Joaquin Phoenix Needed to Find Joker's Laugh Before Accepting The Job

Joaquin Phoenix reflection in Joker

Joaquin Phoenix needed to find Joker's laugh before accepting the job. The crazed DC villain has always attracted a substantial amount of attention and intrigue from comic book fans, ever since he first appeared in print in 1940.

Even today, at a time when CG worlds and creatures are the norm in cinema, it’s rare to find a single human character whose most fearsome qualities are entirely organic. The Joker still captivates audiences, using little more than his appearance and an unstoppable joy for creating chaos and destruction wherever he goes. It’s these unique characteristics that make watching him onscreen so much fun and indeed, it’s why people remain fascinated by who will portray him next and exactly how that portrayal will pan out. There is, of course, an aesthetic to the Joker that is also of interest to fans - from Jack Nicholson’s more traditional deformed and demented clown look, to the recent interpretation seen in Todd Phillip’s Joker.

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Related: How The Joker Movie's Origin Story Is Rooted In Real Mental Health Issues

With that film still a little less than a month away from being widely released, Phoenix has been receiving no small amount of attention for his portrayal of the Joker/Arthur Fleck. And while it now appears that Phoenix was the perfect choice for the role, during a recent Q&A after a screening of the film, Screen Rant learned that the actor wasn’t ready to take on the famed role until he knew that he could develop the proper laugh to suit the needs of such a crazed and legendary character. Check out the transcript below from Joker’s Q&A:

SR: How’d you find the laugh?

Joaquin Phoenix: Well, really… Do you remember that I basically just auditioned myself?

Todd Phillips: Yeah.

Joaquin Phoenix:I had you come over to audition the laugh, because I didn't think I could do it. Because you showed me some videos, right? You showed me some videos of some laughs, and I thought, “That's really good.” And in the script, it described the laugh being almost painful, and it thought it was a really interesting way to describe laughter. So, I just kind of, I don't know… You came into my house; I tried. And it was really uncomfortable, because I spent five minutes trying to work it out. Finally, you said, “You don't have to do this.”

Todd Phillips: You already have the part.

Joaquin Phoenix: And I said, “No,I have to do this.” Because if I don't do this, if I can't force myself to find it now, then forever I’m going to fucking puss out. So we did.

Todd Phillips: And for him to summon it on the day of the shooting was always different, and sometimes he would need time to do it, honestly. I'm talking about the affliction laugh. You know, that was to me probably, I can't speak for you, the hardest one to do. There's the laugh where he's fake laughing to be one of the guys who are put in the comedy club, and then there's the end in Arkham where he's genuinely laughing at something. But the affliction laugh, I think, was probably hard to muster up. So there were times on set where it would be a little crazy, or I would throw out a private joke to him that would make you laugh about somebody on the crew or something.

Joaquin Phoenix: I never make fun of people on the crew.

Todd Phillips: Not like that!

Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in Joker

In the few times that the public has been able to hear some of the soon to be trademark laughter that Phoenix has crafted, it indeed sounds as though he's given the Joker a perfectly unhinged characteristic. Not everyone thinks highly of either the film or Phoenix's performance, however, with some criticism taking aim at an over the top effort on the part of both Phoenix and Joker as a whole. But while these sorts of reviews exist to a certain degree, the majority of recent reviews are praising almost everything that Phillip's new take on what the director has refused to acknowledge as a superhero movie has to offer.

It seems that Phoenix has certainly put his own stamp on the Joker and in doing so, taking the character to places where it hasn’t been before. By placing the pressure on himself to create something real and personal out of something as ostensibly simple as a laugh, Phoenix has proven that this wasn’t just another portrayal of the Joker. That he wasn’t willing to on the role if he couldn’t get the laugh right is a glimpse into the dedication that Phoenix put into Joker, making his work something that very well could be recognized in a big way come next year’s Oscar ceremony.

Next: Joker: 5 DC Villains Who Deserve A Movie More Than Him (And 5 Why He's Timeless)

Key Release Dates
  • Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
  • Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
  • Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
  • The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
  • The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
  • DC Super Pets (2022) release date: May 20, 2022
  • Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022
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