How Joaquin Phoenix Came Up With Joker’s Haunting Dance Scene

Arthur dancing in the bathroom

Joker is one of the most talked about movies to come out of 2019, and is faring very well this Awards Season. After Joaquin Phoenix took home the Golden Globe for Best Actor, Todd Phillips' dark psychological drama was given a whopping 11 nominations at this morning's Academy Awards announcement. Phoenix is a favorite to take home the Oscar as well, and he recently explained his thought process behind Arthur Fleck's iconic bathroom dance.

Arthur Fleck's descent into madness is a gradual decline throughout Joker, although things get really kickstarted when Joaquin Phoenix's character kills for the first time. After murdering three Wayne Enterprise employees who beat him up, Arthur flees to a public bathroom to gather himself. The character then begins a bizarre dance of freedom and peace. Phoenix spoke to his motivations at this moment, explaining:

I felt like the character had moved way past that and that there was the opportunity to express something else, but I didn’t know precisely what that was…I thought there was some kind of movement, some physical transformation, right? A metamorphosis.

This type of message was certainly portrayed during Joker's bathroom scene, which wasn't even originally in the script. It was the first true step to Arthur becoming The Joker, eventually resulting in the chaos of the movie's third act.

Joaquin Phoenix's comments to Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes shows how methodically the acclaimed actor approached his work on Joker. He and Todd Phillips sought to create a movie unlike any other comic book adaptation. They did just that, mostly by crafting a story that wasn't actually based on anything on the page.

Related: The Joker Team's Biggest Fear About The Movie Will Just Make You Laugh Now

As a reminder, you can check out Joker's bathroom dance scene below.

While Arthur Fleck was originally terrified after killing the trio of young professionals, his attitude changed once he was in private. Killing was a transformative experience, and that change began in that grimy public bathroom. Arthur seemed to bloom, rather than being crushed with guilt or terror.

Arthur's point of view on killing the men who attacked him was reinforced throughout Joker by unhappy denizens of Gotham City, as well as the protagonist's own delusions. He imagines a conversation with Sophie, where she praised the person who murdered those Wayne employees on the subway. What's more, he unknowingly inspires a revolution, as anarchy grips the city.

It should be interesting to see how Joker performs at the Academy Awards, considering how many nominations Todd Phillips' movie received. Only time will tell, but clearly the Academy really enjoyed it.

Joker is available for On Demand and DVD/Blu-ray now. Be sure to 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. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. 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. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.