On a late October afternoon, the day before his 45th birthday, Joaquin Phoenix sits in a Los Angeles hotel suite and somewhat sheepishly lights an American Spirit cigarette. Back in August, he had managed to quit smoking for about three weeks, he explains, but then he started up again when he traveled to the Venice Film Festival in September for the world premiere of his new film “Joker.” “It’s awful,” Phoenix says, shaking his head. “I’ve got to stop.”

It’s perhaps understandable that the actor has fallen back on a stress-relieving crutch like smoking given the head-spinning journey he’s found himself on lately. A grim, gritty take on the origin of the comic-book world’s most iconic villain, director Todd Phillips’ “Joker” rode into theaters last month on a wave of headline-grabbing controversy and sharply divided reviews and became an instant smash.

The Warner Bros. film has taken in nearly $1 billion worldwide to date, setting a record for the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time, and Phoenix’s turn as the troubled would-be-comedian-turned-murderous-evildoer Arthur Fleck has put him at the heart of this year’s lead actor Oscar race.

Plenty of films reap box office riches, but “Joker” has proved to be a bona fide cultural phenomenon. Fans have been making pilgrimages to a stairway in the Bronx to reenact the scene in which Fleck does a high-kicking dance down those steps. Endless think pieces about the movie have exploded across the internet, and viewers have pored over its every detail for clues about what it all means. Phoenix’s Joker suit was, according to one survey, among this year’s most popular Halloween costumes.

All the attention has been a lot for Phoenix to wrap his brain around. This is an actor who has always held fame at an ironic remove, to the point that he made a fake documentary, 2010’s “I’m Still Here,” chronicling his supposed crackup and decision to become a rapper. “I don’t think I expected this movie to be successful,” he says. “I don’t know if I had any expectation. Honestly, Todd and I were just trying to make something that didn’t end our careers.”

Before “Joker” came along, Phoenix had turned down a number of offers to star in comic-book movies. This wasn’t out of some aversion to the genre per se, he insists. (“I’m open to anything — I will consider a live-action version of ‘Road Runner.’ ”) He simply worried about being swallowed up by the sometimes soulless franchise machinery that often goes along with superhero fare.

“I remember, like eight years ago, I was told, ‘Movies are changing. They’re not making the movies that you want to make, so you’ve got to do one of these,’ ” Phoenix says. “It makes sense. It probably is a good strategy. But for me, I guess the fear was that you’d get locked into doing something repeatedly that you don’t really care about, that doesn’t motivate you or excite you.”

But despite Phoenix’s apparent resistance, Phillips was bent from the start on enticing the actor — who has earned three Oscar nominations for his work in 2000’s “Gladiator,” 2005’s “Walk the Line” and 2012’s “The Master” — to bring the Joker to life.

“There’s a little wildness in Joaquin’s eyes,” Phillips says. “I jokingly say he seems like an agent of chaos. He likes blurring the line between what’s real and what’s not. Just based on what I’d seen of him in movies or on TV doing interviews, there was something about that chaotic nature that just felt right.”

Though it took Phoenix four months to finally agree to sign on to the project, he was won over by Phillips’ vision for a grounded character study more akin to Martin Scorsese films like “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” than the typical comic-book movie with its CGI spectacle, capes and quips. “Most movies feel so rigid; every moment is designed,” Phoenix says. “This felt like it was untethered and without a blueprint.”

Read more at LATimes.com

Rain and Summer welcome their brother Joaquin Phoenix to LaunchLeft for this sibling powered episode. They ask questions and offer opinions on Joker as Joaquin graciously shares some great on and off screen moments. The Phoenix’s also reminisce about childhood, making their parents go vegan and their love of music. And finally, Joaquin launches Rain’s new record ‘River’ as they discuss the profound impact their older brother had on them growing up. Close to home. A very special LaunchLeft.

Via usatoday


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It’s no laughing matter: Like many people his age, Joaquin Phoenix has come to the conclusion that his comic book collection is no gold mine.

“I’m disappointed that my comics aren’t more valuable,” says Phoenix, 44, who still has some pretty choice issues, including Wolverine’s first appearance. “When you’re a kid, a hundred bucks is like a lot, right? I remember reading comics, being so excited: ‘Oh, man, it’s going to be worth 150 bucks!’ And then you’re an adult with a mortgage and you realize that all of your comics, it doesn’t amount to much.”

