To celebrate the arrival of über-flamboyant Austrian fashionista Brüno, we’ve hoisted the freak flag high and gathered together 10 of the kookiest, most outlandish characters from film’s far-out fringe.
So dust off those diamante platform boots and your favourite Jean Paul Gautier corset and get silly with our list of the Top 10 most outrageous film characters.
Decadent and tacky Miami is the perfect setting for this light-hearted farce in which a gay couple — Robin Williams and Nathan Lane — are forced to play it “straight” when their son announces that he’s marrying a conservative Senator’s daughter. Williams’ Armand may not be the most outrageous character in the film, however he gets kudos for his incredibly camp beachside décor — including a slippery slide leading into a pool on his roof and several nude male artworks. But what secures Armand a top 10 spot is his faultless ability to play a homosexual, Jewish cabaret nightclub owner in the ’90s while managing not to get on the bad side of the gay community. One of Williams’ finest moments comes when he announces, “Yes I am a middle-aged fag — but I won’t change for anyone!” It both highlights the integrity of his character and sets him apart from the more stereotypical queens we usually see.
Our only female character (well, technically speaking, at least) is none other than arch Disney super villain Cruella De Vil. Arrogant, selfish and elaborately decorated, Cruella (Glenn Close) gets absurdity points for her Edward Scissorhands-meets-Bride of Frankenstein hairstyle, irrational penchant for wearing puppy fur, over-the-top makeup, fabulously kitsch style and total disregard for anything humane (And she somehow succeeds in continuously smoking cigarettes throughout a children’s film.) That’s not to mention her incessant cackling and evil quotes — like her speech to the Dalmatians, in which she asserts that they “…will all end up as sausage meat… with fries on the side!”
Although Chris Tucker only has a very short amount of screen time in The Fifth Element, he minces confidently on to this list with his insanely eccentric and screeching flamboyancy. Ruby Rhod is a futuristic, interstellar radio presenter who dresses in a ’70s-style leopard-print gown with a matching cane, and
has his hair bleached and styled into the shape of a giant, phallic microphone. If that doesn’t strike you as outrageous enough, he’s also — inexplicably — irresistible to women, speaks in an exaggerated pitch and is responsible for a large share of the most hilarious moments in the film. It’s a testament to the stamina of Tucker (and the patienceof the audience) that he practically steals the film from the likes of Gary Oldman, himself in one of his wackier roles.
The Australian treasure in our Top 10 comes from — what else? — The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Guy Pearce’s massively camp Felicia boasts the kind of perky attitude, cheeky behaviour and extravagant costumes that make a character unique — and, in this case, an unlikely national icon. Felicia’s extraordinary clothing choices range from sequinned vests to rhinestone jackets, which culminate in the various fantastic drag costumes throughout the film — including some elaborate and peculiar headpieces, and a stunning feather tailed burlesque ensemble. And who could ever forget the scene in which Pearce sits astride an enormous silver stiletto on the top of the bus? Dressed in a full length silver sequinned outfit, complete with a jumpsuit, turban, silver face paint, glitter and matching flags with long dramatic wings that flail behind him, Felicia’s outfit is only topped by the fact that Pearce does all of this whist miming to opera as the bus cruises into the outback.
Zoolander‘s Mugatu — played with demented relish by Will Ferrell — is based on the Star Trek episode “A Private Little War”, which features a crazy monkey with bright white hair called Mugato. Not only does Mugatu suffer from a severe case of “people who look like their dog syndrome”, he dresses his pet poodle up in matching outfits and — much like Bond’s nemesis Blofield, with his white cat — Mugatu’s pet never leaves his side. Mugatu’s costumes are mostly parodies of the outlandish nature of fashion and haute couture, such as his “Derelicte” campaign, “inspired by the very homeless, the vagrants, the crack whores that make this wonderful city so unique”. (It’s also been hinted that Derelicte is a send-up of an actual John Galliano line.) Miranda Priestly is a saint next to this guy: he plans to kill the Malaysian prime minister in order to prevent his sweatshops being closed, poses as a school girl in order to brainwash Zoolander, and spills his entire hot coffee all over his assistant just because he didn’t like it with foam on top (okay, that one we can kind of understand). But perhaps Mugatu’s most outrageous moment is his claim that he invented the piano neck tie. Preposterous.
