This Is How Joaquin Phoenix Made His ‘Joker’ Laugh ‘Come Alive’
With the new Joker movie in theaters now, there’s one thing Joaquin Phoenix wants you to know, and it has everything to do with that infamous laugh. Does Phoenix’s version stack up to the competition?
What is Joaquin Phoenix known for?
Early reports said Jared Leto would reprise his role as Joker in the new origin story, but Phoenix snagged the spot. Phoenix has played a lot of different characters over the years, garnering him over three dozen accolades.
Phoenix won Best Actor at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival for You Were Never Really Here. Of all his acting credits, he also has a Golden Globe, a Grammy, and a Blockbuster Entertainment Award to his name.
Some of Phoenix’s most notable movies include Her, Walk the Line, The Immigrant, The Master, I’m Still Here, Signs, Gladiator, and more.
Joker gives Phoenix a chance to play an iconic character with a complex backstory. According to director, Todd Phillips, Phoenix went the method-acting route and lost a reported 52 pounds to become Joker’s Arthur Fleck.
Phillips said of the transformation the idea came from wanting to do “a comic-book movie differently.” The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and marks another of Phoenix’s remarkable performances, despite any criticism the film has received (for its grit and violence).
That said, Phoenix almost didn’t take the role. Others have played Joker in different ways with some more memorable than others. Did he make this one stand apart from the rest?
Who else played Joker?
Joker’s story began in the ’60s. The first actor to play Batman’s nemesis, Cesar Romero. Over the years, Joker’s been played by Mark Hamill, Michael Emerson, Kevin Michael Richardson, Brent Spiner, Steve Blum, John DiMaggio, Jeff Bennett, Troy Baker, and Jack Nicholson.
The most recent actors to play Joker includes Jared Leto in Suicide Squad opposite Harley Quinn (who’s getting her own movie) and Heath Ledger before his sudden death.
Ledger’s is one of the more iconic performances, but Phoenix didn’t want to channel the same energy. His motivation (and weight loss) to change everything you think you know about Arthur Fleck became a necessary component to Joker’s origin story.
How did Joaquin Phoenix perfect his laugh for ‘Joker’?
As for Joker’s laugh, Phoenix went full-method to construct it. In this film, Fleck’s laugh is the result of a spontaneous medical condition. The “uncontrollable laughter” manifests when Fleck is in an uncomfortable situation.
“I had the part, but I felt like I needed to audition the laugh because I didn’t know if I had it or not,” Phoenix told Entertainment Tonight. “I asked Todd to come over to my house to audition the laugh, and he said that wasn’t necessary. It was very important that I was able to do it in front of him whenever I needed to.”
Phoenix assumed the laugh would become easier but added, “I think it became more difficult actually.” He explained the laugh came through in some scenes but challenged him others.
“Sometimes one take would work and another wouldn’t. I think it was something that was alive, in a way,” he said.
Along with the laugh comes those iconic dance moves — the ones that show the audience how self-indulgent Joker felt in those moments of destruction. Phoenix worked with choreographer Michael Arnold for an important stairwell scene (used in the trailer).
“But a lot of it wasn’t choreographed,” Phoenix added. The inspiration came from vaudeville star Ray Bolger’s performance of “The Old Soft Shoe.”
“[Arthur] has this certain arrogance, this need to be revered and adored,” he said. “I saw that and immediately knew that that was Joker.”
To see the dance moves and hear Phoenix’s laugh, Joker is playing now in theaters everywhere.