change shortly from one take to the subsequent. They have been additionally key in guaranteeing that Monroe’s platinum hair would come off proper on digital camera.

“We used 5 wigs, which we custom-made to imitate Marilyn’s hairline and match Ana appropriately,” McIntosh stated by way of video name. The blonde ones — pre-stardom, Monroe had brown curls — have been hand tied by Los Angeles-based wigmaker Rob Pickens and his crew, utilizing actual human hair (together with child hairs across the hairline) that could possibly be styled into Monroe’s trademark pin curl set.

Monroe  sits at a banquet table during a Photoplay Gold Medal Awards dinner in the 1950s.

Monroe sits at a banquet desk throughout a Photoplay Gold Medal Awards dinner within the Nineteen Fifties. Credit score: Murray Garrett/Getty Photos

“We selected completely different shades of blonde to make every wig with, then coloured them additional to present them a shadow root,” McIntosh added. (“Shadow root” is a method used to customise coloration and obtain an ideal mix after lightening.) The thought was to copy the identical texture as Monroe’s hair.

To make sure de Armas’ personal hair can be utterly hid, Kerwin added prosthetic items round her pure hairline, and airbrushed them to match her pores and skin tone.

The remainder of the make-up, too, required painstaking work, for which de Armas was “absolutely on board,” Kerwin stated.

The actor wore blue contact lenses to cover her pure hazel irises, and many lashes to make her eyes seem extra almond-shaped.

“The eyes have been most likely the largest distinction (between de Armas and Monroe),” Kerwin stated. “So we did a whole lot of layering of the lashes on the ends to make them barely ‘straighter,’ in addition to shadowing and contouring round her face, to make it look extra like Marilyn.” She additionally took de Armas to an eyebrow specialist to reduce and bleach her brows.

“The transient we bought from (director Andrew Dominik) was to not simply put Marilyn’s make-up on Ana, however to rework her into Marilyn,” Kerwin stated.

Glamour vs. minimalism

“Blonde” costume designer Jennifer Johnson obtained related tips when she began engaged on de Armas’ wardrobe. Like Kerwin and McIntosh, she first approached the undertaking from a analysis perspective.

“Andrew had this unimaginable quantity of archival, temper and picture analysis — some 800 pages in complete,” she stated in a video interview. “I plastered all of them on my workplace as in the event that they have been wallpaper, and simply sort of absorbed every part.”

She then started documenting Marilyn’s non-public type and stage persona firsthand, dissecting the development and pattern-making of her extra iconic clothes.

“The most important problem was understanding how you can do recreations that may additionally really feel genuine, and never costumey,” she stated. “I needed to present the garments a sensibility that may work within the twenty first century.”

To that finish, Johnson labored with Jose Bello, head cutter of Western Costume, a century-old costume warehouse in Hollywood. Collectively, they reproduced a few of Monroe’s most well-known appears to be like, together with the pink strapless robe by which she carried out “Diamonds Are a Lady’s Finest Buddy,” the white pleated halter neck costume from “The Seven 12 months Itch,” and the black souffle and nude silk jersey with beads and sequins from “Some Like It Scorching.”

Monroe signs an autograph for a US serviceman in Korea as part of the USO program.

Monroe indicators an autograph for a US serviceman in Korea as a part of the USO program. Credit score: Greg Mathieson/Getty Photos

“These authentic designs are so intelligent, and it felt necessary to honor them by having the identical degree of couture, methods and high quality,” Johnson stated.

When it got here to Monroe’s on a regular basis outfits — her Norma Jeane “uniform” — it was a distinct story, nevertheless. Away from the highlight, the star’s sartorial selections have been remarkably pared down and centered round a number of items she wore repeatedly.

“She was very minimalist,” Johnson stated. “She was concerned with being taken severely as an artist and creator, and never as a pinup. She needed her garments to mirror that.”

Certainly, when she’s Norma Jeane, de Armas wears black turtlenecks and capri pants, beatnik sweaters and easy sheath attire. Her make-up, too, is toned down — a nude lip as an alternative of the seductive pink. It is an arresting juxtaposition, and a key narrative system that “Blonde” makes use of to additional spotlight the break up between the image the world noticed — the done-up “dumb blonde” that oozed intercourse attraction — and the misunderstood, insecure girl she was beneath.

In the end, Johnson stated, De Armas’ efficiency is so compelling as a result of she completely captures that duality. “It would not really feel like she’s in a fancy dress,” Johnson famous.

The choice to make use of no prosthetics or padding on de Armas’ physique additionally helped make the phantasm extra credible. “(For Ana) to have the ability to use her physique, I believe it makes her really feel extra consistent with Marilyn,” Johnson stated. “She’s not a caricature.”

“Blonde” can be obtainable on Netflix September 28.

Add to Queue: 5 extra Marilyn Monroe necessities

This definitive biography by Fred Lawrence Guiles options interviews with among the folks closest to Monroe all through her life (together with her third husband, the playwright Arthur Miller, her “Some Like It Scorching” director Billy Wilder and “The Misfits” director John Huston). It is a must-read for the hardcore Monroe followers on the market.

Michelle Williams stars as Monroe on this based-on-a-true-story Simon Curtis film, which — as its title suggests — zooms in on one week of the starlet’s life in 1956, whereas she was in England filming “The Prince and the Showgirl” and cast a private relationship with a youthful man who labored on set.

Feminist icon and activist Gloria Steinem depicts a fancy, layered portrait of Monroe via beforehand untold tales in a biography that actually helped shift preconceptions surrounding the Hollywood star.

John Huston’s western options Monroe’s closing onscreen function — and it’s one among her extra highly effective performances. The actor performs divorcée Roslyn Tabor (her then-husband Miller had written the half), who falls in love with Clark Gable’s cowboy character. Spoiler alert: It is not a romcom.

A storytelling podcast (now on an indefinite hiatus) that — within the phrases of host Karina Longworth — explores the key and forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century, “You Should Keep in mind This” devoted a sequence of episodes to Monroe again in 2017.

High picture: Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in “Blonde.”

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