Elle Fanning's 'Neon Demon' Transformation Involves Saint Laurent, 'Ren & Stimpy'
Costume designer Erin Benach and makeup artist Erin Ayanian provide details on how Fanning's character transforms into a doe-eyed model into a fashion monster through wardrobe and makeup.
The Neon Demon, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, may be getting mixed reviews (THR's chief film critic calls it a "stultifyingly vapid, ponderously paced allegorical critique of the modeling world," while a Time film critic describes it as "its own sleek, bikini-waxed, glitter-eyeshadow-dusted creature"), but one thing's for sure: The high-fashion ensembles and alluring makeup seen on Elle Fanning are anything but boring.
Fanning, who plays an underage teen, Jesse, who travels to L.A. in hopes of becoming a model, opens the film in a strapless, electric blue Emporio Armani spring 2015 dress that's as eye-catching as her bejeweled face and the fake blood streaming down her chest. But the bold Armani number wasn't necessarily the team's first pick.
According to costume designer Erin Benach, who also worked with Refn on the Ryan Gosling-starring Drive, "everyone was really set on this layered sort of fluorescent yellow and pink thing and I kind of knew it wasn't the right [one] — it was too soft." It wasn't until Fanning tried on the dress that it became apparent that it was the perfect choice.
"[Cinematographer] Natasha [Braier] felt like she could light it really well 'cause there was reflection to it," Benach tells Pret-a-Reporter over the phone, adding that the dress also helped the crew decide on the couch's silver lavender-hued base fabric.
To complement the dress, makeup artist Erin Ayanian enhanced Jesse's pale appearance with bright, colorful makeup and rhinestones adhered to her face "to contrast with the darkness in the rest of the image." Somewhat surprising, Ayanian shares when coming up with the beauty look, she referenced a '90s Nickelodeon animated TV series. "We talked about the cartoon Ren & Stimpy while planning it."
As far as makeup inspiration goes, Ayanian says that she also looked to the 1970s photographs of renowned fashion shutterbugs Guy Bourdin and Chris von Wangenheim, as well as the art of German artist Hans Bellmer, who was best known for the life-sized pubescent female dolls he created in the 1930s.
Jesse continues to get the high-fashion treatment as she wins the hearts of photographers and designers, wearing a number of designer duds as she climbs up the ranks in the modeling industry.
Benach outfits Fanning's doe-eyed character in a custom Giles Deacon gown, embellished with Swarovski crystals, for her first-ever walk on the runway. It's in this moment that Jesse is showing signs of embracing the fashion world and enjoying her own physical beauty as she admires her own reflection.
Another standout style moment: When Jesse steps out post-show in a plunging, gold sequined halter top from Hedi Slimane's spring 2015 collection that is paired with slim leather pants and sky-high stilettos — a major departure from her loose, casual dresses.
The only note that Benach received from Refn when outfitting the cast was to push the limits and "maintain a really high bar of the fashion world." Consider us sold.
The Neon Demon, which also stars Jena Malone, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Abbey Lee and Bella Heathcote, opens in theaters June 24.