Ledermann knew she needed to create something iconic that would be recognisable to fans of the villain, but also entirely unique to their movie.
The end result was pretty terrifying and certainly memorable, but it turns out the makeup artist made her choices mostly because Phoenix wouldn’t sit still in the chair.
Speaking with Dazed & Confused Magazine, Ledermann revealed how she settled on the final look, explaining it took a lot longer than expected to finalise the clown makeup.
“It took an average of 15-20 minutes to apply the make-up, partly because it was hard for Joaquin to sit still but also because I didn’t want it to look too precisely thought out,” she said.
“I had to be able to manipulate the make-up. To take it off and redo it fast after every take, matching it perfectly to the prior take, or to smear it during the take, then fix it in between, or to make it appear to smear but actually stay put without smudging during the take.
“To achieve this, I used and mixed different products to match the texture and colours exactly, freehand the placement and not interrupt the speedy pace and incredible intensity of filming, so it would look fluent and authentic.”
Phoenix’s inability to sit still and keeping the makeup intact weren’t the only difficulties Ledermann faced, she also revealed just how tough it was to remain consistent throughout the film.
“The hardest part of all was nailing continuity – when you film a movie, you don’t shoot in scene order. One day you film a scene that is being continued days or weeks later and you have to match it exactly frame to frame. Because everything was freehand, it took a lot of record-keeping and solid painting skills to match and progress it,” she explained.
Because Phoenix was so restless, his makeup transformation was the fastest out of his, Heath Ledger’s and Jared Leto’s versions of the character.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ledger would spend at least an hour in the makeup chair when they first started shooting The Dark Knight Rises, but by the end of the film makeup artist John Caglione Jr was able to create the “blurry, distorted and disturbing” look in about half an hour.
He said, “We wanted something very worn, lived in. We wanted to make it blurry, distorted and disturbing. Chris wanted everything to be organic in that film. Everything had to be plausible. This Joker, he doesn’t change his clothes. Does he sleep in his makeup? Does he wash his hair?”
“Heath would contort his face while I was laying makeup on it so it would look like it was lived in. It created cracks and crevices. It was kind of like a dance in the makeup chair. He knew where I was going with a certain brush and a different colour, and he’d squint his eyes and raise his forehead and make these facial gestures and I would just paint over it to create all of those crevices,” the makeup artist added.
Alessandro Bertolazzi, the makeup artist who worked on Leto for Suicide Squad said it would take three hours with six or seven layers of makeup to make the actor look “really dirty, really sick”.
Bertolazzi said, “With the pale skin and the veins and a wound — I make it dirty. He’s a guy who hasn’t taken a shower in forever. This is The Joker.
“Then he needs something else. David said, ‘Why don’t we give him a scar?’ That’s interesting. Then I decided to do seven scars. This guy is completely crazy — I imagine him in front of the mirror in the morning, where he never brushes his teeth, but instead he might take a blade and he cuts his face. Just for fun,” he added.
It’s so interesting to hear the different ways the artists came up with the looks for the three very different films.