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Joker (2019) Poster

(2019)

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Joaquin Phoenix called perfecting the Joker's laugh the toughest part of playing the character.
Joaquin Phoenix based his laugh on "videos of people suffering from pathological laughter." He also sought to portray a character with which audiences could not identify.
In a recent interview with SFX magazine, Joaquin Phoenix acknowledged that while the violence in "Joker" is "a little more visceral and raw" than films such as the Avengers series, he "didn't have any hesitation about it." "You always want it to feel real, and you want the little violence that we have to have an impact," he said. "What happens in a lot of movies is that you get numb to it, you're killing 40,000 people, you don't feel it. While being a fictional story in a fictional world, you always want it to feel real. Everything that happens in this movie as far as violence goes, you feel it."
The first R-rated movie in history to make $1 billion worldwide.
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Joaquin Phoenix said about the 52 lb weight loss: "Once you reach the target weight, everything changes. Like so much of what's difficult is waking up every day and being obsessed over like 0.3 pounds. Right? And you really develop like a disorder. I mean, it's wild. But I think the interesting thing for me is what I had expected and anticipated with the weight loss was these feelings of dissatisfaction, hunger, a certain kind of vulnerability and a weakness. But what I didn't anticipate was this feeling of kind of fluidity that I felt physically. I felt like I could move my body in ways that I hadn't been able to before. And I think that really lent itself to some of the physical movement that started to emerge as an important part of the character."
Todd Phillips described Joaquin Phoenix's take on Arthur as, "a guy who is searching for identity who mistakenly becomes a symbol. His goal genuinely is to make people laugh and bring joy to the world."
Speaking about the villain's iconic laugh, Joaquin Phoenix called it "Something that's almost painful. I think for Joker it's a part of him that wants to emerge. I think we all kind of assume what a Joker laugh is and it felt like a new, fresh way of looking at it. I didn't think that I could do it", he added. "I kind of practiced alone but I asked Todd to come over to audition my laugh. I felt like I had to be able to do it on the spot and in front of somebody else. It was really uncomfortable. It took me a long time".
According to Todd Phillips on New York Times, Joaquin Phoenix "lost his composure on the set, sometimes to the bafflement of his co-stars." "In the middle of the scene, he'll just walk away and walk out," Phillips said. "And the poor other actor thinks it's them and it was never them - it was always him, and he just wasn't feeling it." Phoenix might have walked off set, but he always returned after taking a breather. Phillips remembered Phoenix reassuring him after an especially tense moment, "We'll take a walk and we'll come back and we'll do it." One person Phoenix never walked out on was Robert De Niro, De Niro told The Times that Phoenix was a "consummate professional" when they were on set together. "Joaquin was very intense in what he was doing, as it should be, as he should be," De Niro said. "There's nothing to talk about, personally, on the side, 'Let's have coffee.' Let's just do the stuff."
Joaquin Phoenix was cagey during interviews at the Venice Film Festival when asked about siding with Arthur. Phoenix told press that any questions they might have about "Joker" will be left up to the audience to decide. "The great joy of the film for the audience is that they get to decide for themselves [what to think about Arthur's transformation]," Phoenix said. "That's what I was attracted to. In most movies, certainly in genre movies where there is a hero and the villain, the motivations of the character are clear. What I like about this is that I was never certain what was motivating him. I have my own opinion. I think I know what it is for me. But I wouldn't want to impose on anyone who hasn't seen the movie."
Joaquin Phoenix revealed that Ray Bolger heavily influenced the Joker's quirky dance moves in the movie. "There was a particular song called 'The Old Soft Shoe' that he performed and I saw a video of it and there's this odd arrogance almost to his movements and, really, I completely just stole it from him," the star explains. "He does this thing of turning his chin up. This choreographer, Michael Arnold, showed me that and tons of videos and I zeroed in on that one. 'That was Joker, right?' There's an arrogance to him, really. That was probably the greatest influence. But also disco."
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The joke "When I was a little boy and told people I was going to be comedian, everyone laughed at me. Well no one's laughing now" is a paraphrase of the joke written by much loved late British comedian, actor and music hall (vaudeville) performer Bob Monkhouse's "People used to laugh at me when I said I wanted to be a comedian. Well they're not laughing now." Interestingly, Bob Monkhouse famously had hundreds of handwritten books of jokes that he had written over his long career in much the same vein as Arthur's joke book.
Todd Phillips won the Venice film festival's prize, the Golden Lion, for Best Film. During his acceptance speech, Phillips thanked "Warner Bros. and DC for stepping out of their comfort zone and taking such a bold swing on me and this movie," according to The Hollywood Reporter. Phillips also thanked Joaquin Phoenix, who joined him on stage. "There is no movie without Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin is the fiercest and brightest and most open-minded lion I know. Thank you for trusting me with your insane talent," said Phillips.
Joaquin Phoenix talked about how his conception of Joker changed during production and what interested him in the character. "Throughout the course of shooting it felt like every day we were discovering new parts of his personality, up until the very last day," said Phoenix. "It was his struggle to find happiness and to feel connected and to feel warmth and love and that's the part of the character I was interested in. He was so many different things to me. Who he was in the first few weeks of shooting was completely different than who he was in the end. He was constantly evolving. I've never had an experience like this. The more unpredictable and looser we left it, the more exciting it was."
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The filmmakers cite Alan Moore's comic "The Killing Joke", which tells the Joker's origin and descent into insanity, and the Martin Scorsese films Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and The King of Comedy (1982) as an influence on the film.
