When actor John Malkovich takes on a role, he really goes for it.
So, when longtime friend and collaborator, photographer Sandro Miller, who goes by his first name, decided he wanted to recreate his favourite iconic images as tribute to his most beloved photographers, he knew who to ask to be the stand-in model for the images.
“[Malkovich’s] belief and trust in my work is unprecedented, granting me many opportunities to work with him. Over the past 17 years I would approach John with various personal projects… he has never said no, and has always been open to my ideas,” says Sandro.
The resulting series, shot over the course of three days in April, exactingly recreates 30 legendary photographs by 28 master photographers, all featuring Malkovich assuming many different roles in the frame.
Entitled “Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to Photographic Masters,” the resulting images will be on display at the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago in November. Sandro has plans to tour the show to Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Italy, and Dallas in the near future. Also, be on the lookout for exclusive interviews with John Malkovich about the project coming soon in French publication 7-POST and French newspaper Libération.
The series began two years ago, when Sandro came up with the idea to pay homage to his hero, Irving Penn, by recreating one of his iconic images, a photograph of the author Truman Capote, kneeling on a chair wedged in a corner created in Penn's studio. He realised that Malkovich looked a bit like Capote, so he asked him to stand in as the model. The feedback was great.
Because of the success of the first photo, Sandro decided to pay tribute to more of the photographers who had influenced him over the years. He flew to Paris to meet with Malkovich, prepared with 30 images he wanted to recreate.
'After consuming two bottles of wine with John, I showed him my idea and he fell in love,' Sandro says.
'He is extremely open minded, never fearful and always willing to go to places most actors of his calibre would avoid,' Sandro adds.
Sandro spent eight months researching his selected photographs. Every detail from wardrobe and make up to location and lighting was dissected to create a photograph that was as true to the source image as possible.
Sandro worked with an impressive team of world-renowned stylists, set designers, and hair and make up artists who helped him get the exact effects he was looking for.
Malkovich dove right in and dedicated himself to the project, as well. ' I watched John become a boy, girl, man, woman, Marilyn, Picasso, Hitchcock, Betty Davis, and Che Guevara,' says Sandro.
Malkovich even made his own wax nose for the shot below, where he stood in as Salvador Dali to recreate this famous shot by Phillipe Halsman.
Malkovich would study the original photograph for hours. Sandro says, 'You could see John working on his character, as makeup, hair and styling was being done. It was truly a joy to see such a perfectionist at work.'
Sandro is often asked what his favourite of the series is. While he loves them all equally, the image of twin Malkoviches, after Diane Arbus's legendary photo of twin girls from 1967, holds a special place in his heart. He says the amount of effort that went in to recreating the image exactly really paid off.
While the images can be humorous at times, Sandro says he was truly attempting to pay sincere tribute to his photographic heroes.
'I didn't want these to be a parody. I was serious about paying homage to these photographers and photographs that changed my perspective on photography,' Sandro explains.
Sandro's images are an equal testament to Malkovich's prowess as an actor as they are to the power of the original images. 'John is a pop culture icon... He is brilliant and confident and willing to take risks,' says Sandro.
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