How Ana de Armas Transformed Into Marilyn Monroe for

“The origin of hair is really big for me when creating any wig,” says Pickens. “Because all of us innately as human beings pick up on hair lines and how natural hair looks. The moment it doesn’t bounce from the top or there’s not the right texture around the hairline, the audience starts to go, ‘Something’s a little off.'” Pickens says he and McIntosh researched “I don’t even know how many” looks, from Monroe’s origins as Norma Jeane to her platinum blonde, “JFK years.” “[Norma Jeane] had mousy brown, curly hair,” Pickens says. “Just because she’s bleaching her hair, and [it was] being pin curled by one of the best hairdressers in cinema — doesn’t mean her hair still isn’t curly.”

Marilyn Monroe in 1947

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Ana de Armas in 2020

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The wigs, which were custom-made — think couture for your head — were hand tied by Pickens and his team, who spent over 150 hours creating a final product that mimicked Monroe’s actual hair pattern. “When I say ‘detailed down to the knot,’ Marilyn’s corners grew horizontal, so we tied those hairs horizontally,” says Pickens. “We look like crazy people sometimes with photos pinned all over the wall all while we’re tying. And we even tied a cowlick [into the wig] because how else is Jamie Leigh supposed to get the signature ‘poof’ if we don’t tie in Marilyn’s cowlick on the correct side?” Pickens notes there are six directions in which the hair can be tied and, once it’s tied, it’s like a hinge, moving in two directions to create a natural lift and movement to the hair itself.

To achieve the film’s titular hair color, each wig had three shades of blonde in them, including a shadow root to trick the eye into thinking it’s real hair coming from the scalp. The wigs also featured baby hairs around the hairline.

“Marilyn has a signature widow’s peak and…curly hair naturally has more growth lengths and usually more baby hairs around the hairline,” says Pickens. The team also used a process called steam perming — wrapping the hairs on dowels, then using water and heat to create the curls — to create custom curl patterns that would give McIntosh more control over how the hair sat on de Armas’s head. Additionally, “[We] did a lot of Angora mohair detail around the hairline. We use it because it emulates the vellus hairs at the hairline,” Pickens explains. “There’s a lot of detail that goes into that last half inch to really sell it.”

One of the wigs used on de Armas.

Courtesy Rob Pickens

A close up of the hand-tied hairline.

Courtesy Rob Pickens

A wig in a roller set.

Courtesy Jamie Leigh McIntosh

Many of the looks throughout the film are references from actual photos of the star. Kerwin and McIntosh estimate there were over 100 total looks recreated for the film; of those, only 50-60 made the final cut. This is another reason wigs were the most efficient option: They needed to be able to quickly change de Armas from look to look on set. But getting them to look realistic also meant making tweaks to de Armas’s scalp.