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Between the star-studded cast and a plot that
sounds more like a dark character study than your average superhero adventure, director
Todd Phillips’ take on the iconic villain is one of the more highly anticipated movies
of 2019. Here’s a look at the untold truth of Joaquin
Phoenix’s Joker. As revealed by cast member Zazie Beetz, the
movie was rewritten as it was filmed. During an interview with MTV, Beetz went into
detail about the filming process: “We rewrote the whole thing while we were
shooting it. Literally, we would go into Todd’s trailer
and write the scene for the night and then do it.” The frequent rewrites and reshoots suggest
a much more improvisational approach than most comic book movie directors take, which
isn’t necessarily a bad thing it implies that the final product will be a more collaborative
work incorporating ideas from the cast into the director’s vision. Although Phillips’ approach is unusual, it
isn’t without precedent. Iron Man, for instance, was also written and
further developed as it was filmed. According to Jeff Bridges, who played antagonist
Obadiah Stane, the entire project was based around an outline. Bridges and Robert Downey Jr. would improvise
their way through scenes under the guidance of director Jon Favreau in their trailers
while the crew waited on the set. If Iron Man was shot in such a loose manner
and still turned out to be the smash hit that launched the MCU, there’s definitely hope
for Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. In a rather unexpected move, Warner Bros.
brought on Todd Phillips as director, producer, and co-writer for the film. Although Phillips is a veteran filmmaker,
he’s best known for raunchy comedies such as the Hangover trilogy, so it will be interesting
to see how he fares creating a much darker and more serious film. The studio has promised Phoenix’s Joker will
be a gritty low-budget character study quite a departure from the light-hearted slapstick
comedies he’s worked on before. “Don’t be afraid to ride the lightning” “In the face, in the face, ha ha ha.” The closest that Phillips has come to working
on this type of film before was when he wrote, produced, and directed 2016’s War Dogs. Although that movie was an action comedy that
touched on some darker elements of human nature, it’s already clear from the few glimpses we’ve
had of Phoenix as the Joker that this new project is going deeper and darker than any
of Phillips’ earlier features. Joaquin Phoenix was a pretty major casting
coup for Joker, but he isn’t the only impressive name going before the cameras for the film. An equally unexpected addition: Robert De
Niro, who’s portraying a talk-show host who plays a role in setting Joker down the path
that turns him into the sociopathic clown we all know and love to hate. One of the reasons this role may have appealed
to De Niro is because the script is reminiscent of a movie he previously starred in, The King
of Comedy. In that film, De Niro played a mentally unhinged
and wildly unsuccessful comedian who kidnaps a talk show host in order to get his “big
break.” This sounds eerily similar to the premise
of the Joker origin movie, only Phoenix will be playing the deranged aspiring comic and
De Niro may be the one getting kidnapped this time. Marc Maron has also joined the cast as a talent
agent who presumably works alongside De Niro’s character, and Zazie Beetz has also joined
the cast as a single mother who catches the Joker’s eye. Todd Phillips elected to film on location
in New York, which meant seemingly anyone with a camera in the Big Apple took a shot
at trying to snap photos of Phoenix and his co-stars in costume. Phillips found himself becoming increasingly
annoyed by the paparazzi taking grainy photos from whatever long-distance angle they could
muster, so he decided to cut out the middleman and put out several high-quality photos himself. When a few fans commented that they were seeing
too much of the movie before it was even released, Phillips responded and explained his reasoning
behind releasing the images: “We have paparazzi all over our set, at every
turn. And it bums me out that they constantly put
out their bad shots. So I figure, may as well put out some good
ones.” Jared Leto is still slated to star in his
own standalone Joker film despite the backlash over his first appearance as the character
in Suicide Squad, which means there will be two different iterations of the villain on
screens around roughly the same time. It’s unusual for a studio to pit actors against
each other this way, but there’s a twist: they might not be the same Joker. Phoenix is in his mid-40s, which means Joaquin’s
Joker will be already be approaching middle age when this origin story unfolds. Since it’s been confirmed that Bruce Wayne’s
father will play a role in the film, this suggests Phillips’ story takes place when
Bruce himself is still just a child. This age difference is important to note because
by the time Bruce Wayne would be old enough to start patrolling the streets of Gotham
as Batman, Joaquin’s Joker would be something like 60 or 70. Since Batman and Joker are typically assumed
to be around the same age, some fans have suggested that Joaquin’s iteration of the
character might serve as inspiration for the Joker that Batman faces later on. Despite being nominated for three Oscars,
Joaquin Phoenix found himself thoroughly intimidated by the idea of playing the Joker which is
one of the main reasons he ultimately ended up signing on for the project. Even though Phoenix has a wide variety of
experience, playing everything from a famous musician to a paranoid emperor in past roles,
he admitted to being terrified by the idea of portraying one of the most iconic villains
of all time. “Rah!” This isn’t the first time Phoenix has contemplated
playing a comic book character, as he was one of the main actors being considered for
