Wash off the clown makeup and turn that bloody frown upside-down. Check out these wild Joker behind-the-scenes stories.
Todd Phillips’s Joker is a psychological character study of a tormented, mentally ill, alienated man who transforms into a vicious, sociopathic murderer. It’s hardly the lighthearted comic book movie fare that superhero genre fans are accustomed to. Joker is a throwback to the gritty New Hollywood movies of the 1970s like Taxi Driver and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Despite the disturbing transformation of Arthur Fleck into a supervillain, Phillips’s 2019 drama became the first R-rated film to ever gross $1 billion at the global box office. It also earned 11 Academy Award nominations.
Phillips, a filmmaker mostly known for his hilarious comedies like The Hangover and Old School, fought for his bloody vision against all odds. Get the backstory on the battles the writer-director waged to get the origin story of a failed comedian and party clown onto the big screen. Also, learn all about the extraordinary journey of Joaquin Phoenix’s methodical transformation that resulted in his first Academy Award for best actor.
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Joaquin Phoenix Studied People Afflicted With PBA To Develop Fleck's Painful, Uncontrollable Laughter
There is a medical condition called pseudobulbar affect (PBA). It causes its sufferers to laugh or cry (or both) uncontrollably. It can lead to weeping and often has absolutely nothing to do with how the person is actually feeling.
In Joker, Arthur Fleck suffers from PBA. He even has to carry a card with him to let people know about his condition that reads, "Forgive my laughter. I have a condition." When Fleck is nervous or in a stressful situation, he produces painful, cacophonous laughter.
Fleck's laughter is off-putting and awkward, far from the pleasant jolliness typically associated with laughing. It makes the people around him uncomfortable and perhaps even scared. In order to prepare for the role, Phoenix studied videos of people affected by PBA.
"I started [with the laugh]," Phoenix said. "I watched videos of people suffering from pathological laughter, a neurological disorder that makes individuals laugh uncontrollably."
- 293 VOTES
Joaquin Phoenix Never Actually Agreed To Star In 'Joker' - He Just Showed Up To A Wardrobe Fitting One Day
Todd Phillips really wanted Joaquin Phoenix for the role that would eventually earn him his first Academy Award. The dramatic actor had previously avoided superhero movies, and even basic genre films.
"It was a pursuit to get him because initially it feels like, 'Ugh, comic book movie.' Just the idea of it is something he wasn't so keen on pursuing, and even when I would explain to him, 'It's not that, it kind of says that, but really, we're doing this other thing,' there was a little resistance," said Phillips.
Joaquin Phoenix eventually agreed to put aside his previous superhero movie notions and take on the complex role of the Joker's origin story. The actor just never let Phillips know about his change of heart. "...Then one day, he magically showed up. He never said yes. He just one day showed up to a wardrobe fitting... It was an incredible partnership," said Phillips.
- 376 VOTES
Robert De Niro And Joaquin Phoenix Disagreed About Whether Or Not To Have A Read-Through Before Filming
There was certainly some tension between Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro. The former may have been the movie's titular star, but the latter was still one of the biggest stars in the history of Hollywood.
De Niro wanted to get together for a read-through prior to the start of production. Phoenix, on the other hand, is not a fan of the customary read-through process. Todd Phillips had to find a way to deal with the vastly differing preparation styles. He recalls:
Bob called me and he goes, "Tell him he's an actor and he's got to be there. I like to hear the whole movie, and we're going to all get in a room and just read it." And I'm in-between a rock and a hard place because Joaquin's like, "There's no f**king way I'm doing a read-through," and Bob's like, "I do read-throughs before we shoot, that's what we do."
The Hollywood veteran got his way, and a read-through took place at De Niro's office in New York City. However, even if Phoenix attended the meeting, he reportedly mumbled and sulked through much of the process. Afterwards, the Taxi Driver actor asked to speak privately to Phoenix, who initially denied the request.
The method actors reportedly talked it out. Phillips said that De Niro cupped Phoenix's face with his hands and even smacked him with a kiss on the cheek. De Niro assured him, "It's going to be okay, bubbeleh."
De Niro later said of Phoenix, "Joaquin was very intense in what he was doing, as it should be, as he should be."
- 4118 VOTES
Joaquin Phoenix And Robert De Niro Barely Talked To Each Other During Filming
What happens when two method actors work together on the same movie? Chances are, if their characters are not friendly in the film, then the actors who portray them won't be friendly off-screen, either.
Robert De Niro plays talk show host Murray Franklin in Joker. The longtime TV personality is not happy that the latest media sensation Arthur Fleck will be on his show and lets everyone know exactly how he feels. Franklin is one key cog in Arthur's collapse into a ruthless sociopath. The actors only have one significant scene together in the movie, and it's a shocking one.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that both Phoenix and De Niro saw absolutely no reason to converse with one another unless the cameras were rolling.
"I didn't like to talk to him on set," admits Phoenix. "The first day we said good morning, and beyond that, I don't know that we talked much."
"His character and my character, we didn't need to talk about anything," added De Niro. "We just say, 'Do the work. Relate as the characters to each other.' It makes it simpler, and we don't [talk]. There's no reason to."