By Esther Zuckerman
September 22, 2014 at 10:51 PM EDT

John Malkovich as Marilyn Monroe is perhaps a confounding image to think about, but the eccentric actor inhabits her persona, as well as a variety of others, in a new body of work from photographer Sandro Miller.

In Miller’s series Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich, the actor poses for Miller, who faithfully recreates some of history’s most iconic photographs, using Malkovich as the sole subject. In some cases that means Malkovich’s playing another celebrity, for instance, John Lennon nakedly cradling Yoko Ono in Miller’s take on Annie Leibovitz. In other instances he becomes the more anonymous figures who are nonetheless instantly recognizable, like Dorothea Lange’s migrant mother, Florence Owens Thompson. Miller told EW that Malkovich was hands on in transforming himself into the subjects, working with wardrobe and makeup. He even brought his own wax to mold the prosthetic noses required to become Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso.

“This whole body of work it just to me, and I hope for others, is to really see just how deep this man is and just how brilliant and how much of a genius he is when it comes to performance, to performance art. I don’t think John is just an actor for the big big silver screen. I think John is a perfect example of a pop culture icon ready to take on anything,” Miller said.

Miller and Malkovich have been longtime collaborators. They met about 16 years ago when Miller photographed him for his appearance in a play at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. The two hit it off during their first session. “John has been this beautiful blank canvas for me to produce whatever kind of work I’ve really wanted to produce with him and he’s never said no,” Miller said. “He’s accepted my ideas and collaborated with me to create some really powerful, powerful images.” Hence, Miller went to Malkovich when he wanted to pay tribute to the photographers who have influenced him. “I think that the whole series could have been a joke, it could have been laughed at,” Miller said. “But with the genius of John, who was absolutely brilliant in every single shot, who actually pulled everything off, and with our expert research and lighting I think what we did is pulled off an amazing homage to the great great great photographers of our time.”

The exhibition begins Nov. 7 at Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago.

Herb Ritts / Jack Nicholson, London (1988)

Bert Stern / Marilyn in Pink Roses (from The Last Session, 1962)

Albert Watson / Alfred Hitchcock with Goose (1973), 2014