⚡ Thunderdomer ⚡
True & Honest Fan
- Feb 3, 2013
Holy make-up nomination, Batman!
Colin Farrell looks unrecognizable as the Penguin in Matt Reeves’ The Batman, with the actor covered up in heavy prosthetics and make-up. Reeves confirmed Farrell’s involvement in January 2020, as part of an all-star cast hoping to re-define the Batman franchise for a new age. Tonally, the film looks to be leaning on film noir, harking back to the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, the Arkham video games, and numerous high-profile comic books. This is, surely, music to a Bat-fan’s ears, but the film seems to be continuing a strange Hollywood trend wherein an attractive, bankable star - in this case, Colin Farrell - is caked in make-up to play a character that they in no way resemble.
Obviously, make-up is required if an actor is playing a role that is meant to look grotesque or otherworldly - like Danny De Vito’s gothic take on the Penguin in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns - but Farrell looks set to play the more grounded version of the character. Previously defined by his gimmick, the Penguin has gone from being a deformed, umbrella-wielding bird-man, to a Cockney gangster with a slightly crooked nose - this latter interpretation coming to the fore as part of various odd attempts to more ‘realistically’ depict a universe designed, initially, for children.
Reeves’ take on the Penguin looks, essentially, like a normal guy - if not conventionally attractive - which begs the question: why didn’t the filmmakers cast an actor who looked more like the character that they had in mind? Obviously, Colin Farrell is a great actor, and another well-known name to help draw people in, but there are plenty of jobbing character actors who could have killed as the Penguin - minus the extensive make-up, and minus the weight gain. Perhaps the make-up has something to do with it, allowing the production to be considered for a possible Oscar? Again, this isn’t a slight against Farrell, but his casting speaks to a larger problem within the film industry as a whole.
If conventionally unattractive actors are losing unattractive roles to conventionally attractive actors in make-up, what are they supposed to do? Such characters are rarely depicted in mainstream entertainment, presenting a rare opportunity for less featured actors to hit the big time. Physical transformations have become the norm for franchise filmmaking - something that Fat Thor mocked in Avengers: Endgame - but feels like an unhealthy precedent to set for the acting profession.
Farrell is actually part of a smaller group: those who have gained weight for a role; but actors being asked to gain muscle is much more common. Marvel famously refused to cast Chris Pratt as Star-Lord unless he got ripped, despite the character wielding a gun for most of his screen-time. The same goes for Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, initially playing a middle-aged petty criminal who also happens to have a six-pack - the latter element seemingly in-conflict with the character’s laid-back attitude.
Even Robert Pattinson, The Batman’s new Batman, has received criticism from some quarters for dropping his fitness regime during the ongoing pandemic, and should be applauded for questioning an unhealthy system. For what reason does Batman need to be ripped? He literally wears an armored suit, and the best interpretations tend to rely on stealth tactics as opposed to brute force in a fight (not to the mention the fact it's acting!).
While Farrell’s performance should be fun, the Penguin really ought to have been tackled by someone more aesthetically akin to the character that Reeves had in mind. Character actors deserve more breaks and don’t deserve their few possible roles snatched away by attractive stars in extensive make-up (traditional, digital, or otherwise). At this point in history, our culture is wearing a little thin - with the majority of Hollywood movies re-hashing old stories, rather than trying anything new - but diversity is the key to bucking this trend. Hiring talent from a more diverse pool (rather than stuffing your movie with an unnecessary number of bankable stars, like The Batman) opens up a wider array of storytelling opportunities, and could likely offer a fresh spin on age-old material.
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