The Joker’s cinematic career goes back to the sixties, but don’t expect to see echoes of the likes of Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger in Joaquin Phoenix’s turn in this October’s Joker. The latest DC movie will be almost like the big screen equivalent of an Elseworlds tale and offer its own unique take on the Clown Prince of Crime’s origins. Likewise, its leading man didn’t want to copy from any of the many versions of the character to come before him.
Speaking with Variety at the Venice Film Festival, Phoenix said that by sidestepping past iterations of the supervillain, it allowed him and director Todd Phillips a lot of freedom to redefine the iconic comic book foe and almost create him anew. Something that seems to have kept the actor on his toes throughout the production process.
“I didn’t refer to any past iteration of the character,” he said. “It just felt like something that was our creation in some ways.” Phoenix went on to add that not only did he have freedom from past iterations but also from anything at all identifiable. “What was so attractive about this character for me is he’s so hard to define. You don’t really want to define him. Every day felt like we were discovering new aspects of his character…up until the very last day.”
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Phoenix went on to say that he wished to keep his Joker unidentifiable and free from a specific psychological label, explaining as so:
“I also wanted the freedom to create something that wasn’t identifiable. This is a fictional character. I didn’t want a psychiatrist to be able to identify the kind of person he was.
Despite the actor’s emphasis on the Joker as a “fictional character” above, it’s clear that Phoenix’s portrayal will be the most realistic and grounded take on him we’ve yet to see on screen. For instance, he’s previously revealed that his Joker laugh was inspired by the actual neurological condition known as pathological laughter, whose sufferers cannot stop laughing.
By the sounds of it, Phoenix’s hard work paid off, as Joker is receiving hugely positive reviews from its premiere at the VFF. Fans will soon get to judge what they make of it for themselves as well, as it arrives in cinemas on October 4th.