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Colin Farrell reveals why he shunned gaining weight to become Penguin in The Batman

"It took eight or nine people to do all the make-up, the hair and the teeth but it was so exciting to be a part of this team that brought the character to life. I loved it."

Colin Farrell as the Penguin

Esther McCarthy

WHEN the first pictures of Colin Farrell as the Penguin started to emerge, movie fans couldn't believe their eyes.

The Dubliner had undergone one of the most radical transformations of any star for the role, and was utterly unrecognisable as Gotham's infamous baddie in The Batman.

With his middle-aged jowls, portly figure and combover, the Penguin couldn't look more unlike the 45-year-old, who would spend hours in make-up every morning, getting prosthetics and a fat suit fitted. A team of nine people were involved in creating his look.

Now the actor - who is set to return to playing the Penguin in a spin-off series for HBO next year - has shared how he had a blast with being unrecognisable.

"I felt total liberation to experiment and play around in a way I maybe couldn't without all that going on," Colin tells Magazine+. "People didn't recognise me. That's a lot of fun to play around with.

"Matt [Reeves, the film's director] wanted everything in this film to be grounded in the real world and believable but I really had no idea what Penguin was going to look like.

"It took eight or nine people to do all the make-up, the hair and the teeth but it was so exciting to be a part of this team that brought the character to life. I loved it."

However, after putting on several stone to play as a psychopath whale killer in TV series The North Water last year, he was understandably reluctant to put his body under the stress of gaining and losing large amounts of weight again.

"Years ago I probably would have, but not now. I had just done The North Water and for health reasons I didn't want to go from losing weight for that to gaining all the weight needed for Penguin.

"Also, I'm only in five or six scenes so I was really looking at what I felt I could do and realistically bring to the character."

Colin Farrell as another baddie in The North Water

Set to be one of the biggest movies of the year, The Batman sees Robert Pattinson don the Dark Knight's legendary outfit, updated especially for this new take on the DC Comics legend.

And Colin revealed that he was once in the running for another movie about the Gotham legend, planned by German director Wolfgang Petersen.

"That was a long time ago. I remember meeting Wolfgang about it but that was it. Nothing happened with that. It must have been 14 or 15 years ago now. I would have jumped at the chance but it never worked out."

As a boy growing up in the Dublin suburb of Castleknock, the Hollywood A-lister was hooked on the Adam West characterisation of the Caped Crusader. "I watched it recently again with my son and it's ridiculous but still great," he laughs.

"And Tim Burton's Batman with Michael Keaton really resonated with me when I first saw it as a teenager. I love both of those."

But the dad-of-two joked that he's not sure whether his boys, James (18) and 12-year-old Henry, think it's cool that he's starring in a superhero movie.

"I hope they think it's cool but I think they're more embarrassed by it just because they're tired of me playing villains, to be honest."

The Batman was one of the many big movies that was delayed when the world shut down, and its star told how he returned from London to be with family as the first restrictions loomed.

Colin Farrell on the red carpet

"It's been a strange time. I was in London when it all kicked off. I got a plane back to the States when I could and I was locked down with my boy. It's been scary but hopefully things are getting back to normal now."

In-demand Colin then spent last summer in the west of Ireland when the In Bruges gang got back together for a new movie. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisheer sees the actor once more join forces with Brendan Gleeson.

Also reuniting him with Barry Keoghan, with whom he last shared the screen in 2017's The Killing of a Sacred Deer, the dark comedy tells the story of two lifelong friends who come to an awkward impasse when one of them decides they want to step back from the friendship.

The IFTA winner will also be seen in Ron Howard's upcoming biographical survival drama Thirteen Lives, based on the incredible 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue, when 12 school boys and their soccer coach were saved from a flooded cave in Thailand.

He portrays real-life Welsh rescuer John Volanthen in a star-studded cast including Viggo Mortensen and Joel Edgerton.

Meanwhile, Colin's Penguin attire is due to get another outing when the spin-off TV series of The Batman, chronicling the villain's rise to power in Gotham's criminal underworld, drops on US streaming service HBO Max in 2023.

Luckily, fans don't have to wait that long as he takes the torch from former beaky baddie Danny DeVito later this week.

The Batman is in cinemas from Friday, March 4

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