Something very strange happened in the transition of Willy Wonka’s character from Gene Wilder’s portrayal to Johnny Depp’s version. If Tim Burton’s reimagining didn’t attain the iconic status of the old movie, then Depp’s interpretation of the infamous chocaleteer certainly made up for it by travelling to the outer limits of the character’s insanity. Every aspect of Wonka’s flamboyant personality seems to be exaggerated and distorted — both for better and for worse. Depp’s Wonka is a nervous, quirky man clinging to a kind of childish arrogance — reflecting the fact that he obviously got stuck somewhere in the psychological transition from childhood to adulthood. Depp’s mannerisms scream camp and his sartorial style — purple leather gloves, top hat, velvet red coat and candy-swirl cane — aren’t likely to land him the cover of GQ. Wonka’s weird, disjointed speech, menacing clacking teeth and way with unprompted non-sequiturs only adds to his absurdity — and he’s not averse to laughing at his own jokes in between choreographing midget dancers and sending greedy brats to their doom. Also, probably a cannibal: “Everything in this room is eatable,” he giggles. “Even I’m eatable.”
The instant that David Bowie emerges onto our screen with that fantastically loud glam-rock mullet hairstyle, silver eye make up, a dramatic cape and — his piece de resistance — a pair of anatomically-hugging jodhpurs that bend the young mind, we can but gaze in awe at this ridiculous, grandiose creature. Then — just when we think that we’ve seen it all — he begins to sing. With Muppets. Each musical sequence in Labyrinth provides a new opportunity for Bowie to croon melodramatically, chastize his cavern of goblins and ogres, and taunt his petrified baby-captive (who he also enjoys throwing dangerously into the air). Bowie’s Goblin King really puts his outrageous cards on the table when he declares, “I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.” Remind us again: why would Jennifer Connolly want to escape from this man and return to boring suburbia? Silly girl!
Before Tim Burton made Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Paul Reubens’ signature comedy character was in a television special aimed at adults. Burton and Reubens might have toned down the humour in order to appeal to a younger audience, but movies have rarely seen a more eccentric figure — part eternal innocent, part fringe oddity and, to anyone who saw him at a formative age, more than a little bit unnerving. Burton’s ability to communicate the bizarre, combined with Reubens’ controversial character, ensures the makings of one peculiar icon. Well, any pale, nerdy, naive man that gets around on a Schwinn cruiser bicycle in a grey plaid suit, red bow tie with matching rouge lipstick and short black hairstyle is already on his way to pop culture immortality. Who doesn’t remember his bar-top dance to “Tequila”, or childish retort: “I know you are, but what am I!”?
It might be more than three decades old, but make no mistake — bad-taste auteur John Waters’ Pink Flamingos is one shocking piece of work that could shame even Sacha Baron Cohen’s most extreme inclinations. Its lead player “Divine” is an obese, vile and gleefully distasteful drag queen who proudly holds the title of the “Filthiest Person Alive”. Her proto-punk makeup (incredibly high eyebrows, blue eye shadow, dark blush, strong uneven lipstick and dramatic eyeliner), chanelling of Liz Taylor at her most shrieking, and gallery of trashy skin-tight dresses results in an unforgettably tacky character who exists beyond the bounds of most peoples’ idea of society. (She was also, infamously, the inspiration for The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula.) Nothing is sacred in this film, from bestiality to incest, abortion and a real scene in which Divine eats dog poo! Definitely not for those of you with a weak stomach.
Our first glimpse of Frank-N-Furter is of his sparkling, diamante-encrusted platform shoes tapping away to the soundtrack tune of “Sweet Transvestite”. A moment later he’s revealed to us in a long dark cape and big, scruffy Robert Smith black hair, dark gothic makeup and loud red lipstick. He strips off the cape to expose nothing but lingerie: including a corset, ripped fingerless gloves, thigh-high nylons and a pearl necklace. “I’m just a sweet transvestite,” he announces, “from transsexual Transylvania.” What’s more, he’s irresistible to both men and women — we’d like to see Bruno pull that off!