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What These DCEU Villains Look Like Out Of Costume

There's a lot more to taking over the universe than wearing a big, shiny suit of computer-generated armor. Though we're not going to lie, the big, shiny suit of computer-generated armor certainly helps. Plus, there's the fact that heroes are rarely style icons — that's a villain's job. These bad guys look good

Indeed, there's a lot to love about cinematic supervillains' over-the-top looks. But under all that CGI, fake hair, and pancake makeup, it can be tricky to appreciate the actor underneath. That's a real shame, as villainous roles tend to draw more flexible performances. When it comes to the bad guys, there are fewer heroic pretty boys and more rough-and-tumble character actors, willing to go big with memorably over-the-top performances.

The DCEU has no shortage of villains sporting dramatic looks. But what do the actors who sport the armor, space suits, and occult headdresses look like beneath all that costuming? We're here to answer that question. From supermodels to indie darlings to seasoned character actors, these are the performers who bring the darker ilk of the DCEU to life.

Roman Sionis/Black Mask (Ewan McGregor)

2020's Birds of Prey captures the candy-coated chaos of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) as she comes into her own after breaking up with the Joker. In an effort to protect her pick-pocketing protégé, Cassandra Cain, Harley faces off against Roman Sionis, a sadistic gangster who masquerades as the fiend known as Black Mask. He is known for — you guessed it — his black mask. While Black Mask boasts an illustrious reputation in the comics as one of Gotham's most prolific ne'er-do-wells, McGregor's portrayal marks the skull-faced criminal's first appearance on the big screen. 

McGregor hails from Scotland, where he studied drama before landing a leading role on the 1950s-set Channel 4 series Lipstick on Your Collar. McGregor had his international breakthrough with the role of heroin addict Mark Renton in Danny Boyle's 1996 film, Trainspotting. Like Sionis, McGregor isn't afraid to get campy. Indeed, Harley's Marilyn Monroe-inspired dream sequence feels like a covert nod to Moulin Rouge!, one of McGregor's biggest hits, which also features an appropriately indulgent "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" sequence.

Readers are most likely to recognize McGregor from his work as the aloof Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels. McGregor revisits the role of Obi-Wan in Obi-Wan Kenobi, a live-action miniseries on Disney+, set 10 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith.

June Moone/Enchantress (Cara Delevingne)

Technically, there are a bunch of villains in 2016's Suicide Squad ... a whole squad of them, in fact. But Enchantress, the ancient inter-dimensional entity possessing the body of unassuming archeologist June Moone, is the film's biggest baddie. Delevingne's feral, gyrating, mud-soaked portrayal marks the first live-action incarnation of the character.

While Delevingne assumes an American accent as Dr. Moone, she uses her natural English accent as Enchantress. Born to an upper class family, Delevingne was raised in London. She eventually dropped out of school to follow in her older sister Poppy's footsteps and pursue modeling. Indeed, modelling was always in the cards, as Delevingne scored her first gig at the age of 10 for Vogue Italia. Delevingne hit her runway stride in 2012 when she walked at New York Fashion Week, where her distinct bushy brows and flirty smirk set her apart from her peers.

But acting was always part of Delevingne's long-term plan. She made her big screen debut in 2012's Anna Karenina. Three years later, she earned the starring role of enigmatic Margo in 2015's Paper Towns, a coming-of-age dramedy based on John Green's book of the same name. Since Suicide Squad, Delevingne co-starred alongside Dane DeHaan in Luc Besson's ambitious 2017 sci-fi flick Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and appeared in 2018's critically well-received Her Smell. Delevingne has also opened up about being pansexual in an interview with Variety.

Doomsday (Robin Atkin Downes)

2016's Batman v Superman features Doomsday as its heaviest-hitting baddie. He may look like an overgrown Ninja Turtle, but don't be fooled: This towering monstrosity requires the combined forces of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to be taken down. Even then, the struggle costs Superman his life.

So, who's hiding under all that CGI? Doomsday was brought to life by Robin Atkin Downes. Unfamiliar with Downes' name? Well, if you've played literally any video game in the last 20 years, we can pretty much guarantee you've heard his voice. Downes has appeared in everything from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic to The Last of Us. According to Bustle, due to the secretive nature of the film, even Downes himself didn't know he was voicing Doomsday until Doomsday's presence in the movie was made public. 

Downes' involvement on a DC project is unsurprising, given his prior work. Downes has appeared in previous DC projects including Batman: Bad Blood, Batman: Arkham Knight, Batman vs. Robin, Beware the Batman, All-Star Superman, and Justice League: Doom. He's lent his talents to everyone from Alfred Pennyworth to Harvey Dent to the Court of Owls' Grandmaster. Doomsday was only the latest in a long line of DC parts for this versatile talent.

General Zod (Michael Shannon)

Michael Shannon's casting as General Zod in 2013's Man of Steel may just be one of the most inspired casting decisions in the DCEU. Shannon, who was tasked with filling the iconic boots of Terence Stamp's original take on the Kryptonian war criminal, swapped sinister cool for his trademark intensity. What results is truly impressive — we'd kneel before Shannon's Zod any day.

