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When I first heard that John Leguizamo would be playing 'the clown' in the 1997 movie Spawn (based on the comic book), my first thought was, "He (Leguizamo) can't play the clown, he's at least two feet taller than the little freak (if not more)." How'd the filmmakers convincingly make him appear so much shorter in stature for the part?

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    This is not the only time that Leguizamo played someone considerably smaller than his real height - in Moulin Rouge he plays Toulouse-Lautrec who was 4'8'' (1.42m) tall. He did that by forced perspective, kneeling and CGI.
    – iandotkelly
    Jan 23 at 18:02
  • Yeah, especially in forums, everytime his clown performance is mentioned, his Moulin Rouge character also gets referenced Jan 23 at 19:19
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    So the Moulin Rouge character is harder to pull off - he's attempting to look shorter 4'8" Toulouse-Lautrec vs 5'2" for the clown, and there is less costume/makeup to attempt to hide what they are doing.
    – iandotkelly
    Jan 24 at 4:50

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John Leguizamo's height is around 5ft 6½

He stated that he squatted for the role, to get the Clown height.

Otherwise, they use CGI - if not required to be in the same frame as another actor, they can green screen him and post him in later.

In the Violator transformation he is entirely CGI.

Sources:

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His squatting looks obvious here:

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In addition to the cosmetic changes, Leguizamo had to undergo physical changes to complete his transformation into the short, stubby Clown. It took additional rehearsals and practice. "I had to bend over, like crouch down so I could be 4 foot 11," Leguizamo says. "I’m 5 foot 8. I’m very tall. I had to work real hard to make the part, my chest and stuff look like I was centered. So that was hours and hours of practice and sweat. Yeah, my butt is so tight. I have buns of titanium there."

https://dailybruin.com/1997/08/03/born-in-darkness

Leguizamo is buried under makeup and a fat suit and had to crouch the whole time

https://outlawvern.com/2017/07/17/spawn-2/

"Yeah, the Clown is supposed to be 4-foot-something, so I had to crouch down. I had the tightest buttocks on Hollywood. I could bend titanuim with my butt!" - about the Clown costume.

https://www.angelfire.com/or/johnleguizamo/quotes.html

Perhaps the sole great thing is John Leguizamo's performance as the unrecognizable Violator, a grotesque and unforgettable character. Physically crouching down to look shorter throughout every one of his scenes, Leguizamo's Clown is actively disgusting to be around, with scenes of him regularly farting, (actually) eating live maggots, and dipping earthworms in mayonnaise.

https://movieweb.com/the-spawn-movie-rotten-tomatoes/

At 400 pounds and 4' tall, Clown was not a pleasant sight. Leguizamo, who's about 5' 7", had to crouch low to drop to the character's height. After crouching a long time during an extended take, John would sometimes collapse once the director called cut.

Adding to the demands of the role was the three and a half hours Leguizamo spent in the makeup chair every day of the shoot. With his hair slicked down and a latex hood glued over his head, his face was first covered with a mix of acrylic paint and some material to make the paint stick. Then it was airbrushed. Next he was put into a 20-pound "fat suit" with foam latex hands. He remembers staring at himself in the mirror in his trailer and wondering, Who am I? What am I?

About Leguizamo's transformation, creature effects artist Howard Berger said, "We were a little skeptical at first because he's a little guy and we were going to have to build up so much rubber it was bound to be tough on him. It can get scary because it really inhibits your movement. But we had forgotten who we were dealing with.

John made the character that much better because he's such a great performer. The whole thing comes alive with him." Sweating and itching uneasily in his Clown getup his first day on the set, Leguizamo wasn't sure exactly how he would get into the character, he confesses. "[B]ut the guy said, 'Action,' and my voice got all gravelly and I started spitting and hissing and squatting really low, and I got a round of applause." He clearly was earning his $2 million salary as the wisecracking evil Clown.

(John Leguizamo, Amy Allison, 2013, ISBN 9781438146218, 1438146213; original screenshot of page quote can be found here.)

More making of and unrelated:

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