Joker director Todd Phillips explains why Phoenix’s Joker is unlike any other
During a press conference at the Venice Film Festival, Joker’s director, Todd Phillips explained just how different his new iteration of the dark character really is.
“I don’t think it was this Joker’s goal to watch the world burn. This Joker had an entirely different goal in mind,”
“In the beginning of the movie he’s sitting here doing this [forcing himself to smile and frown] in the very first scene, and it’s a guy searching for identity.”
Christopher Nolan’s second film in a trilogy, The Dark Knight, saw a deranged version of the Joker completely separated from any absurdism found in comic books. Heath Ledger’s Joker was an anarchist terrorist and mob boss, wearing “war paint” rather than face paint.
Ledger’s iteration of the Joker and the gritty approach he took had him awarded the Oscar for Supporting Actor in 2009, one year after both the film’s release and his untimely death.
Rather endearingly, in Phillips’ mind Ledger’s Joker was about making the world burn, while Phoenix’s was about making the world laugh.
“He thought he was put here on this Earth to make people laugh and bring joy to the world, and he made a few bad decisions along the way, but no, his goal was not that,” Phillips said. “I think he became a mistaken leader, so to speak, or a symbol. Even [Robert] De Niro, [who plays] Murray [Franklin], says it to him. And Arthur says, ‘No, I’m not political.’ He just didn’t get what he was creating.”
2019’s Joker is an eponymous origin movie surrounding the villain. The film follows Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian that eventually manifests into a figure that other social outcasts and villains latch onto in Gotham.
There was little to no origin spilled for Ledger’s Joker, adding to his mystique and horror. In fact, this will be the first film to ever delve into an origin tale for the clown, giving the creators a lot of freedom in the direction they wanted to take the story.
The film, which got an eight-minute applause at its Venice Film Fest debut, launches worldwide on October 4.