Joker star Joaquin Phoenix is the frontrunner to win Best Actor at the Academy Awards following his wins in the category at the Golden Globes and the Critics' Choice Awards. For Joker — where Phoenix plays the increasingly unhinged Arthur Fleck, who dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian in early '80s Gotham City — Phoenix beat out competitors Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari), and Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes) at the Globes before winning out over Banderas and Driver at Critics’ Choice. There nominees for Best Actor included Robert De Niro (The Irishman), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood), Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name) and Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems).
Winning both the Golden Globe and the Critics' Choice Award is often an indicator an actor is on track to win at the Academy Awards. In 2019, Mahershala Ali was awarded the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for Green Book, following wins in the supporting actor categories at both the Golden Globes and Critics' Choice. Gary Oldman followed a similar trajectory in 2018, winning the Golden Globe and Critics' Choice before being awarded his first Oscar on behalf of his leading role in Darkest Hour.
Other actors to take home the Academy Award after receiving both prizes include first-time winners Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Brie Larson (Room), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), Viola Davis (Fences), Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables) and Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), who was awarded the Globe, Critics' Choice and Academy Award posthumously for his role as the Joker.
When the Oscar nominations are announced Monday morning, Phoenix will secure his fourth nomination and his first in seven years: Phoenix was previously nominated for Gladiator, Walk the Line and The Master. Winning for Joker would give Phoenix his first Academy Award.
Director Todd Phillips pitched the movie with Phoenix in mind, approaching studio Warner Bros. with Joker — starring Phoenix — before the filmmaker secured the famously choosy star's involvement:
"That’s what’s fun about it. All these actors who have taken Joker on in the past, they all bring [something different]," Phillips previously told Deadline’s Behind the Lens. "It attracts great actors because there are no real rules to Joker, he’s the definition of an unreliable narrator. So it attracts great actors. Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, really interesting, unique actors in their own right, because they can really dive in and make it their own."
He continued, "But with this in particular — I think even back to when I pitched it to Warner Bros. — I pitched it with Joaquin. I didn’t have Joaquin, but just to put it in their heads of, 'Imagine Joaquin Phoenix, imagine we do this deep-dive character study into this fascinating villain.'" But convincing Phoenix was its "own hard thing."
"A lot of actors are resistant to stepping into that world because of the implications that come with it. I know Joaquin had been approached in that universe before, the comic book universe, and he’s always not done it," Phillips said. "So it wasn’t an easy thing, but he read the script and we just had these long meetings that went on for, quite frankly, months, of talking about what it could be, what it’ll look like, what it’ll feel like. I think he was also feeling me out as much as he was feeling out the idea of doing one of these kind of films."
Joker is now available to own on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray.