Joaquin Phoenix on Finding His Joker Character

Article by Eric Lee

Joaquin Phoenix has discussed the difficulty of “finding” his Joker character.

In an interview with LaunchLeft, Phoenix talked about his initial inspiration for the character of the Joker. According to the actor, a real-life psychiatric patient inspired the Joker’s look and personality.

I found this reference of this guy, this kid who was undergoing psychiatric evaluation. I thought his behavior was really interesting and this may be a very good model, and we ended up using some of the look, some of the wardrobe was kind of based on this guy, but I was doing this thing for the first few weeks, that if you saw it you would go, “Wait, that’s really what we started with and you shot for that long doing that?”

Finding Joker

Despite Phoenix’s now-iconic performance as the Joker, he went in with reservations. Initially, he was unsure how to approach the Joker. Joaquin Phoenix felt that he did not find the character until after “several weeks” of filming.

On Joker, I told Todd at the beginning “The last week I’ll get it.” It wasn’t quite that but we shot the first… I don’t really want to say how many weeks because it’s really embarrassing, but several weeks in which… I went in with an idea, a concept of the character… There was a point where I realized this is wrong and I had to go into work and tell the makeup and hair and the wardrobe and everybody and go to Todd [Phillips] and talk about it. Luckily he is so open and lovely and treated me like a f****** partner, so I felt fine with him.

Phoenix’s new idea of the Joker was apparently fundamentally different from his original concept. Apparently, the makeup, wardrobe, and hair needed to be changed, because of how radical the changes were. Phoenix confessed that telling the crew to change what they have been doing was extremely embarrassing to the actor.

It was really embarrassing to go to makeup and hair and say, “I f***** up and I want to change the hair, and I want to change the way I’m wearing the clothes and some of the clothes and can we do this.” To think all these people that were working on this and worked really hard those couple of weeks, you know I had to admit I was totally f****** off and I was so humiliated.

Many can argue that Joaquin Phoenix’s long process to find his interpretation of Joker was well worth it. Critics and fans alike have praised his unique and engaging performance as the clown prince of crime.
Check the video below to watch the entire interview.

Joker  is now playing in theaters everywhere.


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Eric Lee

Eric Lee hails from San Francisco, California and has been one of the biggest fans of Batman since he was 2 years old when his dad showed him Tim Burton's 'Batman' on a fuzzy VHS. Currently, Eric is an avid comic book reader and writer and illustrator working on his own graphic novel. You can see his doodles at meeleeart.com.