How Joker Used Behind-the-Scenes Music as a Major Influence on Joaquin Phoenix

Music is an important part of any film. It can set the tone for powerful scenes, help inspire a feeling of action or urgency in others, and it can even help shape how scenes come together for audiences with music sometimes carrying just as much power as the lines in the script. When it comes to DC's upcoming Joker, though, music was a major influence on how the film's star found himself in the character of Arthur Fleck and listening to the film's score behind-the-scenes was a major part of that.

Speaking with, Phoenix explained that while music is frequently a part of the movie making process, it was different with Joker in a way he described as being "absolutely integral", revealing that the first time he heard the score helped him discover the movement of one of the film's scenes.

"I think a lot of filmmakers have used music on set that I've worked with and it can be a really effective tool and I certainly use it myself," Phoenix said. "But for this film it was absolutely instrumental and again, that kind of dancing in the bathroom scene was the first time I heard the score and it had a huge, noticeable influence on the way that we ultimately discovered the movement for that scene, so it was absolutely integral to the character."

The music being integral to the character may itself have an influence in how the score for the film came together. According to director Todd Phillips, he took a unique approach to the film's score by having it written off of the script rather than from seeing scenes.

"I've never done this before," Phillips said. "I watched, when we were writing the script I went and saw Sicario 2 because I love that movie and Stefano Sollima is one of my favorite directors anyway I went and saw Sicario 2 and I'm listening to the score and it just really moved me and I was like 'who did this score?' and it's this woman Hildur Guðnadóttir and I wrote her an email and I said 'hey, I'm doing, I'm going to start this movie and I want to do something weird. I want to just send you this script and I just want you to start writing music.' So, she wrote music from the script. Normally a composer, they see the scene, they write the score."

He went on to explain that because it was written from the script, they were able to listen to it on the set allowing everyone working on the film to be influenced by it.

"She was writing it from the script, and we were listening to it on the set all the time. I mean when Joaquin is walking up the stairs, for example, I have a huge speaker at the bottom of the stairs playing the music or I've got something in his ear playing the music," he said. "And it was in my ears, too, it was in the camera operator's ears. We were just like letting that music live with us. And it was all through the shooting."


Audiences will get to see for themselves just how music influenced Joker when the film debuts in theaters on October 4.

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