Robert De Niro and Joaquin Phoenix had a face-off over 'Joker' table reading
You'd probably assume that a room in which both Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro are present feels like a very small room indeed. It turns out that that's extremely true, and in the rehearsals for Joker it got pokey in the extreme.
De Niro was ready to do the standard table read bit where the cast sits around a table and reads the script. Phoenix couldn't conceive of anything worse. The unstoppable force and the immovable object were on a collision course.
"Bob called me and he goes, 'Tell [Phoenix] he's an actor and he's got to be there, I like to hear the whole movie, and we're going to all get in a room and just read it,'" Phillips told Vanity Fair. "And I'm in between a rock and a hard place because Joaquin's like, 'There’s no fucking way I'm doing a read-through.'"
De Niro got his way though, and Phoenix got through the table read before stomping off for a grumpy cig. De Niro did defuse the tension though, by grabbing Phoenix's cheeks, wobbling them and telling him: "It's going to be okay, bubbeleh."
You can't imagine Phoenix would be particularly receptive to that kind of thing from anyone who wasn't Bob De Niro. Maybe - maybe - Joe Pesci would get away with it. Anywhere south of James Caan and you're on a hiding to nothing.