Joaquin Phoenix Went Through ‘A Lot Of Fear’ On Joker

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It’s easy to forget now, but there was a time when Joaquin Phoenix routinely appeared in Hollywood blockbusters like Gladiator, Signs, and The Village. When he returned to movies after a kind of stunt retirement in 2012, he turned his back on mainstream movies, focusing all his attention on smaller projects with real artistic ambition (The Master, Her, You Were Never Really Here). Along the way, he declined several prominent roles in superhero movies (including Doctor Strange), but he finally found one he could embrace when director Todd Phillips offered him a chance to play the title character in Joker. In a recent interview with Total Film, the actor explained what set this project apart.

“I think oftentimes, in these movies, we have these simplified, reductive archetypes, and that allows for the audience to be distant from the character, just like we would do in real life, where it’s easy to label somebody as evil, and therefore say, ‘Well, I’m not that,’” he explained. “And yet we all are guilty. We all have sinned. And I thought that here was this film, and these characters, where it wouldn’t be easy for you as an audience. There are times where you’re going to feel yourself connected to him, and rooting for him, and times when you should be repulsed by him. And I like that idea of challenging the audience, and challenging myself to explore a character like that. It’s rare to explore characters like that in any movies, but specifically in the superhero genre.”

In spite of this unique opportunity, Phoenix admits that he had some initial trepidation. “There was a lot of fear,” he said. “But I always say there’s motivating fear and debilitating fear. There’s the fear where you cannot make a f*cking step, and there’s the kind where it’s like, ‘Okay, what do we do? That’s not good enough.’ And you’re digging deeper and deeper. I love that kind of fear. It guides us, makes us work harder.”

Joker arrives in theatres on October 4. Check out the trailer below.