The most perfect villains in movies are the ones that remain with you long after the credits role. It can be a menacing smile like Joker’s, hoarse breathing like Darth Vader’s or even a burning desire for balance like Thanos’. Their iconic behavior and visual traits stick to the actor as well as their names are forever etched in their filmography. While some of these aspects are conjured by a creative mind, other ideas strike when the crew gets inspired by bizarre incidents.

Inspiration Behind Joker’s Smile

Heath Ledger as Joker
Heath Ledger as Joker

Even though Batman has witnessed many adaptations, both live-action and animated, most fans fondly remember The Dark Knight trilogy as one of the finest works in DC cinema. Christopher Nolan envisaged an edgy character who lurks in the morally grey swamps of Gotham City. His power and intellect are challenged by memorable villains like Bane and Joker. Christian Bale was the perfect choice for Nolan’s Batman given his brooding and mysterious persona. On the other hand, Heath Ledger’s Joker presented a formidable foe to Batman.

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When the actor signed on to play the role, the prosthetics supervisor, Conor O’Sullivan, got to work to find inspiration for making the character stand out. At the time, an attacker gained a reputation for scarring his victims with a smile made of scars. The attacker cut the victims’ face from ear to ear to create a crescent-like shape. Nobody could get the image out of their heads once they saw a face mutilated like that. O’Sullivan knew he had hit the jackpot when he encountered a man with what came to be known as the Glasgow smile. He shared,

“My references had to be real. A delivery of fruit machines was made to the estate near my workshop and the man delivering them had a ‘Chelsea smile’. I plucked up the courage to ask him for a photo and he told me the story of how he had got his scars while being involved in a ‘dog fight’; needless to say I didn’t pursue the matter, but the photos proved to be a very useful reference.”

Barry Keoghan
Barry Keoghan as Joker

Initially, the prosthetics supervisor was playing around with the idea of letting Joker have a fixated smile. But when scars came into the picture, he stuck to the same, letting go of some of the punk-era ideas he was trying out. The Joker we saw on screen was a culmination of many such inspirations and ideas that stuck with the director and makeup artist alike. Not to forget Ledger’s invaluable contribution in owning Joker’s personality to truly make it his own. Joaquin Phoenix and Barry Keoghan have taken his legacy forward while adding their own essence to the unique role of Joker.

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The History of Glasgow Smile

The Joker 2
Joker 2

Joker might have made scars look cool, but the true victims of the Glasgow Smile remember the torture and terror associated with the same. It used to be a torture device in Scotland by gangsters in the 20th century, inflicting pain on people who opposed them or did not bend the knee, so to speak. Adding to the demented way of scarring the victims, their screams only tore the cuts further. The unimaginable pain felt by the victims echoes in the scars they endure to date.

It is also known as the Chelsea grin, made famous by Joker. The origins of this terrifying scarring method are found during the First World War and the coinciding Industrial Revolution. Warring gangs at the time found the method of using a razor to inflict pain, especially on the face. To leave a mark and let everyone know it’s their doing, one gang began tearing victims’ faces in a smile-like fashion. This trademark torture device was used to kill numerous people across different parts of the world as well.

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