In the first film, Darkman was played by Liam Neeson. In the sequels, he was played by Arnold Vosloo.
A brilliant scientist, Dr. Peyton Westlake was working on creating a synthetic skin when the henchmen of crime lord Robert Durant blew up him and his lab. Westlake survived but lost his skin and was driven mad. Looking for revenge, Westlake recreated his artificial skin and used it to impersonate his victims, vowing revenge on the criminals who destroyed his life.
Very little of Peyton Westlake's early life is revealed. Dr. Peyton Westlake was a scientist working on creating a synthetic skin graft for burn victims, and skin cancer patients. Westlake had a run-in with crime lord, Robert G. Durant. Durant tried to have Westlake killed and ordered his men to blow up Westlake's lab.
Westlake survived, but most of his body and face were covered in severe burns. Luckily, his unconscious body was found (though unidentified), where he underwent a strange new procedure at a hospital. Most of his sensory nerves were severed to avoid chronic pain from the burns. Also, his body occasionally produces adrenaline at random times, due to the fact he has no danger input in his mind. Unfortunately, there was a side effect to the treatment. His emotions now run wild, causing him to grow furious at simple things, or cry at the sight of a dead cat. Westlake, in a panic, escaped the hospital and began hiding out in the burnt out husk of his lab. Eventually Westlake was able to rebuild enough of his lab to start the synthetic skin once more. He began to study Durant, and his goons, and started formulating plans to gain his revenge. He began using the synthetic skin he developed to assume identities of Durant's gangsters. He perfected every last detail, even the voice of anyone he became.
However, Westlake found that the synthetic skin could only last for 99 minutes maximum before desolving in the light. Westlake tried to recreate his face and reconnect with the woman he loved, Julie, but soon found that his own mental issues and the issue of the skin got in the way. When Julie learned the truth, she offered to help Westlake but Westlake was too ashamed to see her with his real face.
It was not long before Westlake began acting against Durants criminal agents, using his mastery of disguise to defeat them and cause confusion within Durant's organization. Slowly, Durant's empire crumbled beneath him, forcing him to find a way to fight against Westlake. When Julie unwittingly reveals Westlake's secret to his enemies, she is kidnapped and Westlake's secret liar is raided and destroyed. It was after this that Dr. Westlake made his full transition from a simple scientist, to a near insane antihero. Darkman has given up everything in his former life, and has come to terms with what he has become.
Darkman has been called the comic book character who did not first appear in a comic book, but rather a movie made by future Spiderman director Sam Raimi. He eventually was written into a comic book, first published by Marvel Comics in 1990 and 1993, and then by Dynamite Entertainment fourteen years later in 2007.