Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro had some problems when the Joker production started. Phoenix uses unorthodox methods when completing his roles and they don't always work with other actors. Director Todd Phillips recently recalled getting De Niro and Phoenix to work together in a new interview, remembering that it wasn't very easy at first. Phoenix's acting methods ultimately did not work with how De Niro likes to do things.
Part of Joaquin Phoenix's acting method does not involve rehearsal. The actor likes to revel in the "pure anxiety" of it all. However, that is not how veteran actor RRobert De Niro likes to do things. Joker director Todd Phillips remembers telling De Niro this fact and having the actor say, "Tell him he's an actor and he's got to be there. I like to hear the whole movie and we're going to all get in a room and just read it." However, Phoenix was not interested in doing so, not even with one of the most legendary actors on the planet.
Joaquin Phoenix's response to Robert De Niro was, "There's no f****** way I'm doing a read-through," according to Todd Phillips. Joker took a long time to hone for Phoenix and he wasn't going to disrupt his process for anyone, including Robert De Niro. However, Phillips was able to persuade Joaquin Phoenix to head over to De Niro's office and go through with the rehearsal, though he only mumbled his way through the whole thing to just get it over with. De Niro understood what was going on and reassured Phoenix that everything was going to work out fine.
In the end, Robert De Niro was right. Joaquin Phoenix's fragile take on Arthur Fleck turned into a box office smash and earned the actor his first-ever Academy Award. The movie was a surprise hit that nobody really saw coming, while also taking comic movie expectations and turning them on their head. Todd Phillips was not making a traditional comic book movie and Phoenix was not taking an ordinary route to get to that place. De Niro was there for the ride, but things didn't work out so well between his Murray Franklin character and Phoenix's Fleck.
Joaquin Phoenix doesn't sound like the easiest actor to work with. He is mostly unapologetic for his process and how he gets to where he needs to, which results in some awkward moments behind-the-scenes, even with actors like Robert De Niro. It's not always pretty, but it gets results as Joker has been hailed as one of 2019's best movies, while Phoenix still receives praise for his performance as Arthur Fleck. While the actor doesn't like to rehearse, it's good to know that De Niro can still make it happen in order to get his own process done in the way he needs. Todd Phillips' words on Phoenix and De Niro were originally reported by GQ.