Raised in Kentucky and Chicago, Shannon dropped out of high school and began attending auditions, eventually becoming a regular fixture of the Chicago theater scene. In a 2013 profile, Shannon's wife Kate Arrington told the Chicago Tribune that "[Shannon] once told me being onstage was the only place where he could be as angry as he felt and it was still acceptable." 

Indeed, Shannon has become a reliable player when it comes to unsettling, pained, and menacing characters. Shannon has portrayed paranoiacs (Take Shelter), sinister puritans (Boardwalk Empire), and imposing lawmen (The Shape of Water). With his furrowed brow and gravelly tone, Shannon makes for a compelling villain — his unnerving performances never fail to get under your skin.

Darkseid (Ray Porter)

Bringing a cosmic warlord to life requires a certain imposing touch. Luckily, Ray Porter excels at embodying menace, and brought a larger-than-life hunger, power, and dominating weightiness to Darkseid, the antagonist of Zack Snyder's Justice League. While this iconic DC villain was left on the cutting room floor of the theatrical release, Darkseid finally made it to the big screen in 2021, marking his first live-action appearance in a feature film. In an interview with LightCast, Porter confirmed that he worked with Steppenwolf actor Ciarán Hinds. We would love to get our grubby little mitts on that behind-the-scenes footage: Did they have stilts? Did Hinds wear a big metal hat? So many questions!

Porter's first live-action performance was in Cameron Crowe's 2000 film, Almost Famous. In a fun twist, Batman actor Ben Affleck and Porter have already crossed paths (though this time more amicably) in 2012's Argo. His live-action roles notwithstanding, we have to imagine Porter's extensive voice-over work for the Animated Hero Classics series was a huge asset when it came to finding the commanding gravitas of Darkseid. Once you've played George Washington and Satan, you might as well play the big bad of the DCEU, you know?

Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg)

Lex Luthor might not be buried under piles of make-up or bulky CGI muscles, but you should never underestimate the transformative power of hair. Just ask anyone with bangs. Now, does Jesse Eisenberg's take on Luthor feature one of the worst hairstyles in the DCEU? Maybe. But thankfully, on his off days, Eisenberg sports an endearing curly mop, rather than Luthor's 'do, which looks like it was assembled out of the hair clippings of local surfers. 

Serving as a primary antagonist of Batman v Superman, Eisenberg's eccentric, giddy take on the Man of Steel's archenemy has been divisive, to put it mildly: Many fans bemoan his departure from more mature takes on the diabolical mastermind. But, like it or not, one thing is indisputable — Eisenberg certainly turned in a memorable (if bananas) performance.

Born in New York City, Eisenberg attended a performing arts high school. He co-starred in the 2002 indie film Roger Dodger in his senior year, marking his first foray onto the big screen. After starring in Noah Baumbach's well-reviewed 2005 indie drama The Squid and the Whale, Eisenberg became a household name in 2009 with his role in Zombieland as a rule-obsessed survivor in an undead apocalypse. In a filmography full of sympathetic neurotics, the straightest line to "morally corrupt rich guy" is Eisenberg's Oscar-nominated performance as Mark Zuckerberg in 2010's The Social Network. Though not even Lex Luthor could be so evil as to invent Facebook.

Orm/Ocean Master (Patrick Wilson)

Patrick Wilson's performance as Prince Orm in 2018's Aquaman should come as no surprise to horror fans. After all, Wilson is a return player in James Wan's ever-expanding Conjuring Universe, where he portrays Ed Warren, one half of the franchise's infamous ghost-hunting duo. Wilson has also appeared in other genre delights including Joel Schumacher's 2004 adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, in which he starred as Raoul, protagonist Christine's dashing childhood friend. Fans of small-screen dramas might also remember Wilson fondly as Lou Solverson, the heroic lead of the second season of FX's Fargo. Or hey, maybe you caught Wilson's sneaky appearance as the disembodied voice of the President in Batman v Superman. Indeed, Aquaman is far from Wilson's first superhero outing: He got plenty of experience with CGI action and tight-fitting suits in Zack Snyder's Watchmen as the good-hearted, schlubby Nite Owl.

All told, despite his conventional good looks, Wilson has carved out a name for himself as one of Hollywood's great "scream kings." Wilson's willingness to go big has proved a godsend for genre fiction, encapsulated by his turn in Aquaman. Seeing him ham it up as Orm feels like a long-awaited, blockbuster-borne gift.

Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds)

Depending on which version of Justice League you watched, Steppenwolf either looked like a somewhat generic metal giant or a very, very spiky behemoth with a (surprisingly adorable) squished face.

Buried deep under all that chrome-colored CGI is versatile Northern Irish actor Ciarán Hinds. Trained as an Irish dancer, Hinds originally studied law before pursuing acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. With a commanding presence and large, expressive eyes, Hinds has appeared in everything from critical darlings like In Bruges and Martin Scorsese's Silence to entries in big franchises like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2. Readers may be familiar with Hinds' various appearances in historically-set miniseries, including HBO's Rome and AMC's The Terror. Hinds also appeared as the honorable (if intimidating) Mance Rayder, leader of the Free Folk on the HBO series Game of Thrones.

