Joaquin Phoenix Dives Deep, Shares His Thoughts On ‘Joker’ Theories, Sequels, Backlash, And More


Warner Bros.

Prior to the release of Joker, it can be argued that quite literally no one expected what kind of event the film would become, both at the box office and in terms of the attention the public paid to it.

Whether it be debate about the nature of the film, the message it was trying to portray, or the real-world impact it may have, Joker dominated the film industry discussion for the better part of October unlike any other film this year.

And while the public discourse around the film has died down in recent weeks, Joker still remains very much in the public eye, as many expect it to be a serious awards season player in the coming months.

As a result, those involved with the project — such as star Joaquin Phoenix and director Todd Phillips — are still doing press and are sharing their thoughts about the theories, backlash, and potential sequels.

Speaking with The Los Angeles Times for a wide-ranging interview, Phoenix and Phillips touched on a variety of the hot topics that have surrounded Joker since its release back in early October.

On the possibility of a sequel:

Working with a budget of $55 million — just a fraction of the typical comic-book movie — Phillips and Phoenix pushed each other to delve ever deeper into Fleck’s complex, disturbed psyche. From the start, they felt there was more than enough to uncover. “In the second or third week of shooting, I was like, ‘Todd, can you start working on a sequel? There’s way too much to explore,’ ” Phoenix says. “It was kind of in jest — but not really.”

Phillips makes it clear there is nothing in the works at the moment, but he’s not opposed to the idea of a sequel. “But it couldn’t just be this wild and crazy movie about the ‘Clown Prince of Crime,’ ” he says. “It would have to have some thematic resonance in a similar way that this does. Because I think that’s ultimately why the movie connected, it’s what’s going on underneath. So many movies are about the spark, and this is about the powder. If you could capture that again in a real way, that would be interesting.”

On the film’s ambiguous ending:

Phoenix is still pondering many of those things himself. “It’s been super interesting how people react to the movie and what they see — and to me, all of those answers are valid,” he says. “Normally you have to answer those questions. But this really is participatory and interactive. It’s up to the audience. That’s so rare, especially with a big studio movie, and I don’t want to ruin that by saying, ‘No, this is what it is.’ To me, there are so many different ways to view this character and his experience that I don’t think you can come up with a particular meaning.”

To him, it’s those ambiguities that make the film worthwhile. For the record, Phoenix says, he does personally believe that Fleck is the actual Joker. “But I don’t know,” he adds with a wry smile. “It’s just my opinion.”

On the initial backlash surrounding the film:

Looking back, Phoenix says now, he had felt blindsided by the controversy. Based on his own research into the type of people who commit assassinations and mass shootings, he feared that lending credence and media oxygen to the debate might do more to inspire some disturbed would-be killer to try to grab the limelight than a film about a fictional character ever would on its own.

“It was an awkward position to be in because I thought, ‘Well, I can’t address this because this is the thing that is potentially part of the problem — that’s precisely what you shouldn’t do,’” he says. “So it suddenly seemed like I was being evasive and trying to avoid this topic because it made me uncomfortable. But really I was thinking, ‘This is the very thing that would excite this kind of personality.’ ”

The entire Los Angeles Times interview with the Academy Award-nominated actor is certainly worth the read, so make sure to head over to the LA Times and check that out.


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 on Twitter @eric_ital or via email

Eric Italiano BroBIble avatar
Eric Italiano is a NYC-based writer who spearheads BroBible's Pop Culture and Entertainment content. He covers topics such as Movies, TV, and Video Games, while interviewing actors, directors, and writers.