How 'Joker' Star Joaquin Phoenix Was Convinced To Take On The Clown Prince Of Crime

Joaquin Phoenix has spent the last few years in indie films, which made his attachment to Joker, a big, dark comic book movie from Warner Bros., a bit surprising. And it sounds like Phoenix was just as surprised himself.

Our own Peter Sciretta attended a recent Q&A with Phoenix and director Todd Phillips following an early screening of the film and the two talked about the non-traditional way the actor finally joined the project.

Phoenix Was Reluctant to Make a Comic Book Movie

Joaquin Phoenix is one of those actors you don't imagine turning up in comic book movies. At one point, he came very close to landing the lead in Marvel's Doctor Strange, but rumors indicate that Phoenix was hesitant to become a part of Marvel's multi-movie machine. Which is why it seemed so surprising when word came that the actor would be playing the lead in Todd Phillips' Joker.

"[Phoenix] had a lot of reticence being in a comic book movie," said director Todd Phillips. "And doing that kind of thing." 

For his part, Phoenix doesn't really recall saying he had any hesitation. In fact, when presented with this statement by Phillips at the Q&A, Phoenix replied: "I don't remember." 

But Phillips recalls a somewhat long, drawn-out process of bringing Phoenix on board:

"Every day I would say to, I'd go up to his house, we'd talk about the script, we'd audition the laugh, we would do all these meetings. And I'd go all right, so...? And he's like so what? Are you in? He's like, that's not how I do this. You know it's like a process for me. And what are you doing on Thursday?"

Joaquin Phoenix Never Actually Said "Yes" to the Part

Pheonix was apparently so vague about his attachment to the film that there was never really a point where the actor flat-out said "Yes" to the role. According to Phillips, he didn't know things were official until a wardrobe fitting.

"[Costume Designer] Mark Bridges called and said, 'Joaquin's here. You wanna come down?'" said Phillips.Phoenix added: "I don't remember actually ever there ever being a moment where I was like 'All right, we're doing this.' It really was like well let's go, let's try some stuff..."

"Let's just keep exploring it, and let's look at some makeup...and all of a sudden we're shooting," Phillips said. "It was never like shake your hand and go, I'm in.  Which a lot of actors I've had that experience."

It's likely that Phillips and Phoenix are bending the truth here a bit since contracts and a million other intricacies always go into an actor joining a cast. Still, the implication is clear: Phoenix's approach to Joker wasn't traditional. Thankfully, it all seems to have paid off, as the actor has already earned rave reviews for his work in the movie.