Joaquin Phoenix is the front runner to play the Joker. Here’s why he’s the perfect pick.
So the news broke that Joaquin Phoenix is in talks to play the Joker. This is fantastic news. Mostly because Joaquin Phoenix has played different aspects of the Joker in multiple films already.
As far as semantics go (age, height, build) you can throw those out of the window right now. Just look at everyone who’s come before him: Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Jared Leto didn’t meet any of those criteria and did wonderful work.
There are five basic personality traits the joker has: Sadism, creepiness, paranoia, charm/charisma and psychosis. And Joaquin Phoenix has nailed all of these traits at one time or another to a T. An amalgamation of some of his most well known roles is sure to make a spot-on Joker.
Apparently this Joker will be set in the 80s and will be a standalone film directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover, Old School). Now, which Joker will we get? Dark Knight Returns Joker:
Or fan Favorite The Killing Joke Joker:
Personally, it would be nice to see Emperor Joker, a Joker who basically had domain over the entire universe with the help of Mister Mxyzptlk (Mix-iz-pit-el-ick, SHEESH). Which leads us right into example #1 of why Joaquin Phoenix is a great choice to play the Joker.
5 – Sadism (Commodus in Gladiator, 2000)
If the coldest of shivers didn’t run down your spine watching that scene, congrats! YOU may be able to play the Joker. If they do set this movie in the 80s and have a Batman/Jason Todd scene, this is definitely the precursor to that.
If you aren’t familiar, Joker kidnaps Batman’s second Robin and pretty much has his way with him. But not before torturing Batman and Jason first. The climax was actually voted on by fans as they had grown tired of the character. Some actually regretted it afterwards, naturally.
Even if they don’t include the scene, the sadism is perfectly matched to the Joker’s characteristics.
4 – Creepiness (Max California, 8mm)
If you’ve haven’t seen 8mm and want to keep your innocence, don’t watch it. Just watch the clip above and close your eyes. Hear that voice? Kind of vulnerable and clenched? Hiding something behind it, like weird fetishes and kink? It’s Max California but could also be the Joker.
It’s almost like he’s been prepping for this specific role for years. Can’t discount his heavily dyed hair and punk style of dress. The 80s version of the Joker is becoming more and more of a reality for Joaquin Phoenix.
The creep factor of a fetish shop clerk is almost always present in the Joker’s smile. Add another notch in Joaquin’s Joker utility belt.
3 – Paranoia (Merrill Hess, Signs)
To play the Joker, a healthy dose of paranoia is always good to be able to utilise. He’s always on his toes and able to justify any act of insanity using paranoia as an excuse. It’s on full display here for Joaquin in Signs, along with a nice dash of humour to go along with it. The tin foil hat scene is a great example of what kind of humour he can bring to the role.
The only time that the Joker’s paranoia was a source of strength was when Scarecrow tried to use his fear chemical on him and failed. It failed because the Joker isn’t afraid of anything and paranoid of everything at the same time. (Take notes Mr. Phillips).
2) Charisma/Charm (Theodore, Her)
Most people don’t think about charisma or charm when they think about the Joker, but it’s there. He needs it to weasel his way out of Arkham. He needs it to blend into a large crowd. Sometimes he needs it to centre Harley when he wants her to do something especially evil. It’s what makes him so deceitful and conniving. He doesn’t just use his brutality or menacing ways to take down Gotham. It’s his charm as well.
When wooing Samantha in Her, you wouldn’t think that Theodore would need charm or charisma for a computer application. But it shines through in the role anyhow. There’s a very good use for this weapon in the Joker’s arsenal and Mr. Phoenix already knows a thing or two about that.
1.) Psychosis (I’m still here, himself)
Here’s the #1 ingredient for playing the Joker. A whole lot of psychosis. Back in 2010, Joaquin Phoenix announced his retirement from acting. Little did we know it actually was prep for a movie. But he held his character in real life and threw everyone off kilter with the above interview on Letterman. To have that amount of dedication off set is tremendous. Imagine the work ethic he’ll have as he prepares for the clown prince of crime?
So let’s prep the makeup already and call it a day. Joaquin’s got the chops to don the purple suit and we should welcome it with open arms. There are glimpses of natural humour in some of these roles as well, and Todd Phillips is the right man for the job of extracting that from Phoenix. Can’t wait to hear that ominous, ghastly laugh from Joaquin.
Let’s just hope they don’t have plans to incorporate him in Suicide Squad 2.