Turns Out Joaquin Phoenix Never Said Yes To Joker

Arthur Fleck smiling in Joker

It's been a few months since the release of Joker, but conversation about Todd Phillips' chilling origin story hasn't slowed down. The dark psychological drama became an Oscar hopeful as soon as it debuted at various film festivals, and recently nabbed four Golden Globe nominations in major categories. Joaquin Phoenix has been getting particular praise for his role as Arthur Fleck, although it turns out that he never actually accepted the leading role.

Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix seemingly have a great working relationship with each other. But it took some convincing or Phoenix to join Joker, largely due to a negative association with comic book movies. Phillips has been open about his long campaign to get Phoenix involved, and recently revealed he failed to ever take the part. As the Hangover director explained,

It was a pursuit to get him because initially it feels like, ‘ugh, comic book movie.’ Just the idea of it is something he wasn’t so keen on pursuing, and even when I would explain to him it’s not that, it kind of says that, but really we’re doing this other thing, there was a little resistance. But the more I got to know him, the more I hung out with him, and we spent a lot of time talking about what the movie will look and feel like, and then one day he magically showed up. He never said yes. He just one day showed up to a wardrobe fitting. … It was an incredible partnership.

Well, that's one way to make an entrance. It looks like Joaquin Phoenix kept Todd Phillips and company guessing regarding his inclusion in Joker. But he ultimately showed up to work, and pulled off a killer performance that might just earn him an Oscar nom.

Todd Phillips' comments to IndieWire show just how touch and go Joaquin Phoenix's casting in Joker was for a while there. While Phillips was seemingly convinced that the Her and Gladiator actor should be playing the ill-fated protagonist, it took some convincing. Phoenix is very particular about what projects he joins, so it was a big decision to play the iconic Batman villain.

Related: Joker Star Joaquin Phoenix Loves All The Fan Theories About Its Ending

Luckily, Joaquin Phoenix eventually decided to do the movie, and brought wild performance as Arthur Fleck/Joker. The movie follows Arthur's descent into madness, after being beaten down and striped of his medication. Phoenix put a lot into his role in Joker, collaborating with Todd Phillips and coming up with some of the movie's biggest moments on the fly. I mean, his iconic scene wasn't even in the script.

Despite some early controversy, Joker has been universally acclaimed and made an insane amount of money at the box office. After picking up a slew of Golden Globe nominations, it should be interesting to see how it performs in the various other awards ceremonies coming down the pipeline. After all, that could affect the possible sequel and spinoff rumors circulating.

Joker will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 7th, after first arriving digitally December 17th. In the meantime, check out our 2020 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.