Joker actor Joaquin Phoenix described what it was like playing the Clown Prince of Crime in a new interview at the Toronto International Film Festival. Phoenix says that after signing-on for the part, he became enamored of the character. Phoenix says that the energy and excitement that came with playing the Joker drew him deeper and deeper into the part. Calling his portrayal of the character one of the greatest experiences of his life, Phoenix revealed that he was most drawn to the Joker’s alter ego, Arthur Fleck. Phoenix came to enjoy exploring such a tormented character, revealing that experiencing Fleck’s search for companionship and happiness over the months-long shoot was a joy.
Todd Phillips, who directed Joker, was also at the film’s screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. Phillips says that one of the biggest questions he gets asked is if he is worried about fans and moviegoers comparing Phoenix’s Joker with Heath Ledger’s Joker from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Ledger famously won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor posthumously for his take on the character in 2009. Phillips says that in American pop culture, comic books are akin to Shakespeare. Just as one would not begrudge an actor for playing a new version of Hamlet, so too does Phillips believe that audiences understand that there can be many iterations of the Clown Prince of Crime. Continuing, Phillips says that he has appreciated all versions of the Joker, with making special mention of Jared Leto’s version of the villain from 2016’s Suicide Squad and Jack Nicholson’s iteration of the character from 1989’s Batman. Phillips further acknowledged that Phoenix would not be the last person to play the character.
Joker has garnered rave reviews since its premiere last month at the Venice Film Festival. The film even scored the top honor at the event, the coveted Golden Lion. Phillips says that what differentiates Joker from other comic book films is how it explores Fleck’s descent into becoming the Joker. This complex storyline focused on a multitude of factors, notably the lack of empathy shown to the character. Phillips further adds that the film also examines themes of socio-economic justice. With Fleck coming from a poor household, people often make snap judgments of him, setting him deeper and deeper on the path of becoming the Joker.
Joker opens on October 4.