How ‘Blonde’ Star Ana de Armas Became Marilyn Monroe

How ‘Blonde’ Star Ana de Armas Became Marilyn Monroe

One might think that re-creating icons such as Marilyn Monroe would be easier than trying to imitate them. If only resurrecting Marilyn Monroe for director Andrew Dominik’s Blonde had been that simple. “Andrew told me, ‘Don’t just put Marilyn’s makeup on Ana [de Armas]. Tina Roesler Kerwin, head of makeup department, says Marilyn must be found within Ana.

Kerwin and Jaime Leigh McIntosh, head of the hair department, had only a few weeks to prepare the Netflix film. Their first day of production was a photo shooting to create still images that would depict Marilyn’s rise to stardom throughout the film. They were able practice the two-and-a half-hour process of turning de Armas into Monroe while they put together more than three dozen looks. Kerwin says that a lot of the work was done before we could rebuild. I reshaped her brows because her brows weren’t the same shape. Her eyes were not the same shape so I reshaped them. The lashes were raised a bit and the shadow was reduced a little. Her top and bottom lips were also reshaped.

They also discovered that a regular bald cap wouldn’t work. Kerwin, who thought of using silicone to cover the hairline after realizing that wigs could change several times per day. The silicone transfers are transparent and thin. These silicone transfers were custom-made for Ana’s head shape. They would go on top of any of Jaime Leighs gorgeous wigs .”

Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe

Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe.

Courtesy of Netflix

The still images were shot with wigs that were already on the market, but the fronts were removed and customized to fit the de Armas’ dark hair. McIntosh says, “You design everything from the texture and colors to how dense it is, what shapes you want around its hairline or, in the case of Marilyn, any bleach breakage from lighterening her hair.” “You design it from scratch to replicate the head of hair .”


Kerwin’s greatest challenge was to capture off-hours Marilyn. She says, “It was difficult because if the makeup was pulled back too far, then you either get young Norma Jeans or you get Ana.” “Once Marilyn had created that iconic look, there was no limit to how far I could take it and still make it look Marilyn.” That is where the heavy lifting came in the form of the wigs. McIntosh says, “I could push it further, having Marilyn’s natural textures shine through, or messing it up, whatever would help that balance it out a bit more.”

Kerwin used a stippling technique to create wrinkles that would take Monroe into her final decade. She says that while it is not an easy process for actors to put on or take off makeup, it can give you subtle, natural-looking aging. Monroe also changed her hair to platinum around the same time, emphasizing her hard life. McIntosh says, “We all know that platinum is a difficult colour to wear.” “Incorporated the makeup that Tina did it helped us to shift into a different Marilyn period .”

Kerwin describes the shoot like a moving train. The tight schedule made it difficult to know what they were doing onscreen. She says that the scene where she sings ‘I Wanna be Loved by You’ was not what we expected. “It was one those moments when if we had more time with it we might have felt more comfortable with, but we were just trying to put it together the best we could. Then it was captured and it looked amazing. It’s one our favorite .”


While they spent most of their time on de Armas preparations, Kerwin, McIntosh and Dominik also prepared what Dominik affectionately called the “side dishes.” The director was less concerned about making Bobby Cannavale look like Joe DiMaggio or Arthur Miller than he was with capturing their essence. McIntosh says that Miller and DiMaggio were referred to as “The Playwright” and “The Ex-Athlete”. Andrew didn’t pressure me to be matchy-matchy. The casting is excellent, which was very helpful.”

Jaime Leigh McIntosh, second from left, with de Armas and hair department head Tina Roesler Kerwin. “She was very invested and so patient while we were doing all these things to her. In fact, she started to help us by holding things. And when we put it all together, it helped her see herself as Marilyn.

Jaime Leigh McIntosh, second from left, with de Armas and hair department head Tina Roesler Kerwin. “She was so patient and invested in everything we did. She even started holding things for us. It helped her to see herself as Marilyn when all was said and done.

Courtesy of Matt Kennedy / Netflix

Cannavale arrived with a head of hair that was similar to DiMaggio’s and a gaping tooth. McIntosh managed to manage the mane while Kerwin worked on his sideburns. McIntosh says that McIntosh taught us how to manage his curly hair. We wanted to get his hair in a similar shape, texture, and parted on the opposite side.

McIntosh had to solve Miller’s receding hairline in order to create Arthur Miller. “We didn’t want to completely ruin Adrien’s hairline for his private life, so we did some thinning. We also styled it at its roots with a wetgel to make it separate more easily and allow more scalp visibility. Although we didn’t push it as far to Arthur Miller’s [hairline], it was still in the realm .”


Kerwin and McIntosh were still stunned to see the end result of their labor. Kerwin says, “The first time you see it you’re like, “My career is over,” because you watch it with the narrative that, “That day we had too much to do this,” or “We had to do it in the back of the van,” Kerwin said. “Maybe [after] the third time, you actually go, ‘OK, I might work again.’ ” The two are, in fact, collaborating again on the John Wick spinoff Ballerina — with de Armas, moreover — where their experience on Blonde is paying dividends. Kerwin says, “We dance around the head really well together.” “We move in a good groove. We laugh a lot, that’s certain.”

This story first appeared in a December issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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