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Spending hours in a makeup chair just to look the pudgy part as Oswald Cobblepot might not sound like most people’s idea of freedom. But for The Batman’s Colin Farrell, putting in the extra time was more than worth it — even if talking about the whole experience of sitting for his prosthetic transformation into the Penguin nearly drove him to tears.
It’s not that Farrell was that emotional about letting The Batman makeup artist Mike Marino work his magic. Nope, it’s just that he happened to be smack in the middle of Scoville unit-induced pain as the latest guest on Hot Ones, the web series that quizzes guests while they snack their way through a gauntlet of progressively spicier chicken wings doused in hot sauce.
Maybe there’s something about tongue torture that brings out an actor’s honesty, though: Squinting through the peppery pain, Farrell said being buried inside the Penguin’s prosthetic suit “liberated” him in ways no other role ever has.
Check it out around the 9-minute mark in the clip below — and then stick around to see how Farrell hilariously handles himself later in the show, when the heat really kicks in:
“For me it was absolute liberation,” Farrell said. “…I thought that it would be very limiting, I really did. I thought I would be very, just oppressed by having this whole [suit on] …and it was totally the opposite. When the piece moves as well as the piece that was designed for the Penguin moved — my eyebrows moved, and my cheeks, and my smile — it was f***ing insane.”
But what is it about being buried under a mountain of prosthetics — a process that Farrell said felt short when the crew managed to get it down to only two hours of prep time — that makes playing an iconic DC villain feel fresh?
“There was a buffer between me and my fellow actors with this mask on that just liberated me like I’ve never been liberated before,” he explained. “So it was the complete opposite of what I thought. It was so much fun — so much fun. And it was three or four hours — it was four hours, to start, in the chair — and they got it down to about two hours. But it was worth every minute.”
Farrell’s Penguin praise came early enough in the show for him to still be in ace pain-management mode. But host Sean Evans turned up the twisted irony later on, dialing up the food heat while quizzing Farrell on his childhood admiration for comedy classic Some Like it Hot . “F*** this!” Farrell managed to stammer, amid hilariously heartfelt attempts at explaining why Golden Age Hollywood legends like Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis captivated him as a kid.
In the end, though, Farrrell maintained composure through his date with palate-searing devastation better than lots of other celebrities who’ve taken their turn behind in the hot seat. In addition to dropping some fresh Penguin insights, he even managed to get in a plug for his appearance in After Yang (“It’s incredibly zen”), the independent sci-fi drama from A24 that arrives in theaters this week.
Catch Farrell starting today in The Batman, and watch for more news on the upcoming spinoff series at HBO Max where he’ll reprise his Penguin role. Just be sure to bring your own hot sauce — or better still, play it safe and stick with popcorn.