Great supervillains aren't born, they're made - something that costume designer Lindy Hemming will happily tell you. The costume designer for Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight recently talked to Wizard Universe about the process whereby she created the new look for Heath Ledger's Joker in Nolan's sequel to Batman Begins.
"[Director] Chris [Nolan] didn't want him to have a brand-new costume made," Hemming says, "I started getting pieces together, and we made up a look, but always keeping them in various shades of purple. There are like 25 of those coats, all in different stages of breaking down because of the things happening to [the Joker]." Given that restriction, Hemming began looking at the character's past appearances in comics, and then comparing that to modern fashion.
"The first place that I looked [for inspiration] was obviously pictures of the Joker in past graphic novels, comic books, films, whatever, and then after that, I started to think, 'Well, how could someone be like this?'" explains Hemming. "Then I wanted to contemporize it, so I started looking in fashion."
"You say, 'What's the rationale for him being able to dress like this?' That's when I started looking at the pop world and I ended up looking at the Sex Pistols and Johnny Rotten. I was just thinking, 'Well, there are plenty of guys out there who actually are as extreme as this, and there's nothing wrong with doing it.' You've got to make it look like someone really dresses like this. It can't just be, 'Hello, I'm putting on my costume.' It's got to be wherever he lives and whatever he's been doing, he's been wearing that."
Hemming explains that when viewers first see the Joker in the film, he is already in "costume." "You can assume that he might've been dressed like that for years. He may have always been wearing those clothes. Instead of putting them on like the Joker has done before, you find him wearing these. He's already scarred in the film, so the makeup comes from what he does to enhance that rather than to look like a clown."
The Dark Knight opens on July 18, 2008, and stars Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gylenhall.