Joaquin Phoenix was initially hesitant to take on the Joker role over fear. Before the actor had officially signed on, his name had already been talked about for months. When asked about the role, Phoenix would play coy or pretend like he didn't know that Todd Phillips and Warner Bros. were taking the character in a new direction. When it was finally revealed he was going to play the Clown Prince of Crime on the big screen, Phoenix warned it would not be like past incarnations of the character. Today, we have a couple of new images featuring the actor alongside Zazie Beetz, which pushes this idea home.
When discussing Joker, Joaquin Phoenix says, "It took me a while (to commit). Now, when I look back, I don't understand why." Phoenix's name has been attached to a number of superhero movies over the years. He reportedly turned down Doctor Strange and even a shot at replacing Edward Norton's Hulk. However, he decided to jump on board with Todd Phillips, even after admitting there was fear on his part to take on the iconic role. He explains.
"There was a lot of fear, yeah. But I always say there's motivating fear and debilitating fear. There's the fear where you cannot make a fucking step, and there's the kind where it's like, 'OK, what do we do? That's not good enough.' And you're digging deeper and deeper. I love that kind of fear. It guides us, makes us work harder."
As for not taking on more traditional superhero roles in the past, Joaquin Phoenix's resume speaks for itself. The actor is constantly pushing boundaries and thinking outside of the box, which is not something a lot of actors were or are doing in the current climate of comic book movies. Phoenix had this to say about the comic book movie genre in general.
"I think oftentimes, in these movies, we have these simplified, reductive archetypes, and that allows for the audience to be distant from the character, just like we would do in real life, where it's easy to label somebody as evil, and therefore say, 'Well, I'm not that.'"
There are some obvious recent movies challenging what it means to be a villain with the audience thinking about both sides. Thanos in Marvel's Infinity War was one such character where at times viewers were understanding of his side of the story. Joker, is going to be an even deeper dive into that aspect of identifying with a villain, according to Joaquin Phoenix. He had this to say.
"And yet we all are guilty. We all have sinned. And I thought that here was this film, and these characters, where it wouldn't be easy for you as an audience. There are times where you're going to feel yourself connected to him, and rooting for him, and times when you should be repulsed by him. And I like that idea of challenging the audience, and challenging myself to explore a character like that. It's rare to explore characters like that in any movies, but specifically in the superhero genre."
In the end, it sounds like Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips have accomplished their goal with Joker. The early buzz surrounding the movie has been overwhelmingly positive with whispers of Academy Awards in the future. It's going to be interesting to see how comic book fans react to the movie, which is blazing its own trail and telling a new origin story for a new version of the Clown Prince of Crime, ignoring source material in favor of a deep dive character study. The interview with Joaquin Phoenix was originally conducted by Total Film.
Subscribers! Prepare your mail boxes - the Clown Prince of Crime is coming.— Total Film (@totalfilm) August 20, 2019
Here’s your exclusive look at the subscribers-only cover of this month’s #TotalFilm magazine, featuring the one and only #Joker 🎭 pic.twitter.com/KZ8UqKRjAl
Joaquin Phoenix's Joker puts on a happy face in these exclusive images from the upcoming movie. Read a segment from our interview with the actor here: https://t.co/nLkNtxRLznpic.twitter.com/YDCPwnS2KU— Total Film (@totalfilm) August 20, 2019