‘Joker’ Star Joaquin Phoenix Explains How He Started To “Go Mad” During Transformation For The Role

Becky HarrisBecky Harris in Entertainment, Film
Published 02.09.19
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Joaquin Phoenix speaks out about the torment he put his body through during filming for Joker.

The new DC movie “Joker” had its premiere this weekend at the Venice Film Festival where it was given an impressive 8 minute standing ovation – for a DC movie, that’s pretty good.

The movie embarks on a journey of the main character Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) who has troubles being happy, finding who he is in the world and if he is capable to give and receive love and validation.

(Sounds like your typical boozed up night out if you ask me.)

However, Phoenix spoke to the Daily Beast and told them that the role did in fact make him go mad. Not that you should expect anything less from playing such an insane and unhinged role – pretty sure that could screw with anyone’s mind.

How much weight did Joaquin Phoenix lose for Joker?

Although it wasn’t just the psychological aspect of the Joker which made Phoenix lose himself, but instead the amount of weight he lost, which was a massive 52 pounds.

Phoenix said:

“The first thing for us was the weight loss—I think that’s really what I started with. And, as it turns out, that then affects your psychology. You start to go mad when you lose that amount of weight in that amount of time.”

To help him prepare for the role, Phoenix met up with the director of the film, Todd Phillips, six months prior to rehearsals to create the image of the new Joker. Watching videos and going over lines helped them to envision who they wanted to bring to life and particularly the background and nature of the infamous character.

Phoenix added:

“For me, the attraction to make this film and this character was that we were going to approach it in our own way – So for me, I didn’t refer to past interpretations of the character.” Phoenix explained when at the Venice Film Festival.

When rehearsals began and Phoenix began the journey as Arthur Fleck, he didn’t know where to start in order to bring him out and give him a good representation – I’d start with the fact that he’s, oh I don’t know, criminally insane?

However, director Todd Phillips helped with this by giving Phoenix what was going to be the diary/journal of Fleck. Phoenix told Daily Beast:

“Very early on in the rehearsal, I was given the journal that he had—his journal and joke diary. And that was really helpful, because I had been there for a couple of weeks and wasn’t sure how I was going to start, and Todd sent this [empty] journal – I didn’t know what to write, so I asked [Todd] for some suggestions, and after a few days, I ignored his suggestions and suddenly it was coming out. It became a really important part of the discovery of the character at that time.”

Where did Joker’s laugh come from?

One thing Phoenix worked the hardest on was the Joker’s laugh, the one thing which makes all clowns unbelievably creepy and just plain wrong. Honestly why do they have to laugh so much and at such a high pitch? Uncalled for. Phoenix and Phillips went spoke about the laugh when collaborating to create the villain. Phoenix states:

“He showed me some videos, and he described the laughter as something that was almost painful.”

Phoenix then carries on and offered his insight into the laugh:

“But honestly, I didn’t think that I could do it. I would practice alone and then asked Todd to come over to audition my laugh, because I felt like I had to do it on the spot and in front of somebody else. It took me a long time.”

Some have said they see the character of Fleck as someone who is damaged and lives a tragic life, something Phoenix disagreed with:

“I was interested in the light of Arthur, for lack of a better word – It wasn’t just the torment; it was his struggle to find happiness, to feel connected, to find the warmth and love—that’s the part of the character I was interested in and worth exploring.”

People have also begun saying that this Joker is the best one yet and gives one of the creepiest performances. Clearly, they haven’t seen Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

Heath Ledger will be forever and always, the ultimate Joker. However I am very interested to see what Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips have created, especially because they haven’t based this Joker off the comics or previous Jokers.

Also, I’m definitely afraid that I’ll like it more than Heath Ledger’s.

I guess we’ll see on October 4th who the Joker champion is.

Images via DC/Warner Bros.

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