Joaquin Phoenix Explains Why He Was Originally Hesitant To Star As The Joker


Warner Bros.

While Joker is not set to be released in theaters until October 4, the film will actually premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off in just about two weeks on September 5.

And with the film’s official premiere just mere weeks away, the cast and crew behind Joker — specifically, star Joaquin Phoenix and director Todd Phillips — have been doing the media rounds in order to drum up anticipation for the film.

In an apparent effort to make clear that Joker is no ordinary comic book movie, Phoenix and Phillips have been putting in the legwork in various interviews to make sure that fans know what to expect when they buy a ticket to the film, especially when it comes to the titular character portrayed by Phoenix.

However, while Phoenix seems like a natural choice to portray the infamous Clown Prince of Crime, the actor himself was initially hesitant to commit to the character.

Speaking to TotalFilm, Phoenix revealed that he while he ultimately took the role (obviously), he had reservations about taking on the role of the Joker:

“It took me a while [to commit]. Now, when I look back, I don’t understand why… There was a lot of fear, yeah. But I always say there’s motivating fear and debilitating fear. There’s the fear where you cannot make a fucking step, and there’s the kind where it’s like, ‘OK, what do we do? That’s not good enough.’ And you’re digging deeper and deeper. I love that kind of fear. It guides us, makes us work harder.”

“I think oftentimes, in these movies, we have these simplified, reductive archetypes, and that allows for the audience to be distant from the character, just like we would do in real life, where it’s easy to label somebody as evil, and therefore say, ‘Well, I’m not that.’”

“And yet we all are guilty. We all have sinned. And I thought that here was this film, and these characters, where it wouldn’t be easy for you as an audience. There are times where you’re going to feel yourself connected to him, and rooting for him, and times when you should be repulsed by him. And I like that idea of challenging the audience, and challenging myself to explore a character like that. It’s rare to explore characters like that in any movies, but specifically in the superhero genre.” [TotalFilm]

Luckily, Phoenix eventually came around and decided to don the iconic purple suit and green hair, as he’s one of the few actors in Hollywood with the cache to live up to Heath Ledger’s legendary performance (yes, I’m pretending that Jared Leto’s version doesn’t exist… I suggest you do the same).

Joker will be released in theaters on Friday, October 4.

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Eric is a New York City-based writer who still isn’t quite sure how he’s allowed to have this much fun for a living and will tell anyone who listens that Gotham City is canonically in New Jersey. Contact him