Joaquin Phoenix Tells Venice Press His Dramatic Weight Loss Had a Huge Effect On His 'Joker' Performance
Joaquin Phoenix reportedly lost a shocking 52 pounds for the titular role in Todd Phillips' ‘Joker’—no small feat for someone who hardly has that much extra heft to lose in the first place—and the result drastically affected both his psychology and his performance.
According to Phoenix, the weight loss was necessary to achieve the proper kind of physicality needed to play Arthur Fleck, a downtrodden man disregarded by society who eventually lashes out by fighting back. In fact, he told attendees at a Venice Film Festival press conference that it became a vital part of his preparation getting into the mindset of the character:
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. There’s also a book about political assassins that I thought was interesting, and breaks down the different types of personalities that do those sorts of things [I do in the film].
The above statement is even more fascinating considering how much it invokes the character of ‘Taxi Driver’ protagonist Travis Bickle, a rail-thin outcast turned violent activist who becomes obsessed with assassinating a politician. Such a connection hasn’t been lost on critics, either, who have similarly made that comparison following the ‘Joker’ premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
Director Todd Phillips elaborated further on his star's dedication, explaining that the actor’s weight loss was more about Arthur Fleck the person than Arthur Fleck the persona:
"It really came from this idea: what if you just did a comic-book movie differently? We all grew up on these character studies and they're few and far between nowadays. So it was like, 'Let's do a deep dive on one of these guys in a real way.' No one is going to fly in it. No buildings are going to collapse. It's just going to be on the ground, so to speak."
Meanwhile, ‘Joker’ has garnered rave reviews following its Venice debut, drawing plenty of Oscar buzz in the process. The film now begins a sprint around the festival circuit, playing the Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival in the coming weeks. Fortunately for everyday movie fans, however, the wait is nearly over: ‘Joker’ will be playing in theaters nationwide on October 4th.
While you’re here … be sure to check out our fascinating video titled ‘Pulp Fiction and the Scorsese Homage’ featuring Steven Prince, who played Easy Andy (the gun dealer) in ‘Taxi Driver.’