Joker Director Weighs In On What’s Real And What’s Fake


Amid the controversy and box office accolades, there was one facet of Joker that drew near-unanimous praise: Joaquin Phoenix’s turn as the Clown Prince of Crime.

The skeletal Phoenix embodied Arthur Fleck so brilliantly that it was often difficult to determine where Phoenix ended and the Joker began – the cackling laugh, the raw intensity… everything combined into what is arguably an Oscar-worthy performance. Whether the Academy actually recognizes Phoenix’s efforts will be revealed in time, but one thing’s immediately clear: the ways in which Joker tackled mental illness has fueled all sorts of conversations online.

Some have heaped praise on Joker‘s depiction of Arthur Fleck and his mental decay, while others have raised legitimate concerns over the film’s finale – a finale the was recently addressed by director Todd Phillips himself. Fair warning: major spoilers to follow!

Long story short: Joker includes a number of sequences in which Arthur’s fantasies run amok, leaving the audience to question exactly which parts of the film are real, and which are not. Going one step further: did Arthur Fleck imagine the entire plot from the comfort of Arkham Asylum?

It’s certainly possible, as Phillips explained to

When Scott Silver and I sat down to write it, we knew enough about the comics. I read comics when I was a kid, we knew he didn’t have an origin story. We also, I don’t want to say whether it’s real or not because I think part of the fun, I’ve shown it to many, many different people and they all have a different reaction. Some of them say, ‘Oh I get it, I mean the last line in the movie, you wouldn’t get it, to a joke he was telling. Well is the joke the movie? Is the joke the thing? Or is the thing about the –‘ The idea is you don’t like to answer those questions, because it’s nice to see the different things people take away from it.

Now at $300 million and climbing, Warner’s Joker spinoff has proven to be a massive success – so much so, in fact, that both Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix have alluded to the possibility of continuing Arthur Fleck’s tragic story beyond 2019. Whether such a project ever materializes will be told in time, but at least for now, Gotham’s Clown Prince remains perched on the box office throne, awaiting the next challenger.