Most Striking Scar:

Joaquin Phoenix in "Walk The Line"


Joaquin Phoenix channels country music legend Johnny Cash in "Walk The Line." The intense actor shows another "line" that some film fans may find distracting: a prominent vertical scar on his upper lip.
Phoenix uses his real voice to sing in the film.
His scar is real, too.

This type of scar is traditionally due to repair of a cleft lip. Cleft lip and palate happen when the sides of upper lip and/or roof of the mouth fail to join during pregnancy. This birth defect can be corrected by a straightforward surgical procedure readily available in developed countries.

Cheech Marin has an upper lip scar, man.
Stacey Keach has quite a 'stache.
Does he use it to conceal...
...this scar?
Actors Cheech Marin and Stacey Keach have similar scars, which they often hide behind dashing moustaches.
What makes this character mark notable in Phoenix' case is that he claims that he was born with the scar, and never had surgical lip repair. While this dramatic report sounds like the basis for a country ballad, it is certainly possible. A minor cleft lip could have healed itself in utero before Phoenix was delivered to his mama's arms. That kind of self sufficiency would have made Cash himself proud.


Runner up, Most striking scar:
Sympathetic burn scars
Morgan Freeman, "An Unfinished Life"
Koji Yakusho, "Memoirs of a Geisha"
Usually, only villains in movies show severe facial scars. Ed Harris in "A History of Violence" is a explosively evil example. Here are two examples of realistic characters whose scars heighten sympathy rather than disdain.


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© 1996-2008 Vail Reese M.D.

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