Adopting the look of Marilyn Monroe involves more than just a wig

By Degen Pener
Updated May 17, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

Norma Jean and Marilyn

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Mira Sorvino’s transformation to ”Marilyn”

Turning Hollywood’s newest ingenue into America’s ultimate bombshell took more than just a bottle of peroxide. In the HBO movie Norma Jean and Marilyn, Mira Sorvino plays Marilyn Monroe to Ashley Judd’s Norma Jean Baker. ”We take Marilyn’s character and divide her into two people and set them onto each other like Siamese fighting fish,” says Sorvino. Judd bears a physical resemblance to the pre-platinum Monroe, but ”Mira looked nothing like Marilyn when we started,” says makeup artist Deborah Larsen. To make the transformation, Sorvino went blond, of course. Then she gained weight, donned countless wigs, and popped in blue contact lenses. It was a process not unlike what Norma Jean underwent to become the nation’s reigning sex goddess. Sorvino even got to wear an original dress of Monroe’s — the cherry-print halter number from The Misfits. ”Putting it on cemented the part,” she says. ”It was a religious experience.”

Heart-shaped Hairline

”That was one thing that made [Marilyn’s] face so distinctive,” says Sorvino, who wore an ash blond wig for this scene, a re-creation of Monroe singing ”Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in 1962. Monroe’s hair had an uncharacteristic flip that evening, which, according to the movie, was courtesy of Jackie Kennedy’s hairstylist — unbelievable as that sounds.

Brown Eyes Blue

In addition to wearing blue contacts, Sorvino had her eyebrows dramatically arched. ”And we had four different types of eyelashes custom-made,” says makeup artist Deborah Larsen. ”Marilyn’s lashes kept getting bigger and more severe.”

Lip Service

”Mira’s lips are real pretty, but we reshaped them to have that beautiful poutiness,” says Larsen, who used soft pink lipstick and added extra moisture. ”Marilyn loved lip gloss.”

Breaking the Curve

”Marilyn always looked about as good heavy as thin. She vacillated between 115 and 145 pounds, but somehow her [look] didn’t really change,” says Sorvino, who initially resisted putting on weight. ”Ten pounds on me really changes my face.”

Norma Jean and Marilyn

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