the role of Doctor Strange. He ended up passing on the role, saying he
was worried that a blockbuster film run by a huge studio would restrict his freedom as
an actor which suggests this Joker will be a one-and-done deal for its star. Another reason Phoenix ended up agreeing to
star in Joker was the fact that he quickly became enthralled with Phillips’ vision of
a completely new take on a familiar comic book villain. Since there have been so many different iterations
of the Joker over the years, some critics were wary of yet another one on the big screen. We’ve even seen several versions of the Joker’s
origin story. But Phoenix remains optimistic about the project
because it’s unlike any other version of the Joker audiences have seen before. He said: “I wouldn’t quite classify this as like any
genre. I wouldn’t say it’s a superhero movie, or
a studio movie. It feels unique, and I think more than anything,
and probably the most important thing, is Todd seems very passionate about it and very
giving, so that’s exciting.” Without the presence of Batman or other widely
known comic book characters besides the Joker himself, this film is already headed in a
very different direction and we haven’t even seen what else Phillips might have up his
sleeve. The first images of Phoenix in costume revealed
the grubby makeup he would be wearing as the Joker, and offered some insight into some
of the inspirations for this version of the Clown Prince of Crime. Although at first glance the makeup design
definitely seems reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s Joker, upon further examination it also seems
to draw inspiration from several other sources. The color palette used certainly seems inspired
by the makeup worn by John Wayne Gacy, a serial killer in the ’70s who worked as a clown at
parties and events. Gacy’s clown makeup also incorporated the
wide red mouth and high blue eye paint that appears on Phoenix. The bright blue makeup around the eyes also
seems to be a nod to the look that the Joker had in some of the older Batman comics, such
as “The Laughing Fish” and “Sign of the Joker.” Making movies might seem glamorous, but those
days on the set can be long and difficult. According to TMZ, conditions on Joker took
a turn for the worse in October 2018 when the cast was filming on location in a Brooklyn
subway station. Apparently, a group of extras were actually
locked inside a subway car for hours. Since they’d been locked inside the train
car for so long that they needed to use the bathroom, some extras resorted to urinating
on the train tracks between cars just to finally get some relief. Upon receiving complaints about the incident,
the Screen Actors Guild sent a representative to handle the situation and monitor Phillips’
set for the rest of the shoot. In interviews, Joaquin Phoenix has suggested
that Joker won’t be the typical adrenaline-spiking, CGI-filled action film that DC and Marvel
fans are accustomed to. Instead, the studio plans to deliver a low-budget
character study. As it turns out, Phoenix had actually discussed
a similar idea several years before he heard a Joker origin movie was in the works. “Three or four years ago, I called my agent
and said ‘Why don’t they want to take one of these characters and just make a lower
budget film about it, a movie but a character study, and why not take one of the villains?'” Although Phoenix’s agent tried to convince
him to attend a general meeting with Warner Bros. after this talk, Phoenix dismissed the
idea. He even forgot about the entire concept until
he heard about Phillips’ film and realized it was exactly the type of role he’d been
imagining. Based on the brief descriptions of the script,
cast, and some set photos, there’s ample speculation that Joker will be taking inspiration from
a comic considered one of the greatest Joker stories of all time: The Killing Joke. Although it won’t be a direct adaptation,
several core elements from the comic’s storyline could be carried over. Written by Alan Moore, it’s one of the best
and most widely acclaimed Joker stories, and the beginning sounds very similar to the premise
of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. Just like Phoenix’s character Arthur Fleck,
the Joker in The Killing Joke started out as a failed and frustrated stand-up comedian. “You got a funny shaped head.“ “Maybe I should have been a clown instead
of a comedian.” As the story progresses, he’s transformed
into the Joker in an accident after getting involved in a robbery with some shady characters
in order to support his pregnant wife. Given that Zazie Beetz is playing a single
mother who Phoenix’s character falls for, it stands to reason that this Joker might
also start down a dark path in an attempt to provide for a woman and her child. Another Killing Joke connection comes from
some of the first set pictures, which show an area that resembles Amusement Mile a section
of Gotham City that appears in the comic. Phoenix has gained a reputation for undergoing
dramatic transformations, such as when he played Johnny Cash in Walk the Line or Jesus
Christ in Mary Magdalene. When preparing for his role as the Joker,
he once again faced a physical challenge. In order to emulate the traditionally scrawny
villain, the actor had to slim down considerably. Joker co-star Zazie Beetz revealed that Phoenix’s
weight loss was so significant that it actually limited the potential for reshoots after the
production completed filming. “We had to do everything then because Joaquin
had lost so much weight that we couldn’t do reshoots later on.” Even though drastic physical transformations
can take a serious toll on an actor’s health, it comes as no surprise that a performer so
legendarily dedicated to his craft would go above and beyond to completely transform into
his character. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Looper videos about all things
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