In Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum, Matthew McConaughey plays himself, if he were conceived by Florida Man and Allen Ginsberg. A Key West stoner with a heart of gold, an unquenchable lust for yacht rock, and an ineffable sex appeal punctuated by neon thongs and flamingo-pink bathrobes, McConaughey’s Moondog not only gets away with all manner of bizarre behavior — he is beloved for it.
He smokes a joint from between Isla Fisher’s toes after going down on her while she gets a pedicure. He’s late to his daughter’s wedding because he’s having sex with a woman he just met in the middle of a bar kitchen. A world-famous poet, he writes and recites dreamy odes to his own dick. It is agreed upon by everyone who meets him — including, at one point, a judge — that he is an unmitigated genius, who happens to have the overprocessed, scraggly hair of a drunk mermaid.
At times (like when Moondog smokes a massive blunt while playing the bongos) you’d be forgiven for mistaking Moondog and McConaughey, an actor known for playing a fraternity house’s worth of stoner characters. But according to Gianna Sparacino, the head of the film’s hair department, McConaughey’s half Kurt Cobain, half Instagram Beach Thot hair was what ultimately set the two men apart on set. “He’d go to makeup, and then he’d come back to me, and we’d pop the wig on — and then he was Moondog. He really just became this character. It was a crazy thing. We all called him Moondog. He was just another person.” The wig — plus a fake snaggletooth — was also enough to confuse the entire state of Florida. While shooting the movie on the streets of Key West, passersby and extras “didn’t know who he was,” laughs Sparacino. “They knew we were making a movie, but they didn’t know that was Matthew McConaughey.”
Sparacino is also the mastermind behind Zac Efron’s panini beard and Sonic the Hedgehog hair, as well as Isla Fisher’s impossibly frizz-free Florida blowout. We caught up with her to get the secrets and stories behind The Beach Bum’s lightly deranged hairstyles.
Moondog (Matthew McConaughey)
Sparacino confirms that “Moondog is kind of an extension of Matthew. You can really hear Matthew in Moondog and you can hear Moondog in Matthew. There’s a very fine line between them.” Which is why it was so important — perhaps to help McConaughey avoid concerned People magazine tweets — that she help make Moondog visually distinctive from McConaughey.
Korine showed Sparacino several photos of real-life Key West residents to inspire Moondog’s hair. “One was this guy whose hair was just, like, white-bleached, and looked to me super textured in condition, which means it was overprocessed,” she says. “What we came up with, I think, was a more handsome version of that.” Sparacino ordered a blond wig and, with help from a friend, toned down the bleach so it looked, as she put it, “less Hulk Hogan.” During an initial fitting with McConaughey, the wig “looked beautiful on him, but the consensus was it looked a little too much like Jesus,” laughs Sparacino. “We didn’t want him to look like Jesus.”
The problem was the wig’s uniform length. Along with her assistant, Teresa Morgan, Sparacino worked on the wig for days, trimming and taking out nearly half of the hair until, as she put it, “it really became him.” To keep it all in good shape, she used a long list of products, including Philip B.’s Maui Wowie Beach Mist, deep repairing conditioners, shampoos designed specifically to keep brassy tones out of blond hair, and a large amount of detangling spray.
Because McConaughey has what Sparacino refers to as a “tender scalp,” she used as few pins and as much of his natural hairline as possible. Normally, she explains, a wig is glued to the forehead, the temples, and the ear line. For Moondog, Sparacino “tucked all the sides under” — which meant she was constantly nervous about the wig falling off. “Oh my God, keeping that wig on Matthew, who didn’t want to be touched up during the day,” she says. “You know, I tried to leave him alone as much as possible. And he kept jumping in the water — like that scene where he’s in the pool floating on his back — and I was dying, thinking that wig was gonna come off. I’m in the pool, you know, pinning it back to his head.”
She puts on her best McConaughey voice to imitate his constant reply: “G, it looks good. It looks fine. It looks good.”
Flicker (Zac Efron)
Zac Efron began his career as Troy Bolton, a young man with a bowl cut, a clean-shaven smile, and a hearty lust for basketball. You could make an argument that his character in The Beach Bum — a man named Flicker who loves Christian rock, shaves tiger stripes into his face, wears JNCO jeans unironically, plays basketball in rehab, then helps Moondog escape rehab — is a realistic portrayal of what might happen to a young man like Troy Bolton, were his dreams of going pro dashed by teen pregnancy and his own limitations.
