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The Batman's Colin Farrell Confirms All Of Our Suspicions About His Penguin Transformation

Even if you saw "The Batman" but didn't look at the credits, you'd probably be surprised to learn that Colin Farrell is in the film. Portraying the iconic Batman foe Oswald Cobbleplot aka the Penguin — in the first live-action performance of the character on the big screen since Danny DeVito in "Batman Returns" — Farrell went incognito for the role. The actor sports such heavy makeup and prosthetics that he looks almost identical to the comic book character (even if he's missing the old-school smoking habit).

In "The Batman," Farrell plays just one of multiple antagonists going up against a Bruce Wayne aka the Batman (Robert Pattinson) who has only been on the job for two years when a mysterious figured called The Riddler (Paul Dano) begins leaving dead bodies around town with messages for the caped crusader. That said, Farrell's depiction of Cobblepot is already earning praises from critics and fans alike, and Warner Bros. has thrown their support behind the performance by announcing a Penguin-centered spin-off series for HBO Max before the new Matt Reeves-directed film even hit theaters. That seems like a sure sign that Farrell's Penguin role is only getting bigger from here on out, and recently, the actor has detailed the wild process behind his drastic transformation for the character.

Creating Penguin was 'dressing up on steroids'

Colin Farrell told Total Film that, from the start, he knew that bringing this early version of Oswald Cobblepot to life meant not just thinking about his iconic appearance, but examining where the character is during the film, and the journey to full-fledged Batman villain that he still has ahead of him. As Farrell tells it, his early conversations regarding the role made it clear that this was a Penguin who hasn't yet fully embraced "the archetypical power" he's known for — at this point, while he is a crime boss, he's also got a bigger man above him, as he works closely under the thumb of Carmine Falcone (John Turturro).  "Every discussion until I saw what Mike Marino, the makeup artist, had designed, was considering the character's psychology and where he was at this stage of his criminal career," Farrell said. "None of it was about inhabiting this character that ended up being in the film." 

Farrell said he also worked with a dialect coach on Penguin's distinct voice, and his direction truly became clear when he realized just how much makeup he was going to wear. "I knew where I was going with [the dialect]," he says, "but I wasn't fully comfortable [with playing the character] until I saw the makeup. When I saw the makeup, it just all became really, really clear." 

The makeup and prosthetics involved proved transformational on such a level that even most die-hard Farrell fans barely recognized him when the first trailer for "The Batman" was released. Inded, Farrell praised the work of these artists for helping define the character so clearly, pointing out every scar and pockmark lent such a "sense of history" to the character. "I mean, it's quite scary looking, and it's quite an imposing character, but there's also something that's almost sympathetic to it as well, which is part of Mike Marino's genius."

Penguin's extra pounds were an accident

Another drastic change to Colin Farrell's look is his size. The Irish-born actor has bulked up for films like "Miami Vice" and "Total Recall," but he's put on the extra pounds in a very different way for "The Batman," where Oswald Cobblepot is as big in size as he is personality. The weight, however, was a happy accident.  Farrell said he was larger in size when he met director Matt Reeves as he was fresh off the miniseries "The North Water," where he portrayed a vicious whaler, and had intentionally built himself up to a size much bigger than he was used to. While Reeves loved the look, Farrell argued for a thinner Cobblepot (something that has been done before with Robin Lord Taylor recently taking on a leaner version of the role for Fox's "Gotham"). 

Reeves, though, wanted a more classic portrayal. As Farrell explains, "Matt was like, 'Oh, yeah, I love it. I think that's Oz!' And I was like, 'Nah, man, let's have a thin Oz because I'm not feeling great now, I have to lose this weight. There's no way I was keeping it on, man.'" However, Reeves sold his actor on the bigger look by telling him he could lose the weight and the needed pounds would be added with prosthetics, of which there were a heavy amount.

Penguin's look took hours and hours of preparation

Under such heavy prosthetics and makeup, it should come as no surprise that Colin Farrell's Penguin took hours to prepare — despite the on-screen character having a relatively simple costume, hardly sporting the elaborate getups of past Batman villains like the Joker and Bane, or even Farrell's own co-star in "The Batman," Paul Dano, who dons a full-body costume as the Riddler.

Even for the first screen test, Farrell revealed it took "six or eight" hours and "individual prosthetic pieces" to complete the transformation, but the extensive work was worth it, as it was through the extensive physical changes that the actor truly found his version of Cobblepot. "Someone was there that had molded the teeth. Someone was there that had done the hair. Mike and his team were there, three or four of them were applying different pieces because it's six or eight different individual prosthetic pieces," Farrell revealed to Total Film. "And once it all went on, honest to God, it overtook me, as I think it would most people. I started moving and talking and gesticulating with my hands and it felt like being a kid in the sandbox, man."

That freedom extended to set where Farrell said he felt he had "absolute freedom of motion and expression and articulation of thought and feeling." And unlike so many actors who have expressed sorrow at having to undergo such laborious transformations, Farrell says he had a ball — and adds that if the character hits audiences in the way the filmmakers hope, the makeup crew deserves as much credit as he does.