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Mask Of The Penguin: Looking Back At DeVito’s Penguin

It has been a year of kissing THE DARK KNIGHT RISES’ behind, but we’ve completely overlooked the 20th anniversary of BATMAN RETURNS (1992). BATMAN RETURNS showed Tim Burton going wild and creating a Batman film straight out of his head. Danny DeVito was cast in the role of The Penguin, a character that could easily be played camp and laughable. However, under Burton’s guidance, The Penguin became a grotesque cat eating mutant. DeVito relished the opportunity to create a man who truly was a monster. Tim Burton recalls DeVito’s time on set:

No one would talk to Danny on the set because he scared everybody. I don’t know if that was his usual way of working, but there was a point where he just clicked into it and was completely this character who was totally antisocial, who had been out of the loop a little too long. Danny was 100 percent into the transformation. With the makeup and all, it was a complete creation.

But as fabulous as DeVito’s performance was, we never would have had that visceral impact without the work of Stan Winston and his crew. Recently, over at Stan Winston School Of Character Arts, they’ve been looking back over the design process that lead to a memorable and nauseating character. Stan Winston’s work was so important, that DeVito found he couldn’t give an adequate performance during ADR without the make-up, as make-up artists Shane Mahan :

When we were working with Danny on BIG FISH (2003) he told us that when he’d done the voice-over sessions for BATMAN RETURNS, it was much harder for him to find the character without the makeup on. So he actually went to the trouble of having the makeup put on him for the voice-over work, just to help him get into the character. That was a big compliment to us.

Take a look at these awesome pictures, to realise the full level of detail and hard work that went into thecreation of this unforgettable character.

Source: Stan Winston School

Luke likes many things, films and penguins being among them. He's loved films since the age of 9, when STARGATE and BATMAN FOREVER changed the landscape of modern cinema as we know it. His love of film extends to all aspects of his life, with trips abroad being planned around film locations and only buying products featured in Will Smith movies. His favourite films include SEVEN SAMURAI, PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, IN BRUGES, LONE STAR, GODZILLA, and a thousand others.
  • Andrew

    Loved this piece..thank you..
    DeVito was great in this role, Wonderfully grotesque
    Weird Batman movie….remember walking out of cinema thinking, WTF was with the marching rocket penguins in the end with a gazillion explosions..

  • pjamese3

    Sorry, but the Penguin ruined the movie for me. It should have been just Catwoman and Max Shreck as the big bad. The Penguin was a grotesque distraction and detracted from the entire movie. And that bit at the end with the giant penguins taking his body away… Really?

    My wife bought me a copy of the movie thinking I’d like it because it was Batman, and I watched the DVD and on a whim, fast-forwarded through the Penguin parts. Try watching it that way. It actually becomes a fairly decent movie. (Not a fan of the Burton Batman films. Haven’t been since they came out.)