The superheroes of his childhood have become big business in Hollywood, though Phoenix is going in a very different direction with a fabled comic icon. Director Todd Phillips’ keenly anticipated psychological thriller “Joker” (in theaters Friday) imagines that a real-world scenario gives riseto the legendary Batman villain. That antagonist comes in the form of Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), a troubled Gotham City clown and stand-up comedian mocked and bullied for his unusual behavior and otherworldly cackle.

Phoenix is the latest in a long line of movie Jokers, joining the ranks of Jack Nicholson (1989’s “Batman”), Heath Ledger (2008’s “The Dark Knight”) and Jared Leto (2016’s “Suicide Squad”). But he does find the appeal of the anarchic antagonist – for actors and pop culture fans alike – “curious” overall.

“I wonder if it’s that they project their own feelings on the character because in some ways he’s a blank slate,” says Phoenix, breaking into a gigantic bottle of water while relaxing in an outdoor hotel bar area. “Most of these villains and heroes, their motivations are so clearly defined. Maybe there’s something enjoyable about a character in which we don’t really know what motivates him.”

Ledger posthumously won an Academy Award for his Joker, and Phoenix could make it two-for-two for the bad guy at the Oscars. A three-time nominee, he’s already considered overdue for golden glory, critical acclaim for his performance is boosting awareness, and he “most definitely will be in the mix,” says Fandango.com managing editor Erik Davis.

“(Oscar) voters love a juicy, no-holds-barred performance, he says. “And while Phoenix’s take is tough to watch and makes you uncomfortable at times, those are often the most powerful and lasting performances because they are the ones that stick with you long after leaving the theater.”

The road to becoming Joker, while admittedly “energizing,” wasn’t exactly a cakewalk, Phoenix says. Because there’s “limitless” potential for the character, he collaborated with Phillips constantly about everything from Arthur’s clownish look to his internal persona. As Joker evolved, so did Phoenix’s portrayal.

“When we were prepping for it, I felt very frustrated because I couldn’t lock on anything that felt like a foundation for the character,” Phoenix says. “And at some point, I realized that was the (expletive) point. He was unstable.

“It’s shaky ground as an actor. I enjoy not knowing precisely what a character may do, but you want to have like a couple moments that you feel solid about. And that never really happened,” he adds. “We just became very comfortable with not knowing.”

Read more at usatoday

Hunched over a table on the patio of a downtown Toronto hotel, Joaquin Phoenix starts to squirm when I ask him if he knew what he was getting into when he agreed to star in Joker, an origin story that recounts the rise of the famed Batman nemesis.

“Two days before we started shooting, I came here for The Sisters Brothers. I was doing press in Toronto for that film and during those interviews I was asked repeatedly about Joker and I suddenly realized that this held a lot of weight for many people.

“I remember one journalist saying to me, ‘People are really anticipating this and how do you feel about that?’ and I kind of just looked at him and said, ‘Why are you telling me this?’ ”

But Phoenix — who has eschewed high-profile movies in favour of smaller character-driven pictures revolving around loners and outsiders, including The MasterHer and last year’s You Were Never Really Here — was intrigued by the idea of exploring a possible origin of the comic book criminal as imagined by co-writer and director Todd Phillips (The Hangover trilogy).

“There’s something about a Todd Phillips movie that makes his films unique. So I knew that I wanted to work with him,” he says.

The three-time Oscar nominee, who has also played Johnny Cash (Walk the Line) and Jesus of Nazareth (Mary Magdalene), says his interest was further piqued by the idea of doing a standalone comic book movie that wasn’t tethered to DC’s ongoing Extended Universe, which is currently led by Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Harley Quinn and Shazam!

Created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson in 1940, the supervillain doesn’t have a defined origin tale. One popular version sees the character making his nefarious emergence after falling into a vat of acid. But Phoenix says he liked how this new reimagining was grounded in the real world.

Phillips’ 1981-set story casts Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a gaunt street clown and a failed stand-up comic in Gotham City who slowly becomes unglued as he grapples with mental illness and his ailing mother’s hopes to insinuate herself back into the lives of her former employers, the Wayne family. Arthur’s grip on reality is further loosened as he begins to obsess about getting a chance to try out his act on a variety show led by a cocky late-night host (played by Robert De Niro).

