What Joaquin Phoenix Really Went Through To Play The Joker


When Joaquin Phoenix won the Best Actor Oscar
unbelievably, his first for Joker at the 92nd Academy Awards, it seemed a bit like he was
the only one who was surprised. The actor challenged himself physically, mentally,
and emotionally to bring us the best screen performance of 2019. Although Phoenix famously didn’t look to any
previous screen interpretations of the Joker including Heath Ledger’s in crafting his performance,
he did share one aspect of the late Dark Knight star’s approach to the role. Phoenix found himself very isolated while
shooting the film, for a couple of reasons. For one, it was difficult for him to simply
turn off Arthur Fleck at the end of the day. “Man. You know what I’m talking about, it’s so hard
to just try to be happy all the time.” In an interview with Metro, the actor said: “At the end of the night there was never really
an end. It stayed with me every night after work for
another two or three hours. I never felt this moment of being done with
my work day […] I didn’t socialize at all. The person I interacted with was [director
Todd Phillips]. That became my world. It was nonstop.” Phoenix also revealed that as a by-product
of his own strict diet, his opportunities to interact with the cast and crew were even
more limited than they might otherwise have been. He said: “I also didn’t really have a life at that
time because I couldn’t go out to eat.” Fortunately, the role was simply so stimulating
for Phoenix that he actually found these conditions to be agreeable. He said: “I want to say it was super hard. But it was so inspiring, that as much energy
I put into it, it gave it back. I would go home after work and we would just
talk about the next scene. I was just super excited. I would show up at set two hours early to
just sit in the trailer and talk about it.” Phoenix famously lost over 50 pounds for the
role of Arthur Fleck. In a wide-ranging talk with USA Today about
Joker, he revealed that he subsisted largely on a diet of steamed green beans, apples,
and lettuce during the shoot. This was nothing new. He had lost a similar amount of weight for
his role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s acclaimed 2012 drama The Master. Just because he had done it before, though,
doesn’t mean that he was in any way keen to repeat the experience. Phoenix, who disclosed that the same nutritionist
tasked with whittling him down for The Master returned to torment him further for Joker,
said: “In all honesty, I didn’t want to do it again. It’s a horrible, brutal diet, but you get
all the vitamins and minerals, so you’re like safe. It’s grotesque.” Phoenix has been open about the fact that
the dramatic weight loss had a profound effect on his mental state, and that he was able
to use the psychological difficulty it presented to inform his acting in Joker. If he had been able to have it his way, though,
Arthur wouldn’t have been the rail-thin, emaciated figure we see in the film. In an interview a month before the film’s
release, the actor told the New York Times: “I [thought] he should be kind of heavy. Todd was like, ‘I think you should do the
real thin person.'” His assessment of the experience didn’t soften
over the months after Joker hit theaters; he told the Times that sticking to the diet
was, quote, “a horrible way to live.” Finding his version of the Joker’s famous
cackle was a particularly daunting task for Phoenix, as the film posited a unique take
on that particular trait. Arthur’s laughter is pathological, a disorder
which causes him to burst into violent, uncontrollable laughter at the most inappropriate of times. “haha” Part of Phoenix’s method for perfecting his
version of the Joker’s laugh was to study videos of real-life mental patients afflicted
with this disorder. For a time, the actor was reluctant to employ
the laugh, as he simply wasn’t confident that he’d nailed it. He explained: “I think Joker is a part of [Arthur] that’s
trying to emerge, and I think that was a really interesting way of looking at this 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.” Phoenix has even said that, to a large extent,
he’s still not sure if he got it exactly right except in a few instances. Speaking with ETOnline, he said: “I thought at some point that it would become
easier, but I don’t think it did. I think it became more difficult, actually.” The actor went on to explain that while it
worked for some scenes, others were, quote, “a struggle,” saying: “Sometimes one take would work and another
wouldn’t. I think it was something that was alive, in
a way.” Perhaps the biggest challenge for Phoenix
in preparing to play Arthur Fleck was also, in large part, what drew him to the role:
an extreme sense of uncertainty. In the USA Today interview, the actor explained
that the character has an innate sense of slipperiness to his identity, a resolute unwillingness
to allow himself to be pinned down as any one archetype. This quality exhibited itself not only on
the pages of the screenplay, but on set, as Arthur’s characterization morphed and evolved
throughout Joker’s shoot. Phoenix said: “When we were prepping for it, I felt very
frustrated because I couldn’t lock on anything that felt like a foundation for the character. And at some point, I realized that was the
f–ing point. He was unstable.” “Gary, you were the only one who was ever
nice to me.” Eventually, though, Phoenix along with Phillips
and the rest of Joker’s cast and crew found that this grey area was exactly where they
needed to be. He said: “It’s shaky ground as an actor. I enjoy not knowing precisely what a character
may do, but you want to have like a couple moments that you feel solid about. And that never really happened. We just became very comfortable with not knowing.” It was a singularly unique approach which
led to a singularly unique performance, one which finally netted Phoenix that golden statue
which he probably should have been awarded years ago. In his acceptance speech, he told his peers: “We share the same love that’s the love of
film. And this form of expression has given me the
most extraordinary life. I don’t know where I’d be without it.” It’s only fitting that this is so, because
Phoenix has given us nothing but extraordinary performances and with Joker, an all-time great
one. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Looper videos about your favorite
actors are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
bell so you don’t miss a single one.

