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Joaquin Phoenix's new movie Joker is almost certainly going to be less funny than the title implies. Having said that, it doesn't mean that the production was entirely without laughs. During a recent interview on our own ReelBlend Podcast, Joaquin Phoenix told a hilarious story about being heckled while trying to shoot one of the scenes in the new movie.
If you've seen the trailers for Joker, you'll recognize the image above. We've seen a sequence where Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck, in full Joker make-up, does a little dance on a set of stairs. Apparently, shooting the scene was tougher than one might expect, because Phoenix was being heckled throughout the scene by kids watching him from above. According to Phoenix...
The other thing that I didn't expect is that, along side in those buildings on the side of the stairs were apartments filled with teenagers that were banging on the window being like, ‘Fuck you, Phoenix!’ And that was unexpected. I was like, ‘This is bullshit!’ And then whenever that happens, I think of like, I go like, ‘That just doesn’t seem right.’ And then I think about professional athletes, where it's like 0.2 seconds left, and you have a free throw? And people are waving behind you being like, ‘You suck!’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, that's what it is to be professional.’ Like, under the best circumstances, anybody can act. Um, but when you just want to fucking run away because there's cruel teenagers [heckling you]...
The professional athlete analogy is a good one. Dealing with live crowds is an expected and understood part of professional sports. We don't really think anything of it. Actors, however, generally are able to perform away from the public. But in this case, Joaquin Phoenix had to buckle down and do his thing even while strangers were looking on and critiquing his performance in real time.
And the performance wasn't all that easy to pull off either. Phoenix told the ReelBlend team that he had only ever rehearsed the dance sequence on flat ground, not steps like he would have to move on in the actual film. Add to that the fact that the steps themselves were quite narrow, making it tough to move up and down them with a firm footing.
It's not clear if Joaquin Phoenix nailed his "free throw" in this case. He might have been subjected to more teenage heckling for every new take that was required. Though clearly, he eventually got it.
You can listen to Joaquin Phoenix's complete non-spoiler interview with ReelBlend below.
Hopefully, a movie called Joker will have more than a few laughs in the actual text of the film as well. It all looks pretty grim from the outside looking in, and while that isn't out of place, the fact that a character called The Joker is actually a viscous and vile bad guy is the point, the character is also, quite frequently, also legitimately funny.
Or we can just watch the movie and when it gets to that scene, we can imagine teenagers giving Joaquin Phoenix shit the whole time, which does sound pretty funny.
Joker hits theaters on Friday.