It’s quite possible that hair and makeup designer Jenny Shircore, Academy Award winner for her work on 1999’s Elizabeth, could be adding another gold statue to her collection this year for her outstanding work on My Week With Marilyn. Michelle Williams’ remarkable transformation from her own gamine looks to the sexy blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe is due in no small part to Shircore’s vast talents. Shircore also was hair and makeup designer for W.E., the story of Wallis Simpson’s romance with King Edward VIII, which is racking up a lot of kudos this Oscar season both for Shircore and costume designer Arianne Phillips.
Shircore’s roster of work reads like the best of the best of period film in the last twenty years: The Young Victoria; Girl With A Pearl Earring; The Phantom of the Opera, As You Like It, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and Vanity Fair. I asked her whether it made it easier or more difficult to work with real historical characters as she did both in W.E. and My Week With Marilyn, rather than fictional ones. “Well, it has certain problems really, especially with a character like Marilyn Monroe or the Duchess of Windsor. They’re such well-known characters and people know exactly what they looked like and their background. So that can work for you and against you. You have to get it absolutely right as much as you can. If the character is not that well known you can get away with a lot more, provided you get the period right.”
The lingering closeups of Michelle Williams’ face in My Week With Marilyn leave no doubt to the viewer that she has metamorphosed into that almost supernaturally beautiful, talented, and extremely complicated female icon. As Monroe is so strikingly different from Williams’ usual elfin appearance, I asked Jenny if she had any trepidation that such a transformation would be possible. “When I first met her, I think my heart sank,” she laughed. “She looked completely different. The costume designer (Jill Taylor) was there was well, and the hair helps a lot. She’s got such a neat, tiny figure, Michelle, whatever the costume designer did, she suddenly looked voluptuous and was so sexy.”
Shircore worked closely with Williams during the planning stages of her transmutation into one of the most iconic movie actresses of our time. “She’s a very lovely person to work with and we had a very good rapport. If she felt I was going too far in one way she’d pull me back and I felt she was letting me go too far, I’d push her that way. And she’s such a lovely actress.”
I wanted to know if there was a historical period she’d like to work on. “I’d like to do something in the 11th or 12th century, very early. All those very high foreheads with no eyes – it’s very beautiful,” she mused. Her future work plans include Invisible Woman, directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens, which will start production this spring. The film tells the story of Dickens’ secret relationship with young actress Nelly Teman.