Actor Joaquin Phoenix had plenty of fun while filming Todd Phillips’ Joker, he reveals during a Q&A where the duo spoke about finding the right balance between methodical preparation and on set humor. Phoenix’s feature film resume dates back over 30 years. During the 21st century, he’s become known as one of Hollywood’s most fascinating method actors. Many people first learned about Phoenix through his Oscar-nominated performance as Commodus in Ridley Scott’s 2000 epic Gladiator. He’s also earned Best Actor Oscar nods for Walk the Line and The Master.
But whereas so many fellow method actors are known for being deeply serious on set, Phoenix is known for his quirky sense of humor, evidenced by the 2010 mockumentary I'm Still Here, a film that comedically details the actor’s pursuit of a career in hip-hop music. As for Joker, Phillips and Phoenix chronicle the title character’s origin story during early ‘80s Gotham City, in which Arthur Fleck discovers that his life isn’t a tragedy, but rather a comedy.
The Joker trailers tease an incredibly dark movie, and the film's inherent violence has led to polarizing critic reviews. But while speaking at a Q&A after an early screening of the movie attended by Screen Rant’s Rob Keyes, Phoenix revealed that he didn’t necessarily go to a dark place while finding the essence of Arthur. In fact, Joker’s star instead captured the essence of the film’s title during the process, thus negating traditional concepts of an intense Hollywood performer:
“Honestly, I love those stories of actors. I kind of do wish that I was that way, because it sounds so cool. But I didn't have that experience.”
Phillips also recalled Phoenix’s loose demeanor while filming Joker, but reminded his star that it wasn’t all fun and games by stating, “You also prepare a lot, more than you probably want to let on.” From Phoenix’s perspective, however, all of his prior research and planning for Joker was simply part of the job:
“Right, but it’s what you f-cking do! What you do mean? It's what you do; it’s a regular job. It's what you do for your work.”
Phoenix and Phillips also discussed the overall light-hearted vibe during the Joker production process, with the former admitting, “Oh, we kind of are f-cked up. We literally were laughing every day.” On set, they were joined by iconic American actor Robert De Niro, who famously gained 60 pounds for his Oscar-winning performance in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, and who also starred as wannabe-comic Rupert Pupkin in Scorsese’s The King of Comedy - a source of inspiration for Joker’s tragicomedy narrative. In Phillips’ new film, De Niro portrays talk show host Murray Franklin, an homage to his character in The King of Comedy. Phoenix has previously stated that he started to "go mad" while losing weight for his Joker role.
Joker’s violence will undoubtedly challenge many viewers. But considering the subtext about mental illness and different interpretations of symptoms, perhaps the film will spark discussions beyond the obvious talking points. For Phoenix and Phillips, the process itself seems to have been a cathartic experience, with Joker’s lead stating, “Whatever you put into it, it kind of gave you so much back.”
- 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
- DC Super Pets (2022) release date: May 20, 2022
- Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022