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What Does Barry Keoghan's Joker Look Like? He Made His Chilling Debut in "The Batman"

The Oscar-nominee was a surprise presence in the 2022 film.

Of all the villains in Batman's rogues' gallery, none is more infamous or dangerous than the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime has tormented the citizens of Gotham and battled the Dark Knight in every medium the iconic superhero has ever appeared in, starting way back in 1940 in the first issue of Batman. The Joker has also fought Batman on TV and, famously, on the big screen. Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, and Joaquin Phoenix have all played live-action Jokers, while Mark Hamill is the most famous voice actor associated with the animated Joker, and Zach Galifianakis even voiced a LEGO version of the character in The LEGO Batman Movie. One of the Joker's most recent appearances, though, was in a tantalizing tease at the end of 2022's The Batman, in which he's played by Oscar-nominee Barry Keoghan.

Starring Robert Pattinson as a fairly young version of Bruce Wayne, The Batman features the Caped Crusader spending most of the movie battling wits with Paul Dano's Riddler, occasionally working with Zoë Kravitz's Catwoman, and butting heads with Colin Farrell's Penguin. At the end of the film, though, when the Riddler is behind bars in Arkham, a surprise face can be glimpsed inside a neighboring cell. It's Keoghan, playing a character who can only be the Joker, hinting that he'll be the Riddler's ally and possibly the main villain in the sequel, which is currently slated for 2026.

For such a small appearance, it's effective, and it had fans wondering what else there is to know about this latest version of Batman's nemesis, including what Barry Keoghan's Joker will look like. Read on to learn more about The Batman's version of Wayne's nemesis, as well as some other background about the iconic supervillain.

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Did Barry Keoghan actually appear in The Batman?

Keoghan is a 31-year-old Irish actor known for films including The Banshees of Inisherin (for which he scored a Best Supporting Actor nomination), Saltburn, and even another superhero flick, Marvel's Eternals. And he does indeed appear in the second-to-last scene of The Batman. As the Riddler laments being locked away, a barely-seen Keoghan strikes up a conversation, asking the Riddler a riddle of his own: "The less of them you have, the more one is worth." The answer? "A friend."

It's a fun cameo appearance and a good tease for what could be in store for the franchise's future, but there was actually a much longer scene involving the Joker that director Matt Reeves cut from the film. The scene, which was released online, takes place earlier in the movie when Batman is trying to track down the Riddler and put a stop to the killings. To that end, he visits a character referred to as "the unseen prisoner" in Arkham, and we learn that the vigilante put him behind bars a year before the events of the movie. Like Clarice Starling asking Hannibal Lector for help, Batman tries to see if the Joker has any insights, only to be taunted when the Joker accuses Batman of being scared because he might just agree, a little bit, that the Riddler's victims deserved it.

In a commentary for the deleted scene, Reeves explains that he wanted to show that classic Batman characters like the Joker were in Gotham as the Dark Knight's crime-fighting career took off, even if they hadn't yet become iconic supervillains. "We have a version of this character who is not yet the Joker but is going to become the Joker, and I wanted Batman to have had an experience with him that put him in Arkham," the filmmaker says.

Reeves also says that he cut this longer scene because "narratively it wasn't necessary," as everything the Joker reveals about the Riddler and Batman comes out organically throughout the film.

"Given the great length of the movie, it helped the story to take this scene out but I always really loved the work that Barry and Rob did in this scene," Reeves says in the commentary.

It's still unclear however whether or not Keoghan will return for the 2026 sequel or if the Joker will be a villain. Reeves clarifies that the two scenes are "not meant to be there to say, 'Oh, here's an Easter egg. The next movie is X.' I don't know that the Joker would be in the next movie."

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How long did it take to create Barry Keoghan's Joker look?

Keoghan's Joker has a much gnarlier look than the other live-action Jokers, as his patchy green hair and grotesque red smile sit on a head that's covered with lumps and scars. While Leto's Suicide Squad makeup took three hours to apply; Ledger's was in the half-hour range, and Phoenix's a scant 15 minutes, Keoghan said in an interview with GQ that it took six hours for his Joker to get camera-ready, though the amount of time would eventually drop down to five hours. The process sounds like it was pretty intense, as well: The actor recalls how there was a metal hook pulling at his cheek to give the effect of the Joker's twisted grin.

"There was like this steel thing that was like slicing in," he explained. "I was like 'I'm really gonna be left with a scar here.'"

Who did Barry Keoghan beat out for the role?

Barry Keoghan at The Batman premiere in 2022
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

As far as we know, it's possible that no other actors were auditioned for the Joker cameo in The Batman. In fact, Keoghan was offered the role after he'd sent in an unsolicited audition tape to play the Riddler.

"I wanted to be Riddler," Keoghan told GQ UK. When he sent in the tape, though, the producers told him that the role had already been cast. (Initially Jonah Hill was to play the villain, then Dano took his place.) However, Keoghan still wanted them to watch the tape, and four months later, he got a call from his agent.

"The Batman wants you to play the Joker–but you cannot tell anyone," he recalled them saying.

Why can't the Joker stop smiling?

Jack Nicholson as the Joker in Batman
Warner Bros.

We don't learn the origin story of The Batman's Joker in the movie, but Reeves elaborated on it in the deleted scene commentary and an interview with IGN. The villain's beginnings have always been intentionally pretty vague, but in the comics and the Tim Burton 1989 Batman, in which he was played by Jack Nicholson, the character gets his white skin, green hair, and ghoulish grin after falling in a vat of chemicals. In Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008), Ledger's Joker has Glasgow smile scars that he gives conflicting explanations for. In The Batman, Keoghan's Joker looks the way he does because of a medical condition.

"He's got this congenital disease. He can never stop smiling. And it made Mike and I think about—I was talking about The Elephant Man because I love David Lynch," Reeves said to IGN, explaining that he wanted to do something different with his Joker. "What if this is something that he's been touched by from birth and that he has a congenital disease that refuses to let him stop smiling? And he's had this very dark reaction to it, and he's had to spend a life of people looking at him in a certain way and he knows how to get into your head."

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What do the different Jokers have in common?

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight
Warner Bros. Pictures

All of the various TV and movie Jokers are adaptations of the comic book character created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson for the first issue of Batman. (The Dark Knight himself made his debut before that, in the pages of Detective Comics.) As can be seen through the various ways that the supervillain has been brought to life in live-action films, there's a lot of malleability when it comes to the Clown Prince of Crime. His backstory is deliberately vague and there are a lot of ways to change his appearance while keeping him still recognizably Joker-y. All that really matters, ultimately, is that his deranged jokes are in the service of chaos and that he is a foil to Batman—a hero who looks scary but represents justice in contrast to the Joker's seemingly comic aesthetic.

James Grebey
James has been an entertainment journalist for more than a decade, writing and editing for outlets like Vulture, Inverse, Polygon, TIME, The Daily Beast, SPIN Magazine, Fatherly, and more. Read more
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