Joker director Todd Phillips refuses to reveal the age of Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck. First introduced in DC Comics in 1940, the Batman villain The Joker has gone on to become one of the most iconic bad guys in all of popular culture. Cesar Romero was the first person to play The Joker on-screen, portraying the character as a laughing camp figure in the 1960s Batman TV show starring Adam West.
As fond as folks still are of Romero’s Joker depiction however, the most iconic screen versions of the character have emerged in more recent times. Jack Nicholson first played a live-action Joker in theaters in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, then came the beloved animated Joker as voiced by Mark Hamill in various Batman properties. But of course, probably the most impactful version of Joker was created by Heath Ledger in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, with Ledger going on to win a posthumous Oscar for his performance. This year, Joker is back on big screens with Joaquin Phoenix in the role, but the new Joker is indeed not inspired by any of the previous versions and is intended to stand alone as an original creation. Given the name Arthur Fleck in the new movie, Phoenix and Phillips’ Joker is a would-be entertainer who is finally beaten down by a cruel world and rises again as an anarchic, face-painted supervillain.
Phoenix’s performance has already received rave reviews and Oscar buzz after early festival screenings of the film, but many questions still remain about his version of Joker. One big mystery surrounding Fleck is the age of the character, but don’t expect director Phillips to clear up that mystery any time soon. Speaking to Screen Rant at a Q&A after a recent Joker screening, Phillips deflected a question about whether Fleck’s age was ever established, saying “No, we never really gave much thought to it.”
The age of the Joker has of course varied over the years, with the character being depicted as anywhere from 30 to over 60. Given that Phoenix and Phillips’ Joker is an origin story, it’s fair to assume the character would be in the younger age range, but going by Phoenix’s appearance most folks guess Fleck must be in his late ‘40s at least. Of course, as this Joker is indeed not meant to reflect any previous version of the character, it could be argued that his age is irrelevant as he’s clearly not meant to fit into canon. Then again, Phillips' Joker does include Batman character Thomas Wayne and teases a young Bruce Wayne, and some have raised objections about the idea of Joker already being in his late 40s when Bruce is just a boy, because it would mean the grown up Batman would end up fighting a decidedly elderly Joker.
Ultimately, it seems the best way to digest Phillips and Phoenix’s Joker is as its own thing separate from the established DC Universe of comics, films and television. Indeed, Joker has already gone through enough varied iterations that the notion of a canonical version of the character has arguably long-since been rendered moot. That Phillips and Phoenix were given the freedom to conceive their Joker with only spurious connections to Batman lore seems to be evidence that Warner Bros. is less interested in servicing the needs of hardcore fans who desire canon-faithful films, and more in creating one-off movies that reach a wider audience while also pleasing critics.
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
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- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
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