When an actor is cast as the Joker in a DC Comics movie, one of the first questions fans of the iconic Batman villain asks is, "What will the laugh sound like?" There's also plenty of concern about the costume, the story, and whether or not it will all be accurate to a certain comic book. However, the element which pertains to the actor in the role is the laugh. For Joaquin Phoenix, finding a laugh for his Joker in the upcoming standalone movie was something which happened organically -- and came in threes.
"There was three different laughs in the movie," Phoenix tells ComicBook.com. Of that, one of those laughs will be the most memorable and attributed as his true Joker laugh. As it turns out, the actor spent time with his director Todd Phillips, simultaneously being convinced to play the role and developing the sound of that laugh.
"Well really, do you remember I basically auditioned myself?" Phoenix said to Phillips, who was sitting beside him. "I had you come over to audition the laugh because I didn't think I could do it. And you showed me some videos, of some laughs and I thought that's really good. In the script it described the laugh being almost painful, I thought that was a very interesting way to describe laughter. So you came over to my house, I tried and it was really uncomfortable, and I set up five minutes trying to work it up and finally you said, 'You don't have to do this.'"
At that time, Phillips told Phoenix, "You already have the part." There was never anybody else in consideration for the role but Phoenix wanted to push make sure he found his sound.
"I have to do this, because if I don't do this now, if I can't force myself to find it now, then forever, I'm going to f---ing p--- out," Pheonix said. "So we did it."
Did it, they most certainly did. Phoenix's performance in Joker is earning praise from critics who have seen the film as Oscar-worthy, building on the iconic works by the likes of Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and even Mark Hamill in animated form.
"For him to summon it on the day of the shooting was always different and sometimes he would need time to do it honestly," Phillips explained. "I'm talking about the affliction laugh, that was to me probably, I can't speak for [Phoenix], but that was probably the hardest one to do. There's the laugh where he is fake laughing to be one of the guys or put in the comedy club. And then there's [redacted for spoilers] where he is genuinely laughing at something, but the affliction laugh I think was probably hard to muster up, so there were times on set where it would be a little bit pacing, where I would throw out a private joke to him that would try to make you laugh about somebody on the crew or something."
The two shared a laugh over the memory, though Phoenix pointed out, "I never made fun of people on the crew!" Phillips and Phoenix laughed together, seeming to have built a tremendous chemistry while working together on Joker, shining through with each impressive beat of the dark film. Comicbook.com's review calls it a "masterpiece."
Joker hits theaters on October 4.