JOKER—Joaquin Phoenix Gets Inside the Joker’s Head

  A duel image reflection of Arthur Fleck/Joker's (Joaquin Phoenix) face in and out of the Joker face paint from Joker (2019)

With less than two months to go for another cinematic portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime, comic book and movie fans alike eagerly wait to see what Joaquin Phoenix will bring to the titular character in this year’s Joker. Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker is poised to be a very different interpretation from the comic book adaptations we’ve seen before. After officially receiving an R-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language, and brief sexual images, we can expect a more dramatic and unsettling take on the character.

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When it was announced that this standalone movie about The Joker was not at all related to the DCEU, fans began to spread a word of skepticism; after the trailer was released, the murmur took a drastically positive turn. As this movie is set to take a deep dive into the psyche of Arthur Fleck (The Joker’s true name in the movie), Joaquin Phoenix needed to come up with his own take on the character, or more importantly: his laugh. 

Joker-laugh
Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (2019)

To prepare himself for a trip into The Joker’s mind, Phoenix turned to an interesting real-world source—people suffering from Pathological Laughing or Crying (PLC), or the pseudobulbar affect—that allowed him to perfectly emulate a true psychological disorder, yielding a haunting laugh that makes the character feel disturbingly authentic. People suffering from this condition will laugh or cry (or both) uncontrollably without a stimulus to trigger the laughter. Phoenix explained that he “watched videos showing people suffering from pathological laughter, a mental illness that makes mimicry uncontrollable” in order to bring an entirely new take to the role.

It isn’t entirely clear whether or not Fleck will be suffering from PLC himself, but if the character remains true to its past, we can expect there to be something off in the mind of The Joker. Maybe it is from the excessive beatings we witness him receive in the trailers or from some unseen trauma we have yet to witness, but either way that forced, exaggerated laughter is hugely unsettling and creates a wonderfully grim image of what’s to come.

Joker-face paint
Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (2019)

It remains to be seen how Joker will portray mental illness, or more importantly, how it will be received. Phoenix and everyone involved at Warner Bros. is taking a huge creative risk, and we are eager to see how it pays off. With the release date set for October 4th, and a great deal of stir from fans, Joker is positioned to have a great opening weekend at the box office. Join us at Regal to get a first-hand look into the mind of Arthur Fleck in Joaquin Phoenix’s latest role.

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