Phoenix, 44, follows a long list of actors who have each put their own stamp on the Joker, including Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger (who won a posthumous Oscar for his take) and Jared Leto. But he says he didn’t study any of those prior performances.

“I didn’t want to be influenced by anything I might see,” he says slinking back into his chair. “I want why I’m doing a film to be motivated by me personally and how I’m responding to the subject.”

To prepare for the role, Phoenix, who credited his career to his late brother River while accepting the TIFF Tribute Actor Award in Toronto earlier this month, lost more than 50 pounds and delved deep into researching the effects of mental illness.

“What happened for me is (the character) just started presenting himself.”

Just days after Joker took home the Best Film Prize at the Venice Film Festival, a relaxed-looking Phoenix spoke about stepping into the role and whether his take on the Clown Prince of Crime really is a one-off.

Read more at torontosun.com

Joaquin Phoenix was on Jimmy Kimme Live last night. Check out the interview below:

This Friday Joaquin will be on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Via inquirer.net | By Ruben V. Nepales 

Words to describe Joaquin Phoenix’s towering achievement as an actor in “Joker” are superfluous. He is terrific, astonishing, just plain brilliant in how Joker came to be.

Amid Joaquin’s genius of a performance, it is easy to overlook director Todd Phillips’ involving, unforgettable origin story for the Joker, which he cowrote with Scott Silver.

The year is 1981 and the screenplay chronicles the life of Arthur Fleck, a standup comedian flop who transforms into the Joker. Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz and Frances Conroy provide solid support.

Joaquin, usually reticent in interviews, was engaging. When he smiled or laughed, those dark eyes—his best features, which serve him well as an actor—light up.

How did you prepare to get in character to play Joker? Did you start with the laughter? Yeah, I started with the laughter. It was the very first thing that Todd brought to me in our first meeting, before I even read the script. He showed me videos of these people in these uncontrollable laughing fits. That certainly was the starting point.

I can’t remember exactly, but I started diving in four months before we started shooting. And that obviously has a profound effect on you.

How about the dancing? It’s integral to your Joker. I didn’t think about the dance and those movements until I got to New York, two months in advance. I started to work with the choreographer and watched videos. What is interesting and fun about making characters is you don’t know what part of them is going to affect another part.

And your tremendous weight loss for the role? The weight loss was a part of some of the fluidity that my character experienced in the movement, because literally you are lighter, and your body moves differently. When my weight got down to what my target was, I just moved differently. There’s something empowering and strengthening about losing that weight, because you take control over your body, impulses.

There’s also something weakening and detrimental about it physically—in my legs, you lose muscle mass, and you become susceptible to injuries in a different way. Those are things you start reacting to. My favorite is to have something tangible, an experience that I can have that affects that character. Part of it has to be experiential. But at least four months in advance of shooting, I started the process (or preparing).

Read more at inquirer.net

Joaquin Phoenix and Joker’s director Todd Phillips were on the French TV show, Quotidien. Check out the interview (without subtitles):

Via The Telegraph.
Photos by Rio Phoenix.


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From petulant Roman emperors to musicians battling  demons, he is an actor who immerses himself in roles while delighting in wrongfooting those he works with (including Telegraph journalists) – perfect preparation for his latest award-winning film, Joker .

Joaquin Phoenix is not laughing. The 44-year-old actor stretches his arms along the back of the sofa and fixes me with a look that could bore a hole in a tooth. He’s dressed entirely in black – faded jeans, plain hoodie – with around half a week’s salt-and-pepper stubble on his jaw, and silvering, near-shoulder-length hair pushed back behind his ears. On this pricklingly hot West Hollywood day, inside a nondescript business hotel, he looks like an Arctic wolf lost in a shopping centre. But despite the heat, the atmosphere in the room has taken on a tundra-like chill.

‘Why?’ he eventually mutters, his lip curling up at one side. ‘Why would you…? No… no.’ Then he stands up, shuffles towards me, clasps my hands between his, and walks out of the door.

We are talking – make that were talking – about Joker, in which Phoenix plays a reimagined and chillingly credible version of the venerable comic-book villain. In stark contrast to the ongoing cascade of shiny Marvel-brand escapism, Joker grabs you by the throat and demands to be taken seriously.

At its premiere at last month’s Venice Film Festival, the film received an eight-minute standing ovation, and Phoenix, who during his physical transformation to play the role lost a dramatic amount of weight, was immediately tipped for a Best Actor Oscar.

