Being John Malkovich: Sandro Miller’s portmanteau star portraits in New York

Being John Malkovich: Sandro Miller’s portmanteau star portraits in New York

At New York photography gallery Yancey Richardson, a very well-known Philippe Halsman portrait of Salvador Dalí looks a little off. While the late surrealist’s unmistakable moustache is in exactly the right place, it’s on the wrong face. It’s actor John Malkovich, actually, posing for commercial photographer Sandro Miller. 

Until 1 July, Yancey Richardson presents ‘Homage: Malkovich and the Masters’, a sample of Malkovich and Miller’s 2014 collaboration that was recently published as the book The Malkovich Sessions, by Glitterati Incorporated. Together, they had recreated 41 of some of history’s most iconic portraits, including Halsman’s Dalí. 

Rather than Miller simply superimposing Malkovich’s face directly into the photos, however, the actor fully assumed each role – makeup, wardrobe, posture, expression – for the camera: Bert Stern’s Marilyn Monroe, Annie Leibovitz’s naked John Lennon and Alberto Korda’s Che Guevara among them. For his part, Miller did his research over the course of a year, scrutinising each image’s lighting, composition and finish. His goal was to align his works with the originals in the minutest detail, with minimal digital intervention. 

Malkovich has been Miller’s muse for decades. The two first met at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company in the late 1990s, and have embarked on numerous collaborations, including a Nikon ad and a handful of films.

‘I have done nudes of John. I have dressed John like Henry VII, I have dressed John like the devil. And I once suspended John from a cross,’ Miller told the Chicago Tribune when the series debuted in 2014. ‘And John’s never said no.’

Wallpaper* Newsletter

Wallpaper* is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

© Future Publishing Limited Quay House, The Ambury, Bath BA1 1UA. All rights reserved. England and Wales company registration number 2008885.