Collider: Franchise movies are bigger than ever. I would imagine that you have probably been offered many types of franchises and/or superhero roles. Does that interest you at all?
JOAQUIN PHOENIX: I guess it depends. It depends on the character, and the filmmaker, and what they’re after. I wouldn’t refuse anything just based on the genre. I think about superhero movies the way that I imagine Westerns were. There were just these comics that were like Westerns, and then they started making movies. At some point, someone came along and was like, “Wait a minute, we can actually really explore something here, about humanity and the character.” I think that there’s that potential with any movie. I have had meetings, and I’ve gotten close to a couple of things, because I’ve thought, “There’s something in that character that might be interesting,” but ultimately it didn’t work out.
There was a lot of talk about you doing Doctor Strange. There’s been talk about you and Joker. The advantage of the superhero movie is these are some of the few films that have such a large canvas to work with, in terms of the budget and the way you can build a world. They’re very, very popular, and some of them are awesome.
PHOENIX: I mean who cares about popular? Sometimes having a limited budget might be really good. Something about having to work really hard, and adapt to your budget, that maybe creates something interesting, right?
PHOENIX: I think that’s probably … Isn’t that kind of what’ll happen? Sometimes a movie will work, and then they’ll do a sequel and they’ll have a bigger budget, and everyone kind of relaxes a little bit, and then it just gets progressively worse and worse?
Sometimes. But I look at the Marvel movies, and I think that what Kevin Feige has done over there has been very impressive, in terms of building this huge universe.
There has been a lot of talk about you possibly being in a one-off superhero movie with Todd Phillips, playing an iconic role. I guess I just sort of want to know is there any smoke to that fire, or is that fire completely off base?
PHOENIX: What does that mean?
There’s a lot of talk about Todd Phillips making an 80s movie about the origins of the Joker, you know the Batman villain. I’m just curious if there’s any smoke to that fire, or if you really don’t know anything about it?
PHOENIX: I don’t know really. I don’t know.
Sure. Do you know who Todd Phillips is?
PHOENIX: He did …
The Hangover movies.
PHOENIX: Yeah. I’ve met him, I like him.
He’s a talented filmmaker and a good guy.
PHOENIX: For sure.
I’ll put it like this, is that a role that you’re even remotely interested in pursuing? A lot of people sort of look at Heath Ledger and what he did with that character with Christopher Nolan in The Dark Knight, and sort of say, “That is the pinnacle,” do you know what I mean? That performance, he gave his heart and soul to that performance. Some people might be, I don’t want to say the word intimidated, but you can kind of always be compared and contrasted to that iconic performance.
PHOENIX: Yeah. I don’t know about that movie or character specifically, but I was thinking about it’s interesting with comics. We were talking, there’s different writers and artists that come on.
It’s different than this character from literature being uniquely that. There are different interpretations. It’s so interesting; I was just thinking about it today, it seems so unique in some ways to comic books. I think there’s probably room for that. Maybe it’s like doing a play, like you always hear about people doing something, “You should have seen this actor in this performance,” but then other actors do it and it’s a different kind of film. I think that genre, comic books, kind of lends itself to having different people play the same character and interpret it in a different way. It’s kind of built into the source material in some ways. I think it’s cool when people do that.
I completely agree with you. I think that when you read a Batman story by one writer and a Batman story by another writer, he’s still Batman, but it’s totally different dialogue, and totally different …
PHOENIX: Tone and feel.
Totally. It’s also who’s drawing it and who’s inking it, and all of that stuff, and what’s the story that they’re telling. I guess what I’m saying is, I won’t make you talk about it anymore, but I am curious if you’re going to do it.
PHOENIX: I have no idea what we’re talking about.
PHOENIX: It’s interesting though, to talk about.
Just to let you know, a story broke, just to make it as clear as I can, that you were the guy that they were talking to about playing the Joker in a Todd Phillips Joker movie, where he’s like a standup comedian in the 80s, and somehow …
PHOENIX: That sounds pretty good.
It’s how he became the Joker, but it’s like a solo movie. It’s not connected to the others, going to what you said about how it could be a different writer, a different director, a different take on that character. It also fits into what you were saying about not doing something that’s going to be sequels, and spinoffs, and everything else.
PHOENIX: That sounds pretty funny.
I’ve got to be honest with you, and I speak for fandom, the people online that talk about movies and whatever, there aren’t too many actors who are announced for a major role and fandom in unison says, “Fuck yes.” That happened when you were mentioned. People were very, very excited about that, to see your take and your performance. I’m letting you know that there are a lot of people interested in it.
PHOENIX: Wow. Sounds pretty cool.