Zack Snyder's love for 1981's Excalibur, which happened to be Hinds' theatrical debut, is no secret. Even Hinds suspects his involvement in the sword and sorcery classic played a part in him landing the role of Steppenwolf: "Maybe that's how I got the role [in Justice League]! Who knows?," Hinds speculated to The Independent.

Barbara Minerva/Cheetah (Kristen Wiig)

In the final act of 2020's Wonder Woman 1984, a mousy geologist, Barbara Minerva, wishes to become an "apex predator." The wish-granting Max Lord makes it so, and Minerva transforms into a cheetah-human hybrid. Her were-cat form is a far cry from her original bookish demeanor: She goes from cat lady to cat lady, as it were. With her white-tinged coat and distinctive markings, there's got to be a "digital fur technology" joke in here somewhere.

Born in Canandaigua, New York, Wiig only dipped a toe in the acting pool to fill a course requirement while studying art at the University of Arizona. Encouraged by her acting teacher, Wiig dropped out of school and moved to Los Angeles to see if acting could, in fact, work out. After honing her improv skills with The Groundlings, Wiig joined the cast of Saturday Night Live

Despite her many appearances in comedic movies (including her breakout hit, Bridesmaids), Wiig has never shied away from more serious fare. She put in stellar performances in the melancholic indie dramedy The Skeleton Twins and Darren Aronofsky's psychological horror film, Mother!. Being in a superhero movie was "huge on my list of things I wanted to do," Wiig told The New York Times. Though Wiig might seem a strange pick at first glance for the feline fatale, as the actress herself points out, "Barbara's really awkward in the beginning — I do have that side to me."

Doctor Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong)

Hiding behind the gnarly scar and stylish leather duds of Shazam! baddie Dr. Sivana is classically-trained English actor Mark Strong. Born in London to an Austrian mother and an Italian father, Strong is an old hand at portraying stone-faced, cold-hearted villains.  His prior showings include Kick-Ass' crime boss Frank D'Amico, the Kingsman franchise's Merlin, and long-time Green Lantern nemesis Sinestro, who never truly got a fair shake at villainy as a sequel to the infamous 2011 flop never materialized.

Strong's background in Shakespeare came in handy when it came to instilling Sivana with a sense of gravitas. "There is a dignity and a presence to a comic book villain like Sivana that is a direct descendent ... of some of the villains that I was used to playing on stage as a young man," Strong explained to AMNY.

As for Sivana's evil look, speaking to Syfy Wire, Strong explained that his goal was to manifest evil incarnate: "So, he's chosen something long, a sort of Nazi-like, long leather coat with a fur collar and a pair of dark sunglasses. I suppose as he gets that evil power, this is how he chooses to manifest himself in the way that he looks."

Sir Patrick Morgan/Ares (David Thewlis)

When you're the literal god of war, you kind of have to be a baddie. Them's the rules. Fearsome and manipulative, Wonder Woman's half-brother Ares is hell-bent on tearing humanity apart via World War I.

Ares is David Thewlis' first portrayal of a comic book villain. As British War Council member Sir Patrick Morgan, Thewlis puts on a mild-mannered façade, ultimately revealing his true, nightmarish form in his final confrontation with Wonder Woman. At that point, he gets decked out in dark armor and a four-pronged helmet ... that still shows off his moustache. Remember: When it comes to superhero villains, style is everything. That extends to facial hair.

Born in Blackpool in the early 1960s, Thewlis graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He appeared in various television sitcoms until his breakout role in Mike Leigh's 1993 film Naked. Thewlis has become a familiar face in fantasy and period films, including Dragonheart, Seven Years in Tibet, and Kingdom of Heaven. He is best known for his role as Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter films. In 2017, in addition to playing Ares, Thewlis appeared as the grotesque criminal mastermind V. M. Varga, the primary antagonist of Fargo's third season.

The Joker (Jared Leto)

From the campy jaunt of Jack Nicholson to the compelling chaos of Heath Ledger, the Joker has seen his fair share of incarnations on the big screen. But until Suicide Squad, none of them had a face tattoo that reads "damaged". This guy's a little twisted! Doesn't he know we live in a society?

Hiding under the lime-green hair dye and clown-white foundation is none other than Jared Leto, former Thirty Seconds to Mars frontman-turned-actor. Whatever your thoughts may be on Leto's portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime, the fact remains that anyone who brings a model of their own severed head to the Met Gala is probably on the Joker's level.

Leto has been a fan of method acting since his 1997 performance in the Olympic biopic Prefontaine. This approach proved somewhat troubling during the production of Suicide Squad, when Leto's in-character pranks included, among other horrors, sending the cast a dead hog. Leto's intensity can be seen in much of his film career, from the grating yuppie gait of American Psycho's Paul Allen to his shocking turn as a heroin addict in Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream. He also appeared in a film called Fight Club as a dinged-up pretty boy, but we've been told we're not supposed to talk about that.