Joaquin Phoenix's Iconic Joker Makeup Only Looked That Way Because He Couldn't Sit Still

"I didn’t want it to look too precisely thought out."

For makeup artist Nicki Ledermann, creating Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker look was a surprisingly big challenge.

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.

Credit: Warner Bros

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”.

Credit: Warner Bros

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.

'Joker' Cinematographer Reveals What Actually Happened To Zazie Beetz' Sophie

Spoiler alert!

It’s been a few weeks since Joker was released in cinemas, and we haven’t been able to stop talking about the movie ever since, especially when it comes to the relationship between Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) and Sophie (Zazie Beetz) and what was real and what wasn’t.

Credit: Warner Bros.

In the movie, Sophie was a source of comfort and affection for Arthur, especially when his mother’s health was going downhill. However, we later find out Arthur had imagined the whole romantic relationship when he lets himself into her apartment and she’s shocked to find him there and barely even knows his name.

It’s not clear whether Arthur left her apartment after murdering Sophie because of how the scene was cut and edited.

In the scene, we see a moment of revelation on Arthur’s face, then it cuts ot him walking back to his apartment without any definitive answer of what happened to Sophie.

But thankfully Joker’s cinematographer Lawrence Sher is clearing the air.

Speaking with Slash Film, Sher said, “We wanted to make the interpretation of the real versus what’s not real, a part of the viewer’s experience. For instance, his relationship to Sophie is a fantasy to him.

Credit: Warner Bros.

“Some people have asked me, ‘Was she killed?’ [Director Todd Phillips] makes it clear she wasn’t killed. Arthur is killing people who’ve wronged him in a certain way, and Sophie never wronged him.

“In terms of what we did visually to play with the real and not real, there are callbacks and scenes that mirror each other. We leave hints using imagery or way we covered scenes similarly between scene. Outside of that, I like that people can have the conversation and come to their own conclusions.”

Well, that certainly makes me feel better to know Arthur didn’t hurt Sophie or her young daughter as they weren’t his enemies – similarly to how he didn’t kill Gary in his apartment after murdering Randall.

If You Managed To Spot An Easter Egg In 'Joker' It Was A Mistake

Or it was the art department trolling...

We live in the age of films being made from stories based on comic books and their characters, and because of the seemingly endless source material, most of these films will include subtle Easter eggs in the background – but, sadly, Joker doesn’t.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Director Todd Phillips spoke with Collider, revealing why you won’t find any subtle in-jokes or references to the wider DC universe in his film, because he’s just not interested in them.

“I don’t do Easter eggs. Any Easter eggs anybody finds is a mistake. I don’t understand,” he said.

Star of the film Joaquin Phoenix then jumped in, “I was saying to the last press, they asked me this thing about the clock and 11:11 and I said, ‘Paul is dead.’ And he was like, ‘What?’ I said, ‘Paul is dead. He’s like, ‘I don’t know.’ And the other guy that was like my age was like, ‘It’s a Beatles reference, dude.’ It’s these f***ing 22-year-old kids, they don’t know ‘Paul is dead.’

“I go, ‘You see what you want to see, you hear what you want to hear.’ Everybody thought it said ‘Paul is dead’ backwards and s**t,” he added.

Phillips added, “But that 11:11 is not an Easter egg to me.”

The clocks in the film being set to 11:11 had fans theorising that the film was set in Bizarro World (a world where everything is the opposite to Earth in some kind of way) and Arthur Fleck would actually end up becoming Batzarro (AKA Wayne Bruce, a super villain from Bizarro World).

Credit: Warner Bros.

The whole “Paul is dead” thing is in reference to the infamous urban legend that Beatles star Paul McCartney died in a car crash and was replaced by a lookalike before the release of Revolver.

The albums that followed reportedly contain ‘clues’ to suggest Paul’s dead – for instance, if McCartney was the only one not wearing shoes while walking down Abbey Road, he must be dead.

However, if it wasn’t already obvious enough, Phillips and Phoenix want their work to be completely separate to the DC universe, except for the obvious connections like Arthur and Bruce Wayne.

If you did manage to find an Easter Egg, Phillips swears it’s the “art department sneaking something in that would make me crazy if I knew about it.”

Phoenix then joked, “There’s a Wonder Woman Easter egg in there, but you probably didn’t catch it.”

But he’s got to be trolling, surely?!

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