His Joker is a villain for our times: an unstable, self-pitying loner with a mass-shooter mindset. He writes an unhinged manifesto; fantasises about killing himself on live television, agitates for chaos on the streets.

Unlike Heath Ledger’s inscrutable take on the character in 2008’s The Dark Knight, Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck, a failed comedian who still lives with his elderly mother, is the horribly familiar enemy within. If the film hadn’t been set in the ’80s he could easily be the latest online message-board extremist to take his grievances murderously viral.

 Yet Phoenix doesn’t seem to have considered this kind of question at all. So when I put it to him – aren’t you worried that this film might perversely end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it’s about, with potentially tragic results? – his fight-or-flight response kicks in. Mine too, just about. When you’ve watched and rewatched Phoenix play some of modern cinema’s most mesmerising powder kegs – from The Master’s wan and war-zonked Freddie Quell to You Were Never Really Here’s bearlike vigilante, Joe – I can assure you, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of that thin-eyed glare in real life.

It takes an hour’s peace-brokering with a Warner Bros PR to get things back on track. Phoenix panicked, he later explains, because the question genuinely hadn’t crossed his mind before – then asks me, not for the last time, what an intelligent answer might have sounded like. He’s being boyishly open now, as if the man who walked out of the room 60 minutes ago was another person entirely, like an embarrassed kid making amends for his short-tempered dad.

‘Did you bug out?’ he giggles. Why yes, Joaquin, I did.

Even with the tension punctured, this brooding three-time Oscar nominee and transparent publicity-phobe – he and his fiancée, the 34-year-old actor Rooney Mara, are hardly fixtures on the LA party circuit – is by no means an obvious choice to play the lead in a major comic-book film.

In 2014, Marvel tried to woo him for the lead role in Doctor Strange, though he eventually passed and the part went to Benedict Cumberbatch. The difference this time was the Joker character himself, whom Phoenix describes, with perhaps a twinge of self-awareness, as ‘posing questions with no easy answers’.

How familiar was he with the source material? ‘What do I say to make me sound smart and not offend the wrong people?’ he says, before admitting Ledger and Jack Nicholson’s performances were the only versions of the Joker to have crossed his radar. What grabbed him was the script. ‘Typically, the motivations of characters in most movies, certainly in the superhero genre, are very clear,’ he says, in a husky, fast-flowing drawl. ‘And that wasn’t the case in this, and to me, that was a challenge. There was something there to explore that I didn’t fully understand.’

Read more at The Telegraph.


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LOS ANGELES — It wasn’t clear where the conversation with Joaquin Phoenix went off-track, assuming it was ever on track to begin with. But now he was batting me around the way a cat bounces its prey between its paws before devouring it.

At this moment, it wasn’t my questions about why, in an idiosyncratic film career, he had chosen to play the Joker, the cackling comic-book criminal, or how he had prepared for the demanding, transformative role, or what it all meant about the state of contemporary moviemaking that had set him off — though these topics would all provoke him in different ways, in time.

It was my stray observation that he could probably sustain himself on emotionally wrung-out roles for as long as he wanted, which had caused Phoenix to recoil in his seat like he was Tony Montana, about to unload on an incompetent underling.

“Oh, really?” he asked, in a sarcastic voice as dry as sandpaper. “Well, good. Thank you so much. That’s great. I was worried.” Then he grinned and let out a laugh, to let me know he was kidding. Or was he?

If you’re going to make a movie about a homicidal madman in clown makeup, you might as well get a guy who radiates low-level menace. Though he has portrayed everyone from Johnny Cash to Jesus of Nazareth, Phoenix has lately settled into a string of movies about loners (“The Master,” “Her,” “Inherent Vice”), killers (“The Sisters Brothers”) and lonesome killers (“You Were Never Really Here”) that have let him plumb the depths of human experience.

While there’s no telling where his creative wanderings will take him, it would have seemed safe to predict that a high-profile movie based on a studio-owned intellectual property wouldn’t be anywhere on that itinerary.

But here he is, starring in “Joker,” a seedy character study and possible origin story for this perpetual Batman nemesis. The movie, which is directed by Todd Phillips and will be released by Warner Bros. on Oct. 4, is neither a traditional comic-book blockbuster, nor typical source material for its leading man.

Read more at NYtimes.com