Joaquin Phoenix has developed a reputation as an actor who will go the extra mile to portray a character — but losing weight for his performance as the Joker almost didn’t happen.
Phoenix, 44, spoke to The New York Times about playing Arthur, the man destined to become Gotham’s greatest villain and a foil to Batman. In Joker, Arthur is portrayed as wearyingly thin — a factor that gave Phoenix reservations.
“It’s a horrible way to live,” he said of having to lose a large amount of weight in a short amount of time. “I think [the Joker] should be kind of heavy.”
Despite his approach to the character, director Todd Phillips had other ideas.
“Todd was like, ‘I think you should do the real thin person,'” Phoenix recalled.
The actor eventually agreed, bowing to Phillips’s creative vision and lost 52 pounds. Phoenix also trained with a choreographer and watched videos of famous dancers, although he wouldn’t say who.
Phoenix spoke more about his weight loss in August while promoting the film at the Venice International Film Festival.
He told reporters, “The first thing was the weight loss, that’s really what I started with. As it turns out, that impacts your psychology, and you really start to go mad when you lose that much weight in that amount of time.”
“I wanted the freedom to create something that wasn’t identifiable,” he continued, via ET Canada. “This is a fictional character and I didn’t want a psychiatrist to be able to identify the kind of person he was. We were getting into medication and what issues he might have, but [I thought] let’s step away from that. We want to have the room to create what we want.”
The film is getting early Oscar buzz after winning the Golden Lion — the festival’s top prize.
Joker is in theaters Oct. 4.
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