Purple Shampoo & Salt Spray: How Matthew McConaughey Became A Beach Bum

Photo: Courtesy of Neon/Vice.
Have you ever found yourself in a theater, watching a movie starring Matthew McConaughey, wondering, Wait... is this a biopic? Although an official movie about McConaughey's life has yet to be greenlit, some of the actor's most notable on-screen moments feel like sensational pieces of his real-life persona. His latest role as Moondog in Beach Bum is no exception.
The first teaser for the Harmony Korine-directed comedy, which hit late last fall, opens with McConaughey's Moondog in a Florida bodega requesting a Lucky Lotto ticket, a cigar, and LSD. (He only actually gets two of three.) If the actor moved to Key West, threw out all his sunscreen, and gave up Hollywood to become a poet (listen to McConaughey's 2014 Oscars speech and you might argue he already is one), the resemblance would be uncanny — but for Moondog's shoulder-grazing, sun-bleached lob of straggly hair.
Aside from Moondog's fluffy pink robe and Snoop Dogg, the best supporting actor in Beach Bum is McConaughey's wig. Lucky for him, he didn't have to grow out his hair for the role (in fact, we get to see young Moondog at one point in the movie rocking the actor's real curly hair). Instead, Gianna Sparacino, the head of the film's hair department, was enlisted to bring Moondog to life through a complex process of custom wigs and hair pieces — and lots of purple shampoo. She reveals all of Moondog's Beach Bum hair secrets, ahead.

The Real-Life Inspiration For Beach Bum

If the fluorescent lighting and beach setting feel familiar, it should. The director and writer of Beach Bum, Harmony Korine, is the same mastermind behind 2012's Spring Breakers, which most notably featured James Franco as a white drug and arms dealer in cornrows and platinum grills. So, if anyone could turn an Academy Award-winning actor into a literal beach bum, it's him.
Photo: Courtesy of Neon/Vice.
"Harmony showed me pictures of actual men he came across in Key West," Sparacino tells Refinery29. "He said, 'I want this kind of feeling,' and talked about Moondog being this mashup of people he's met over the years. He's very much inspired by characters that actually exist, but amplified." Sparacino adds that almost every person in the photos Korine showed her had similarly over-processed, ratty hair, so giving McConaughey a similar style (or lack thereof) was a non-negotiable.

Moondog Gets A Custom Wig

Just because Beach Bum features a crew of famous faces, including McConaughey, Dogg, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill, Martin Lawrence, and Isla Fisher, doesn't mean the production came along with a big budget. (It didn't.) Typically, a custom wig for any character costs thousands of dollars, so Sparacino had to call on industry friends to help create a realistic — and affordable — wig. The end result: a custom-made wig permed and dyed by Oscar-winning hair designer Beatrice De Alba.
Sparacino also tapped wig designer Bob Kretschmer for a lace-front hair piece that would give Moondog layered length at the front of his head; everything you see below that, around the front perimeter of his face, is McConaughey's. As far as Moondog's beard goes? That's all McConaughey's, too.

The Purple Shampoo Behind It All

Even though Moondog looks like he's never heard of a regular grooming routine, Sparacino confirms that his wig was more high-maintenance than you think. Since they filmed Beach Bum in Florida at the tail-end of the state's brutal summer season, they caught the heat and humidity at its worst — making wig upkeep a full-time job. "After shooting, I’d take the wig off Matthew, bring it home, put it on a block, wash it, and comb it out," she says. "It took about an hour or longer after work, especially because I'd let it air-dry naturally overnight. I called it 'my little Moondog.' It's been with me everywhere."
Even if you don't want to live like Moondog, you might appreciate his wig's hair routine, which included an anti-brass purple shampoo and conditioner to keep his sun-soaked hair looking exactly that — just without the brassy undertones. And, sure, if Moondog were real, he'd probably get his seaside texture from the ocean and salty breeze, but Sparacino preferred a sea-salt styling spray to achieve his beachy waves instead.
Although Sparacino had most of the work to do after filming wrapped for the day, she adds that McConaughey had to take care of his real hair in order to make Moondog's look work, too. "He has a very tender, sensitive scalp," she says. "He'd wear that wig for sometimes 15-hour days in the heat and Florida elements. So I'd give him a scalp massage with lots of hair oil and he'd leave it in overnight." We don’t know that we’d ever take hair tips from Moondog — but the real Matthew McConaughey? That’s another story.
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