Reports from the set show that Lady Gaga went deep as Harley Quinn for her performance in Joker: Folie à Deux (2024), the sequel to Joker (2019). That’s the takeaway from cinematographer Lawrence Sher who said recently that he wasn’t allowed to connect with the actress, and he was even told to call her Lee, presumably the shortened version of Harley.
The first Joker movie was a breakaway hit back in 2019, not to mention a surprising one. It was an extraordinarily crowded year for superhero movie releases that included Aquaman, Shazam!, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home. Considering director Todd Phillips’ insistence on a low-key, low-budget (not to mention R-rated) take on the genre, even despite the involvement of Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro, Warner Bros wasn’t expecting it to hold its own amongst such a stacked list.
The reality could barely be further from the truth. While not hitting screens with the same kind of bang as the players with powers, Joker eventually became the sixth highest-grossing movie of the year and best performing R-rated movie of all time. Given its low budget (one that was even cut during production), it can go on record as the most profitable movie based on a comic.
While the film was well-crafted, many have said that the main reason for its enormous success – aside from being different enough to stand out from the crowd – was Joaquin Phoenix’s mesmerizing performance as the protagonist, Arthur Fleck. Critically, it was a performance that rose above opinions of the film, earning universal praise and, after three previous nominations, won Phoenix an Oscar for Best Actor, as well as a BAFTA, Critics Choice Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Golden Globe.
While a sequel was never initially a consideration, the financial success and interest from the creators made it inevitable. When it was announced that Lady Gaga would be playing Harley Quinn, the feeling was that the follow-up movie would be more of a double-hander. The big question is how you match that now much-lauded, scene-stealing performance from Phoenix. However low-key Todd Phillips’ interpretation of the Joker was, for Harley Quinn to be anything like the force of nature that rocks Joker’s world, Lady Gaga was going to have to bring something special to her performance.
All of this brings us to Cinematographer Lawrence Sher, Oscar-nominated for his work on the first movie and who had been working on the sequel since it began filming in December 2022. In a recent podcast interview for The Trenches Talk, he paints a picture of Lady Gaga as an actress who went deep into her role regardless of how it came across to others.
Real name Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, Sher says of his time working with her:
I didn’t know Stefani at all. Strangely, I felt like I never even met her, even during the makeup/hair tests. Maybe it was my philosophy of not trying to get in their space. And then I remember for a week, being like, ‘God, I feel like we are disconnecting. Not even connecting. We are like on opposites.’ And I would say to my crew, ‘Jesus, I can’t crack it. She either hates me or we hate each other. There’s something weird going on here.’
Just when you might be thinking that this could be another unfortunate case of celebrity obnoxiousness, Sher continues:
I barely said anything, except I would say, ‘Stefani, this is where your second team was,’ minor little things, and then the AD at one point said, ‘Oh you know, Stef would like if you just called her Lee on set. And I was like, 100 percent. The next thing I said was something ‘Lee,’ and it was like everything changed. From that point on, it was like she was…our whole connection changed. I was like, alright, cool.
By the end of production, Sher says, their connection had grown, uniting them through doing “this thing together that was joyous and fulfilling.” It seems that Lady Gaga had been working through a variation of Method acting whereby the actor stays in character at all times of the production in an attempt to inhabit them so completely, that they can communicate their actions and motivations more honestly.
If that seems excessive, it’s worth taking some time to appreciate what Lady Gaga had signed herself up fore. Margot Robbie has already lit up screens as Harley Quinn, making the character so popular that she’s become one of the more bankable characters in DC’s cinematic universe. Not only are we about to be presented with a new version of Harley (and fan assessment can be notoriously critical ), but Lady Gaga also has to be a match alongside Phoenix’s hugely celebrated performance as the Joker.
The expectation and anticipation for Joker: Folie à Deux is at a far greater level than the first time around. Thanks to the performance of Joker at the box office, Warner Bros will now be hoping for a high return. Fans will be keen to see Joaquin Phoenix properly established as the character now, and curious to see if any other elements of the DCU will be introduced (Harvey Dent is a rumored inclusion).
Even news that the movie will feature musical numbers has had fans holding their breath with trepidation. At this point, we can only hope for signs that those involved showed the same level of commitment to the movie as was apparent in the first. The news that Lady Gaga went deep as Harley Quinn, deep enough to risk offending the cinematographer, is a positive sign – even if it does raise expectations even higher!
Story source Variety. Joker: Folie à Deux is due for release on October 4th, 2024.
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