Joaquin Phoenix Says Weight Loss Had A Huge Effect On His Joker Performance

Arthur Fleck dying his hair in Joker

Joaquin Phoenix has an extensive reputation as a dedicated performer, and taking on the titular role in Todd Phillips' Joker proved to be no exception. As has been reported in recent weeks, the actor lost a shocking 52 pounds in order to achieve the proper physicality for the role, and that's a feat that requires a lot of sacrifice.

The reality is that there aren't a lot of folks in Hollywood who would actually go that far for a part, but according to Phoenix, it was an absolutely vital part of his process. In fact, as he told attendees at a Venice Film Festival press conference, it was the part of his preparation that really helped him get a grip on the character:

The first thing was the weight loss, that’s really what I started with. As it turns out, that impacts your psychology, and you really start to go mad when you lose that much weight in that amount of time. There’s also a book about political assassins that I thought was interesting, and breaks down the different types of personalities that do those sorts of things [I do in the film].

Joaquin Phoenix has never exactly been known for being a "big" guy, so taking more than 50 pounds off of his frame is pretty extreme. It was so extreme, apparently, that it wound up altering his thinking, as he notes in this quote via ET Canada, and that brought him to a place where he was able to enter the proper mindset to play Arthur Fleck in Joker. Perhaps a result of malnutrition? That's something that a doctor would have to determine, but it certainly wouldn't be surprising to learn as a diagnosis.

Clearly it wasn't a pleasant process transforming into the Joker, but the positive end result for Joaquin Phoenix is that he has delivered a performance that is being widely hailed, and his is already a name being tossed into the Best Actor conversation for the forthcoming awards season. The movie held its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival this past weekend, and while there are certainly some critics that are far from in love with the feature, the majority have expressed sincere amazement.

In Joker, Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck as a mentally-ill loner who lives with his mother in a decrepit Gotham City apartment. His meekness is directly reflected in his scrawniness, thought at his core he is a narcissist who craves the spotlight. As I wrote in my review of the film, it truly is an impressive turn, and while there's still about four full months left in 2019, it can already be qualified as one of the best performances of the year.

Following its Italy debut, Joker is going to be on the festival circuit for a while, as it is also set to play at the Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Festival. This will all lead up to its wide release in just a few weeks, as the movie will be playing in theaters everywhere nationwide on October 4th.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.