To transform Michelle Williams into Marilyn Monroe, makeup and hair designer Jenny Shircore relied on wigs, lipstick, and one perfectly placed mole — but no prosthetics. ”We weren’t doing a look-alike thing,” explains Shircore, who worked with Williams’ features to convey Monroe’s essence. ”The film is about the person behind the image. So we’re showing you the person without all the glitz and polish.”
”The defining thing about Marilyn Monroe’s hair was its color,” says Shircore, who settled on a custom-made platinum blond wig, which she then cut and styled to fit Williams. ”Michelle’s face is smaller [than Monroe’s],” Shircore says. ”So I put length into her face by having her hair slightly higher off her head.”
Since Williams’ eye shape is different from Monroe’s, Shircore opted not to use the flicked eyeliner style popular in the ’50s. Instead, she relied on white shadow to approximate the starlet’s look. She also played with the shape of Williams’ eyebrows to help them resemble Monroe’s. ”Marilyn’s go up in a peak before they come down again,” describes Shircore. ”Michelle didn’t want that too much.”
Though Monroe was known for her red lipstick, Shircore used it sparingly. ”We softened it up,” explains Shircore, who often combined multiple shades (such as MAC Brave Red and Russian Red) to get the right color. ”Michelle felt that with the softer lipstick she was Marilyn more.” (nordstrom.com, $15 each)
One physical trait that Shircore did want to precisely replicate was Monroe’s signature mole. ”We didn’t just do a black blob,” says Shircore, who alternated between acrylic color and greasepaint (used for long-lasting effects) to form a dark center surrounded by touches of brown to re-create the feature on Williams.
While Monroe was no stranger to formfitting dresses, costume designer Jill Taylor says her off-camera style — as exemplified by a circa-1956 cashmere sweater — was much more laid-back. ”If you’re in slinky dresses and ball gowns in your professional life, you’re bound to rail against that in your private life,” explains Taylor.