Joker director Todd Phillips recently revealed how leading man Joaquin Phoenix would walk off the set, mid-scene, if he wasn’t “feeling” the vibe. The actor who embodies the Clown Prince of Crime has now done the same thing while promoting the 1980s-set, gritty supervillain origin story. At least, he’s done so once already with The Telegraph because he wasn’t feeling a certain question. The entire exchange sounds pretty messy, especially since Phoenix appeared to be surprised about a question about the movie’s potential ability to incite violence. That’s an argument that’s certainly out there, so it’s unclear whether Phoenix wanted this question off the table in advance, and the message didn’t come through, or what exactly happened.
The confrontational exchange, which was followed by an hour-long pause before Phoenix returned, began when critic Robbie Collin dropped the arguably relevant question. After all, the movie shows Arthur Fleck descending into madness and eventually becoming the homicidal Joker. Collin asked Phoenix if he was concerned that the movie “might perversely end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it’s about, with potentially tragic results?” At that point, Phoenix reportedly asked, “Why? Why would you … ? No, no.” He then left the room.
According to Digital Spy, Collins then engaged in “peace-brokering with a Warner Bros PR” person before Phoenix returned to finish the interview. He reportedly then explained that he hadn’t anticipated the question, which led him to panic. As The Telegraph reveals, Phoenix never did answer this question, although he previously discussed the movie’s violence with SFX magazine while stating, “I didn’t have any hesitation about it.” He also explained to SFX that the Joker violence is “a little more visceral and raw” than The Avengers. In doing so, Phoenix suggested that “killing 40,000 people” in other movies makes people “numb,” whereas “[e]verything that happens in this movie as far as violence goes, you feel it.”
Joker arrives in theaters on October 4.