Sparacino says that Efron was “down with whatever we wanted to do” with his character, which is something she finds “extremely rare.” And fortunate, considering Korine’s vision for Flicker’s panini beard: “He said, ‘I think this will be really cool,’ and showed us the char marks of an actual panini,” says Sparacino. “And he’s like, ‘Do you think we can make these lines in his beard?’ And I said, ‘Of course, absolutely.’” Sparacino herself had never shaved a sandwich pattern into a man’s face; she hired a local barber who had also never done such a thing. “She was very surprised,” says Sparacino. “But we’re all used to working with celebrities and just kind of doing what’s asked of us. She didn’t skip a beat. I showed her a picture and I’m like, ‘Can you do this on a face?’ And she’s like, ‘Yep, no problem.’”
Sparacino concedes that she, the barber, and Efron found the beard “a little odd,” but “it ended up looking great.” Ultimately, Efron loved his panini face so much he took it out on the town. “He was out there in his real life, living in Miami Beach with that look,” says Sparacino. “He took a bunch of selfies. The first day that he shot, I think he leaked his own picture, which was really great.”
The top of Efron’s head required just as much whimsy and effort. Sparacino says she bleached it, shaved the sides, and fashioned it into a spiky sort of Mohawk, after which Efron asked her, “Can we make it higher?” To defy gravity even further, Sparacino coated Efron’s hair in Philip B. styling gel, then blow-dried the gel into the hair, teasing the root to give it lift. Then she did “constant maintenance” with Philip B. hairspray to keep it aloft. “I was constantly following him around with a can of hairspray,” she says. “We used up a lot of product.”
Minnie (Isla Fisher)
As the perpetually drunk, rich, deeply permissive Miami housewife Minnie, Isla Fisher is given some of the movie’s best scenes. In one, she and McConaughey get wasted on a boardwalk and lip-sync the entirety of Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” In another, she mounts Snoop Dogg on a pier in the middle of her daughter’s wedding. Throughout, she looks like Donatella Versace meets Sammi from Jersey Shore: a pin-straight blowout, massive sunglasses, bright purple and pink dresses with keyhole cutouts, and an omnipresent Champagne flute.
As a woman with hair, I was fascinated by the fact that, even in the deep Miami heat, Fisher’s hair stayed flat. “We decided because we were shooting outside with her so much, we needed something we could maintain all day long and fit the character,” says Sparacino. “So we decided to go slick, sleek, and just straight.” Fisher’s got naturally wavy hair — “beautiful, thick, gorgeous, naturally red and wavy hair,” says Sparacino — but because her character is a “very wealthy Miami woman, she’d spent a lot of time and money and resources blow-drying her hair.” Sparacino did a simple blow-dry with a round brush, using Philip B. Beach Protectant blow-dry spray, plus the brand’s anti-frizz formula. She’d finish the look with Flicker’s own Jet Set hairspray, “my favorite hairspray in the world.” And between shots, to keep things consistent, she’d run into the scene and flat-iron Fisher’s hair to smooth it back out.
Lingerie (Snoop Dogg)
McConaughey is molded from the same clay as Moondog, but Snoop Dogg is, for all intents and purposes, The Beach Bum’s resident blunt-smoking rapper Lingerie. Snoop was initially supposed to play himself in the movie (much like Jimmy Buffett does), but phoned Korine one night to let him know he’d rather be referred to as “Lingerie — because I’m smooth and silky.” “If you look really closely he’s wearing clothes that say ‘Snoop’ on the lapel,” Korine told Business Insider. “But it’s got such a stoner logic that I was like, ‘It works.’”
Snoop’s most memorable hairstyle in the film is the giant bun he wears to Moondog and Minnie’s daughter’s wedding. Though Sparacino herself didn’t do Snoop’s hair — Snoop’s hairdresser, Tasha Hayward, has been working with Snoop exclusively since his first music video, but was unavailable for comment — Sparacino tells us she thought the bun was a work of “genius.” “I don’t know how she came up with that,” she says. “It’s so organic because they’re like family. I don’t think he feels comfortable unless Tasha’s around.” According to Sparacino, Hayward re-braids Snoop’s hair a few times a week, and didn’t use any extensions for the movie. “In the beginning, you see his braids all the way down to his waist — that’s all his hair,” says Sparacino.
Even more impressive is the fact that Sparacino, Hayward, and the rest of the crew were able to focus on crafting panini beards and elaborately braided buns while, according to Hayward, “we listened to yacht rock from morning until night.” “You know how much fun it looks on screen?” laughs Sparacino. “It was like that, from top to bottom, because Harmony set that tone. I think almost every single crew member that worked on that show said the same thing: ‘This is the most fun we’ve ever had working on a movie.’”