Joaquin Phoenix opens up about his ‘Joker‘ acting method.
Joker, which Project Casting previously shared casting calls for, has become a cultural phenomenon. The Academy has nominated Joaquin Phoenix three times. While the actor is known for not talking very much to the media, he does share his acting process for his new movie ‘Joker’.
The movie maps the progression of the eponymous figure from a disenfranchised, psychologically disturbed loner into a violent madman who inspires violence. Phoenix has drawn praise for his acting performance.
Phoenix revealed his thoughts and acting process for when the movie debuted at the Venice Film Festival, where the feature won the coveted Golden Lion award.
What is Joaquin Phoenix’s acting technique for ‘Joker’?
- Don’t imitate past jokers
- Have a physical transformation
- Writing a journal
- Perfecting the laugh
Do not imitate
While many actors have played Joker on TV shows and movies including Caesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, and Heath Ledger, Phoenix admitted he wanted to take his own approach to the world-famous comic book character.
Joaquin Phoenix said he wanted to do it his way. He says, “For me, the attraction to make this film and this character was that we were going to approach it in our own way. So for me, I didn’t refer to past interpretations of the character.”
Phoenix changed his body physically. He did not just put on makeup. Phoenix lost over 50 pounds to reflect the character’s mental and physical attributes. He says, “The first thing for us was the weight loss—I think that’s really what I started with. And, as it turns out, that then affects your psychology. You start to go mad when you lose that amount of weight in that amount of time. There’s a book that I read about political assassins and would-be assassins that I thought was really interesting, and kind of breaks down the different types of personalities that do those sorts of things.”
Joaquin Phoenix’s actor journal
To find his Joker identity Joaquin Phoenix actor wrote in a journal to find the character’s mindset. Phoenix explains, “Very early on in the rehearsal, I was given the journal that he had—his journal and joke diary. And that was really helpful, because I had been there for a couple of weeks and wasn’t sure how I was going to start, and Todd [Phillips, director] sent this [empty]journal. I didn’t know what to write, so I asked [Todd] for some suggestions, and after a few days, I ignored his suggestions and suddenly it was coming out. It became a really important part of the discovery of the character at that time.”
Phoenix reveals it required a lot of practice to find the right voice for his version of Joker’s laugh. He explained, “Before I even read the script, Todd came over and talked me through what he wanted out of this character and this movie, and he showed me some videos, and he described the laughter as something that was almost painful. And so ultimately, I think Joker is a part of him that’s trying to emerge, and I think that was a really interesting way of looking at this laugh… It felt like a new, fresh way of looking at it. But honestly, I didn’t think that I could do it. I would practice alone and then asked Todd to come over to audition my laugh, because I felt like I had to do it on the spot and in front of somebody else. It took me a long time.”