The Day Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker Improv Crossed The Line
In spite of Joker’s massive worldwide success, viewers (or at least critics) seem to be somewhat divided about the film’s merits. However, there’s one thing almost everyone can agree on: as the title character, Joaquin Phoenix delivers an inspired—and totally unpredictable—performance. In a recent interview with /Film, cinematographer Lawrence Sher made it clear that improvisation was an important piece of the puzzle.
“While some scenes were very planned out, like when he’s in the phone booth or walking up the stairs, others had no plan at all,” he explained. “When he climbed in the refrigerator, we had no idea he was going to do that. We set up two camera positions, and Joaquin just thought about what he would do if he was a massive insomniac. Again, we lit it so he could go anywhere, and the first and only time he did it, we were mesmerized. I remember thinking, ‘What is he doing? Did he just crawl in the fridge?’ It was as fun and weird for us to watch it too.”
In a recent conversation with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) Cinema Society, director Todd Phillips explained that there was at least one occasion when the actor’s gift for improv went a little too far. “We would finish our days early sometimes,” he explained. “We started doing this thing, Joaquin and I, we called it ‘a study of insomnia.’ It was our own fun little thing… we would do these things. The fridge is one of those. It wasn’t in the script. It was something that Joaquin just did… there were two or three other [scenes] we shot, one that is amazing in a bathtub, but I don’t think we could actually include it in an R-rated movie. And it’s not because it was pornographic. It was just insane.”
Joker is in theatres now. Check out the trailer below.