Instep Today

Joaquin Phoenix & the making of The Joker

Instep Today
By Instep Desk
Tue, 09, 19

“It turns out that affects your psychology,” Joaquin Phoenix spoke about losing 52 pounds for the role, at the Venice Film Festival. “You start to go mad.”

With almost a month until its official release, The Joker – undoubtedly one of the most hugely anticipated films of 2019 – just released to unprecedented applause and reviews at the Venice Film Festival as well as the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), leaving fans even more eager for the October 4 official release.

The one major reason for its massive acclaim comes as reaction to Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck; Todd Miller’s Joker, portrayed magnificently by Phoenix, has hit such wild heights of excitement and rhapsody that it sounds like he’s managed to fundamentally redraw the parameters of actorly achievement.

Judging by some reviews it’s not just an Oscar-gobbling performance, but so gripping that all existing Best Actor Oscar statuettes will have to be melted down to form one absolutely enormous statuette for Phoenix. Part of his transformation into Fleck was physical, with Phoenix dropping 52 pounds for the role and finding that it sent him a bit weird.

“It turns out that affects your psychology,” Phoenix said at the Venice Film Festival. “You start to go mad.”

Phoenix also said that despite the long shadow cast by Heath Ledger’s version of the character in The Dark Knight, he didn’t look to any other Joker for direct inspiration.

“I didn’t refer to any past iteration of the character,” he said. “It just felt like something that was our creation in some ways.

“What was so attractive about this character for me is he’s so hard to define. You don’t really want to define him. Every day felt like we were discovering new aspects of his character... up until the very last day.”

Phoenix also said he was keen not to attach Fleck’s actions and mental state to any particular disorder or condition.

“I wanted the freedom to create something that wasn’t identifiable. This is a fictional character. I didn’t want a psychiatrist to be able to identify the kind of person he was.”

While Joaquin lost the weight quickly, one aspect of the role that took him some time to grasp was his character’s distinctive laugh and he even made director Todd Phillips “audition” it to ensure he’d got the sound right. Which is certainly a welcome idea because the Joker is a character who is so open to interpretation.

It’s 1981. Gotham is New York Metropolis, blighted by crime, uncollected rubbish and industrial unrest, in gossamer-thin disguise. A wealthy industrialist known as Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) is campaigning to develop into mayor to get Gotham again on its toes. These of you who recall the Batman origin story ought to notice that he has a younger son known as Bruce.

Arthur, in the meantime, is nearly holding down a job as knowledgeable clown, obtainable for affordable promotional stunts, kids’ hospital visits, that form of factor. He’s disturbed, a loner with a Tourette’s-style situation that compels him to snort for no cause.

He makes weekly visits to a social employee, who organises his remedy, however Gotham’s social providers are being reduced to the bone. Quickly he could have nowhere to show.

‘The worst thing about having a mental illness,’ he writes in his journal, ‘is that people expect you to behave as if you don’t.’

So, Gotham is teetering on the point of civil strife and it seems to be Arthur, of all insignificant residents, who nudges it over the sting.

How? Let’s wait to watch and see.

The crowd at the Venice Film Festival apparently went “absolutely ballistic for Joker”, putting Joaquin Phoenix on the list as an Oscar contender for his performance.

– With information from Esquire and Herald Publicist