Thursday, April 26, 2007

Joker Pics a Fake, Exclusive Interview With the Culprit

My inner geek rears it's ugly head again today, as I join the collective sigh of relief at the revelation that the Heath Ledger Joker pics "leaked" earlier this week from "The Dark Knight" are, in fact, fake.

In an exclusive interview Greg Smallwood, the prankster responsible for the doctored pics, explained his actions to Bricks and Stones. Smallwood, 25, is an aspiring artist and full-time banker in Kansas City. Mostly out of boredom on Sunday, he put together a fake pre-production picture and sent it to with the following email:

Subject: Joker Pre-Production Art/Still Not sure which. I'm really paranoid so I'm not sure what I can reveal other than I'm not sure of it's origins other than it is a photo and it is Ledger and it is him as Joker. It could be photoshopped pre-production art or it could be an actual still. I had two seconds to snap a picture and not much to really scan the wall it was on. The wall had mostly set design art, etc. There was this one though, the most eye-catching. I'm not making any assumptions other than it came from the people working on the film.

The purpose behind this initial pic (initially posted here on AICN) was to set the stage and story for the second picture to be sent later. The "talkbackers" on AICN took the initial picture as a faked still rather than proof-concept art by the makeup or design team, as was intended. Instead of giving up on his hoax, Greg took his next step as planned:

"No one at AICN e-mailed me back (even as they came under fire) to substantiate my story so, not being too worried, (I) e-mailed the second pic from a different e-mail address... It said something about a friend working security at the building where the WB temporary productions were set up in Chicago. I didn't get an e-mail back but, before I knew it, the pic was up on their site. And the rest is history.

I chose AICN because they seem to be the most gullible. I can't really say there was really a whole lot of reason behind it. I guess, like any artist, I want people to appreciate my work and I knew pretending the picture was real would be the sure-fire way to reach the largest audience. I figured, if anything, it would set a fire under the WB's ass to release official pics a little bit sooner. More or less, I just wanted to know if I could fool people. And that came from being really bored on a Sunday evening."

As tends to happen on the internet, the story and the picture spread, and quickly at that. Movie and gossip blogs picked up the buzz, and it eventually went so far that multiple webmasters were contacting Warner Bros to verify it's legitimacy. At this point, Greg came clean on

The aftermath of the ordeal has been mostly positive, says Greg, but plenty of fans have reacted in a strongly negative manner:

"A lot of people have referred to me as some fanboy with too much time on his hands. The fanboy part is right but the photoshopped picture really didn't take that long at all. Maybe two-three hours tops... I never thought the concept I presented would actually become such a basis for argument and discussion. I can't actually blame people for being underwhelmed by the design but I still stand by it as a good look for the Joker.

They claim I've hurt the buzz on the Dark Knight or that I've compromised internet journalism. As for the buzz, I'm pretty sure some little flash-in-the-pan fake picture will have little impact on how well the movie does. And for internet journalism, I hope I showed how much faster and more immediate it is than print. It's stuff like this that keeps internet movie sites going and print magazines like the now canceled Premiere from succeeding. Magazines and and print journalism generally just miss out on this kind of stuff."

I guess all I can really say is wow. I mean, I tend to lend my respect rather quickly to those that wreak havoc simply for havoc's sake. And that hasn't changed in this instance. That's one huge set of internet balls Mr Smallwood has demonstrated. I can understand the uproar it caused, though I'm not personally feeling uproarious about it at all. Had this been a fake Harry Potter pic, there'd be HELL to pay right now. And I mean that in the most serious possible sense. You screw around with my Harry Potter and I can't be held responsible for how I might react (don't look at me like that, he's nearly 18 and it's a perfectly healthy obsession). But since I walked away from this unscathed and giggling, I wish dear Greg the best of luck in his endeavors. He's currently working on his own comic, and has been featured previously in the Kansas City Star (little review of that gig can be found here and some additional artwork here)

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