Ridley Scott May Be Anti-Superhero Movie, But He Had A Strong Reaction To Joaquin Phoenix In Joker

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker screenshot
(Image credit: Warner Brothers)

Along with some other big name directors in the business, Ridley Scott isn’t a fan of superhero movies. Sure, they may do some wild numbers at the box office, but they’re not the type of stories the House of Gucci director likes to tell or even watch. Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker seems to be an exception, though, as Scott seems to have had a pretty strong reaction to the actor’s performance in the Oscar-winning 2019 film.

Joaquin Phoenix certainly isn’t the first actor to play The Joker and he isn’t the last either, but his version of the Clown Prince of Crime stands out right alongside The Dark Knight’s Heath Ledger, no matter how dark and twisted it is. In an interview with Deadline, Ridley Scott seemed to agree, as The Last Duel director gave the C’mon C’mon actor props for his Oscar-worthy performance, and Scott typically is not an easy man to impress. Here’s what the director said:

He is elegant enough to contain his rage and say, what older, wiser man can do this instead of me? So, it’s almost Shakespearean, and I think, you know, Joaquin can do anything. So, when he then does something like Joker, there are moments in the Joker that I’ve never seen before. There are reactions in the Joker which are silly. You can’t just say they’re not evil. They’re coming from a damaged soul. And that’s what I’m looking for: What will Joaquin’s version of Napoleon be?

This is probably why Ridley Scott has chosen to cast Joaquin Phoenix in his film Kitbag, which has Phoenix playing the role of Napoleon Bonaparte. This isn’t the first time the two have worked together, though, as Phoenix played a supporting role in Scott’s Gladiator, for which he scored an Oscar nomination. In his interview, Scott praised the actor for being able to “do anything” and that he did things in Joker that the director had “never seen before.” Naturally then, Scott seems very intrigued about where Phoenix will take the character of Napoleon.

Joaquin Phoenix seems to bring something extra to dark characters, both to the Gladiator character he played under Ridley Scott’s direction and to that of Joker. It may be his connection to Scott that has Phoenix bringing out some praise for a superhero flick (even if it’s more of a villain flick), but Joker seems to have broken the mold of what Scott has previously thought of the genre.

What Ridley Scott Has Said About Superhero Films

Ridley Scott certainly isn’t one for sugarcoating his words, and he has previously stated that superhero films “are boring as shit”. Whether you’re an actor who has made it big from acting as a superhero or just a fan of the genre, you have to cringe just a little at those blunt words. 

Ridley Scott also criticized the scripts for superhero films, saying the lack of story and plot is only saved by a massive use of CGI. Storytelling is something that Ridley Scott is masterful at, so it's necessary to put some respect on his name where that is concerned and recognize that his opinion isn’t without its merit. 

No matter how the filmmaker feels about superhero movies, some, like Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, seem to slip through the cracks of the otherwise deemed disaster of a genre in his eyes. Ridley Scott’s Kitbag will bring the director back together with the actor, and I honestly can’t wait to see what the two make of Napoleon. 

Carlie Hoke
Content Writer

Constantly thinking about books, coffee, and the existential dread I feel from Bo Burnham’s Inside.  While writing I’m also raising a chaotic toddler, who may or may not have picked up personality traits from watching one too many episodes of Trailer Park Boys.