76 comments

  1. Man there is something with joker character even batman dark knight's joker was amazing like burning the whole money and that bank heist and this joker giving speech and killing (headshot)

  2. I just remember seeing “You were never really here” in 2018 and Joaquin looked like he was a solid 200+ pounds.

    I think joker started filming in late 2018. It’s crazy how he lost all that weight in that short amount of time.

  3. He didnt go through anything. I think he has joker like symptoms and didnt really have to act much. No offense i mean that in a humble way. And on top of that hes a gifted actor!!!

  4. I never knew who Joaquin Phoenix was before I saw Joker, but before the movie I rented some of his old films those being “You where Never Really Here and Walk the Line” and those three films are how I got to know who Joaquin Phoenix was

  5. 'Not taking anything away from others who go to similar extremes for a role like Christian Bale for example but you'd have a hard job on your hands trying to find an Actor who is as dedicated to their craft as Jouquin. He's my favourite Actor not just because of his phenomenal acting chops but his passion and commitment is just great. So glad the Academy finally gave him his due 😁 🃏

  6. He did actual research and and actual work like any other actor the only crazy thing he did was loose weight other then that it was just pure talent

  7. The medicine he is on would most likely cause him to gain wait. Most medicine that has to do with your mood and stress + anxiety will make you hungry all the time. Like my meds do.

  8. i don't know about the first one… ive heard that there was no method acting and after they yelled cut, him and phillips would just have a good time shooting the shit

  9. Joaquin Phoenix, because he went through extreme torture and pain to exhibit that classic acting. Really he deserved that Oscar.

  10. Hands down my favorite Joker Origin story. Ducking AWESOME! Joaquin deserves it.

  11. If Phoenix is going back as Joker, he can be in shape you know. When he became the Joker at the end of the movie, his confidence grew. Its like he is another person. I just want to see him again in another Joker movie. Hopefully with Batman in it.

  12. What I know about Phoenix is that he was the antagonist of Gladiator 2000 trying to get Maximus out of the picture, then he was Kenai from Brother Bear 2003 who was prejudiced towards bears until he was transformed into one to see what life is like from their view.
    You learn something new everyday, even when learning who played who you never thought of.

  13. Overrated overrated overrated overrated overrated. That’s what this movie was the most overrated film that I have ever seen. Heath ledger‘s joker would’ve kicked his sorry ass up off the top of a building laughed as he was going down splattering on the ground don’t even compare them. And did I mention this movie sucked

  14. He went through alot in life. Huge respect for him from the bottom of my heart. He's an amazing artist but before that he's an incredible human being.

  15. Doesn’t take an Oscar to acknowledge that Joaquin Phoenix is and has been one of the greats in the film industry.

  16. I work on film sets and to have actors like Joaquin change their diet and remain a good person. I know of allot of actors that get in shape for movies and turn into assholes, it’s an excuse for the actors IMO.

  17. He was not at all surprised nor happy to win the Oscar. He seemed happy and maybe surprised 😲 for every other award except the Oscar, ironically!

  18. He should always be this skinny. Yet he got not nearly as skinny as Christian in the machinist nor almost every female in every entitlement industry, including sports is forced and abused to be!

  19. I knew it! The role to play Joker is so tough that you cant just turn it off once youre done acting for the day. It’s such a toll that it had Heath kill himself! What a cursed character this is. No wonder he got the best actor award

  20. The movie was boring he killed his own mother the only person who cared about him the best part was at the end and only the end heath ledger was the joker he was always a step ahead of everybody and had you at the edge of your seat wondering what he is going to do next why so serious LOL

  21. Back when I saw The Dark Knight with Heath Ledger as Joker, I thought no one was ever gonna top that man's performance as Joker. And it was tough for me to put him over Jack Nicholson at that time, because that Batman movie from 1989 holds a special place in my heart. But the same way Heath Ledger surpassed Jack Nicholson as Joker, the same way Joaquin Phoenix surpassed Heath Ledger as Joker. And that my friends is a fact of life. Joaquin Phoenix will be known as The Real Joker for the rest of his life. He owned that role, won the trophies, and left an enormous amount of memories in the film industry, and in our hearts. The impact of Joaquin Phoenix as The Joker was too big. The movie is a classic for the ages. And it was absurd for the academy to give this movie, only 2 oscars out of 11 nominations, with the biggest robbery being "best picture." Fortunately, this movie was ahead of the BS, and won a more prestigious award these days: The Golden Lion for Best Film. The first "Rated R" movie in the history of movies to make one billion dollars at the box office, and cross that mark. Awesome!

  22. Joaquin Phoenix is one of the best things to happen to pop culture in the last few years. I’m so glad someone who cares about the planet and animals is apart of a huge franchise and using his platform constantly to speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *