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“Turn her into Marilyn”: Ana de Armas’ metamorphosis into “Blonde”

Few pop culture figures continue to live on as much in our collective imagination as Marilyn Monroe and her status as a beauty icon has been instrumental in that.

From the moment she became the quintessential “Bombastic Blonde” of Hollywood Monroe’s unmistakable features – the hourglass silhouette, full red lips, full lashes, dreamy eyes – came to define a type of femininity that is still widely idealized today.

This enduring legacy received a nod in the Met Gala this year in New York, when Kim Kardashian appeared in the $4.8 million crystal-covered nude silk dress that Monroe wore to sing “Happy Birthday” to former US President John F. Kennedy in 1962. gala theme was “Gilded Glamour”; Monroe is still the epitome of that.

Now, a new biopic of Netflix starring Ana De Armas is resurrecting society’s fixation on Monroe once again – thanks in no small part to De Armas’ strange on-screen transformation into the 1950s star.

Based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates, “Blonde” — which premiered at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month — is a fictionalized account of the life of the woman born Norma Jeane Mortenson, who rose to fame as Marilyn Monroe.

Rather than a traditional adaptation focused on historical accuracy, writer-director Andrew Dominik delivers a controversial and often brutal portrait of Monroe’s personal and public struggles, taking a highly stylized, non-linear approach that follows her troubled childhood, rise to stardom. and tragic descent, recreating some of the most memorable moments of his career along the way.

In a film that is at times profoundly surprising in the way it distorts reality (some of the more offbeat scenes include talking fetuses and miscarriages from Monroe’s cervical perspective), his star style portrait – and the ways it took her personal narrative – is among the most fundamental aspects.

It is perhaps unsurprising that Ana de Armas’ impressive metamorphosis into her character was the result of meticulous preparation and daily hair and makeup sessions that lasted nearly three hours and went far beyond the concept of glamour.

Becoming Marilyn

Image of Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in "Blonde"

The head of the “Blonde” makeup department, Tina Roesler Kerwin and hair department head Jaime Leigh McIntosh did extensive research to ensure they could achieve the most accurate representation of Monroe’s unmistakable look.

“We looked for every resource we could find,” Kerwin said in a video interview.

“We started with the script and the images we were going to recreate, and then we moved on to books, movies, fan sites. And we never stopped – we kept researching until the end of the movie.”

About 100 looks were recreated for “Blonde” – from magazine covers with Monroe to her red carpet appearances – although just over half of them made it to the final cut.

Wigs, McIntosh said, were essential to ensuring that Ana de Armas – a brunette in real life – could quickly change from one shot to the next. They were also instrumental in ensuring Monroe’s platinum hair looked good in front of the cameras.

“We used five wigs, which we customized to mimic Marilyn’s hairline and fit Ana properly,” McIntosh said over video call.

The blondes — pre-stardom, Monroe had brown curls — were hand-tied by the Los Angeles wig maker. Rob Pickens and her team, using real human hair (including baby hair around the hairline) that could be styled into Monroe’s trademark pin-up set of curls.

“We chose different shades of blonde to make each wig, then colored it even more to give it a root shade,” added McIntosh. (“Shadow root” is a technique used to customize the color and achieve a perfect blend after lightening.) The idea was to replicate the same texture as Monroe’s hair.

To ensure that Armas’ own hair was completely hidden, Kerwin added prosthetic pieces around his natural hairline and retouched them to match his skin tone.

The rest of the makeup also required painstaking work, for which Ana de Armas was “fully on board,” Kerwin said.

The actress wore blue contact lenses to hide her natural hazel irises and lots of eyelashes to make her eyes look more almond shaped.

“The eyes were probably the biggest difference (between de Armas and Monroe),” Kerwin said.

“So we did a lot of layering the lashes at the tips to make them a little ‘straighter’, as well as shadowing and contouring around the face to make it look more like Marilyn.” She also took the actress to an eyebrow specialist to minimize and lighten her brows.

“The brief we got (from director Andrew Dominik) was not just putting Marilyn makeup on Ana, but turning her into Marilyn,” Kerwin said.

Glamor versus minimalism

“Blonde” costume designer Jennifer Johnson received similar guidance when she began working on Ana de Armas’ wardrobe. Like Kerwin and McIntosh, she first approached the project from a research perspective.

“Andrew had an incredible amount of archival, humor and image research – about 800 pages in total,” she said in a video interview. “I put all of them in my office as if they were wallpaper, and I kind of took it all in.”

She then set about documenting Marilyn’s private style and stage personality firsthand, dissecting the construction and patterning of her most iconic outfits.

“The biggest challenge was figuring out how to make recreations that also felt authentic, not costumed,” she said. “I wanted to give clothes a sensibility that works in the 21st century.”

To that end, Johnson worked with Jose Bello, head of cut at Western Costume, a century-old costume store in Hollywood. Together, they replicated some of Monroe’s most recognizable looks, including the pink strapless dress in which she sang “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”, the white pleated halter-neck dress from “The Seven Year Itch” and the black and white souffle. nude silk jersey with “Some Like It Hot” beads and sequins.

“These original designs are so smart and it was important to honor them with the same level of couture, techniques and quality,” Johnson said.

When it came to Monroe’s everyday clothes – her Norma Jeane “uniform” – it was a different story, however. Away from the spotlight, the star’s sartorial choices were notably pared back and centered on a few pieces she wore over and over again.

“She was very minimalist,” Johnson said. “She was interested in being taken seriously as an artist and creator rather than a pinup. She wanted her clothes to reflect that.”

Indeed, when she is Norma Jeane, Ana de Armas wears a black turtleneck and capri pants, beatnik sweaters and simple dresses.

Her makeup is also toned down – a nude lip instead of the seductive red. It’s a striking juxtaposition and a key narrative device that “Blonde” uses to further highlight the divide between the symbol the world saw – the tidy “dumb blonde” who exuded sex appeal – and the misunderstood, insecure woman she was underneath. .

Ultimately, Johnson said, Ana de Armas’ performance is so compelling because she perfectly captures that duality. “It doesn’t look like she’s in costume,” Johnson noted.

The decision not to use prosthetics or fillers on Ana’s body also helped to make the illusion more believable. “For Ana to be able to use her body, I think it makes her feel more aligned with Marilyn,” Johnson said. “She’s not a caricature.”

“Blonde” arrives on Netflix this Thursday, September 28.

Source: CNN Brasil

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