Joker Went Through ‘Radical Changes’ During Filming, According to Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix as Joker

Warning: mild SPOILERS for Joker are ahead!

The latest DC Comics cinematic adaptation, Joker, is in theaters now, and as was made clear when the first trailer, this is not your average comic book movie. Rather than stick closely to the source material, the Joaquin Phoenix-led and Todd Phillips-directed take on the Clown Prince of Crime’s origin story feels very differently from what’s been shown before, but that doesn’t mean this take wasn’t altered from how it was originally conceived.

In fact, Joaquin Phoenix revealed during his recent visit to the ReelBlend podcast that weeks into principal photography, noting how he was happy that Warner Bros allowed them enough freedom to apply changes to Joker even as the cameras were rolling. The actor said:

The freedom that we had from Warner Bros. to kind of shoot it and discover it was really key. More so than you might imagine, because there were some really radical changes to the character several weeks into shooting… It’s always the case when you make movies, you start off in this vacuum, you’re alone in a house and you’re reading through the script and you start imagining things and you start playing with it and rehearsing with yourself, and I think it always evolves. In this one I’m not sure what happened but I had an idea for something—it sounds so stupid now (laughs).

Joaquin Phoenix explained how he and the Joker team started doing down a ‘particular road’ with approaching the character based around a reference the actor found showing a kind undergoing psychiatric evaluation. Phoenix found this behavior “particular,” but still applicable.

But that was just the start of changing Joker, as Joaquin Phoenix then spoke about how later on during filming, after he finally got to play Arthur Fleck fully Jokerized, he became dissatisfied with the transition of how Arthur becomes the colorful criminal. In Phoenix’s words:

Then what happened is the sixth week of shooting was the first time that I played Joker. I was really angry about that because I thought that it should wait until the end, and I didn’t want to kind of shoot it in the middle, but for several reasons we had to. We shot those sequences I think for four days, and we finished, and on the last day of the week we shot the bathroom scene with Thomas Wayne. That was a weird transition and it was a struggle, and after that—after playing Joker—I just suddenly realized, Todd and I got together and we talked about everything we shot, and I just said, ‘I think that we’ve been missing something, and I feel like we’re going down a road that seems wrong in both the look, the hair is wrong, the way I’m wearing the wardrobe is wrong, and a lot of the behavior.’ So we kind of, in that moment and over that weekend, kind of re-conceived the character and kind of realized the mistakes we had made.

Joaquin Phoenix added that while this was a “really crazy time,” he was ultimately grateful that he and the cast and crew shot Joker when they did because because exploring one side of the character allowed him to see “this other side.” Overall, the actor saw it as a “wild process” that he’s never experienced before, but ultimately things worked out for the best.

Joker made $13.3 million in preview screenings last night, overthrowing Venom to become the #1 opening night in October. Critically speaking, while the Rotten Tomatoes audience score is higher than the critics score, overall Joker has been met with positive reception, though the controversy and debate around it won’t die down anytime soon.

Whether you’ve already seen Joker or plan to over the weekend, be sure to check out CinemaBlend’s review of the movie, and you can also read our thoughts about the intense ending. Don’t forget to keep track of the rest of this year’s movies with our 2019 release schedule, or get a head start on next year with the 2020 release schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.