How the Oscar-nominated makeup team of 'The Batman' made Colin Farrell disappear

Michael Ordoña, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

A rotund, middle-aged mystery man showed up to the set of "The Batman" early in production. The skin on his face was weatherbeaten, scarred. He brought with him a slight limp and a beaklike nose, jowls and slightly arched eyebrows. He resembled the missing link between the ghosts of Danny Aiello and Powers Boothe, with the rough, big-city bark of a two-bit gangster. No one knew him, yet he kept greeting people, the big stars in the cast, as if he knew them.

"Nobody would look at him," says Mike Marino, who was there that day. "They thought, 'Who is this scary guy on set?' " He laughs triumphantly. "All the actors — Jeffrey Wright, Zoë Kravitz — everybody was like, 'Why is this guy saying hello to me? This guy's crazy, weird.' No one knew it was him."

It turned out underneath that ravaged exterior was their co-star Colin Farrell, in his first full makeup test as Oswald "Oz" Cobblepot — aka the Penguin.

"The look of him is so intimidating, people didn't want to go near him," said Oscar-nominated makeup designer Marino, clearly proud of his creation. "He was going up to everyone saying 'Hi,' and no one knew until minutes later: 'Oh my God, wait, that's Colin!' "

The Oscar nomination for achievement in makeup and hairstyling in "The Batman" is shared by Michael Fontaine, Naomi Donne and Marino for helping create the gritty realism of writer-director Matt Reeves' take on the Dark Knight. Marino was in charge of transforming Farrell into the Penguin.

"I couldn't do a fantasy character, like Danny DeVito [in 'Batman Returns'], because that was a Tim Burton film. This is basically a true-detective film where you're very hard-grounded into reality," Marino says.


That meant leaving behind both the Burton/DeVito version — a nightmarish man-bird hybrid in a sewer-chic tux, like a great, desiccated egg with a pale, sunken-eyed face — and the classic comic-book version embodied by Burgess Meredith in the Pow! Zok! Bam! camp-supreme '60s TV series — a purple-hatted, purple-bow-tied, aristocratic caricature waddling around, randomly expelling "Waaugh-waaugh-waaugh"s. Reeves' vision, the truest yet to the Frank Miller-era comics, with the Batman as a street-level brawler inflicting punishment on the guilty, would require something quite different of the villain.

"I thought, 'old-school gangster.' He's got this one eye that's heavy, and gold teeth. He's kind of like a damaged war bird, you know? The body shape is in the vein of Penguin. He has some kind of a leg injury, which gives him a limp, so he's waddling.

"I put in subliminal shapes that resembled the eyebrows of a penguin, the beak of a bird. Little details, like his scarred side on the bottom of one nostril is the exact shape of a bird's mouth. So it's really like a beak. His nose actually is a bird beak. I found some reference photographs of some birds that were grizzled and older and have been through the wringer. I utilized the chipping of the beaks with his skin.

"So I put all these subliminal things inside, while trying to maintain a realistic character. And when Colin saw himself in the mirror, he immediately said, 'OK, now I know who this guy is. I know how to speak, I know how to walk.' "


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