Joaquin Phoenix Reveals His Compelling Reason for Playing Joker

A month from its theatrical release, DC Films' Joker is already gaining a slew of positive reviews, in part thanks to the intense portrayal of Joaquin Phoenix as its titular character. The film follows Phoenix's Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian who turns to a violent life of crime and becomes the iconic villain. During the film's press conference at the Venice Film Festival, Phoenix spoke about what drew him to playing the Joker, a character whose origin story is often a bit of a mystery in the comics.

"I guess I was interested, actually, in the light of Arthur, for lack of a better word." Phoenix revealed. "It wasn’t just the torment, it was kind of like the joy, it was his struggle to find happiness and to feel connected and to feel warmth and love. That’s the part of the character that I was interested in and I think was worth kind of exploring. I don’t think of a character as tormented. I don’t ever kind of define characters in that way. It’s only when I come to do press that I get asked these questions, but I never think of it that way."

"For me, for us, it’s almost, it was eight months, for me, of exploring this person." Phoenix continued. "It’s very difficult to distill that experience down into a soundbite or just into a definition of who the person is. He was so many things to me at different times. Who he was the first few weeks of shooting, completely different than who he was at the end. It was something that was constantly evolving. I don’t think I’ve ever had an experience quite like this one. I like to be open to different possibilities as I work. I try not to make concrete decisions about the character when I’m working. But with this one, it was impossible, and also, just kind of like a bummer if you did that [laughs]. Any time we did that, we’d make a decision for something, we’d look at each other, like ich, there’s something wrong about that. And the more unpredictable it was, the more exciting it was for us, and inspiring. And we kept trying to find something new in every moment."

“We didn’t follow anything from the comic-books, which people are gonna be mad about,” director Todd Phillips explained in a recent interview. “We just wrote our own version of where a guy like Joker might come from. That’s what was interesting to me. We’re not even doing Joker, but the story of becoming Joker. It’s about this man.”

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Joining Phoenix in the film are Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, Marc Maron, and Brian Tyree Henry.

Upcoming DC movies include Joker on October 4th, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) on February 7, 2020, Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5, 2020, The Batman on June 25, 2021, The Suicide Squad on August 6, 2021, and Aquaman 2 on December 16, 2022.