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In September 2019, director and co-writer Todd Phillips said he wants comic book movie fans to know that there is no chance of Joaquin Phoenix's villain and Robert Pattinson's Batman ever crossing over on the big screen. He added that doesn't mean Pattinson won't ever possibly face off against Joker, it just won't be his version.
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The song heard in the teaser trailer is "Smile", composed by Charles Chaplin for his film Modern Times (1936).
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Arthur takes a moment to enjoy a Charles Chaplin film. The Joker, in most continuities, is a fan of classic comedians, with Chaplin being one of his favorites.
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When asked about violence in the R-rated film, Todd Phillips said, "Violence in the movie was always meant to be a slow burn. People assume and think it's going to be a really violent movie; it affects you differently. You could watch something like John Wick 3 and there's a much higher amount of violence. We tried to paint it with as realistic a brush as possible so that when it comes it feels like a punch in the stomach. But it's all a balancing act of tone." And when asked about tone, "I think movies are oftentimes mirrors of society, but never molders. We wrote it in 2017 so inevitably certain themes find their way in." When he continued, "It's not a political film" there was laughter in the press room, and he added "for some I think it depends the lens which you view it through."
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Zazie Beetz was asked by Variety at TIFF about whether or not the movie sympathizes with Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck, a struggling stand-up comedian and clown for hire whose psychological unraveling leads him to become the notorious Batman villain. Beetz doesn't deny that "Joker" has a sympathetic viewpoint, but she argued that it's less towards Arthur/Joker and more towards Arthur's predicament on a broader scale. "It's kind of an empathy toward isolation," Beetz said, "and an empathy towards what is our duty as a society to address people who slip through the cracks in a way. There is a lot of culture of that right now. So is it empathy for that or just an observation on personalities who struggle?"
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In terms of prep, the first part for Joaquin Phoenix was physical: "You really start to go mad when you start to lose that much weight in that amount of time." He also read about political assassins and would-be assassins, but was careful not to overly define Arthur. "I wanted the freedom to create something that wasn't identifiable. I didn't want a psychologist to be able to identify the kind of person he was," he explained. A key element of finding the character came during rehearsal when Todd Phillips gave Phoenix a journal which acts as a prop in the film. Said Phoenix, "That was really helpful but I wasn't sure how to start. It became a really important part of discovery for me at that time."
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Arthur Fleck performs stand up at 'Pogo's Comedy Club' in Gotham. Pogo the Clown was the stage name of real life professional clown and serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
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The premiere of the film at the Venice Film Festival drew an eight-minute standing ovation.
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Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro had a clash during the earliest stage of filming. De Niro follows traditional rite of script read-through, a process that Phoenix dislikes. De Niro insisted that they did, and Phoenix half-heartedly accepted, mumbling through the entire read-through. They reportedly settled their differences immediately, but on set they hardly ever spoke to each other outside of filming. They maintained that their disagreement are strictly professional, however, and Phoenix went on to say that De Niro is his favorite actor.
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Joaquin Phoenix had been interested in a low-budget "character study" of a comic book character, and said the film "feels unique; it is its own world in some ways, and maybe [...] It might as well be the thing that scares you the most." Phoenix originally did not think the film should be about the Joker, but couldn't think of another good character, so he abandoned the idea. It wasn't until Todd Phillips started putting together this movie that he became interested again.
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Fans believed that Joaquin Phoenix was, in fact, following extreme medical advice and eating just an apple a day in order to keep losing the weight, but he says that's not true. "It wasn't an apple a day," he said. "No, you've also got lettuce and steamed green beans." Such a vast reduction in his daily calorie intake meant that Phoenix was able to drop 28kg, all the while resisting temptation in the form of Joker director Todd Phillips. "Todd did have these fucking pretzels that I love," he said. "And he'd just have bags of them in his office! And that was difficult."
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For the Joker's laugh, Todd Phillips broke down into three types: "the affliction laugh, the one of the guys laugh and the authentic joy laugh", the director described it to Joaquin Phoenix as "something that is almost painful, part of him that's trying to emerge." That was "a really interesting way of looking at this laugh. We all assume what a Joker laugh is. This was new and exciting."
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The first theatrical DC Comics film to be rated R since Watchmen (2009), released ten years earlier.
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Originally, Warner Bros. wanted Martin Scorsese to make this film with Leonardo DiCaprio as Arthur and Robert De Niro to play Murray Franklin. However in the end this proved to be logistically impossible as DiCaprio had already signed on to do Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood (2019) for Quentin Tarantino which was due to start filming at the same time. Scorsese had also committed himself to another project, The Irishman (2019), which also starred De Niro. However, De Niro himself had just finished filming his scenes for that film by the time this film went into production so was able to commit himself to do this film too.
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In an interview in Vanity Fair, leading neurocriminologist Adrian Raine said he was stunned by how authentically the film depicted the psychology of the criminal mind. "For 42 years, I've studied the cause of crime and violence. And while watching this film, I thought - WOW, what a revelation this was. It is a great educational tool about the making of the murderer," he said. In the article, Raine went on to diagnose the character of Arthur Fleck with schizotypal personality disorder. "Those who suffer from it have bizarre beliefs, odd behavior, odd appearance, odd speech, no close friends other than family members, and emotional-affect issues - either being completely shut down or way over the top," Raine said. He now uses the film as part of a course he teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.
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Joaquin Phoenix said he took the role of the Joker "because I wasn't sure how I felt about him. When I have all the answers, I get bored. This one really kept me guessing."
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Joaquin Phoenix unexpectedly shedded a tear during the first take when his character looked in the mirror, and the director Todd Phillips kept it in. Phillips said that he played the film's score for Joaquin Phoenix because he "wanted the music to affect and infect the set in a way." During the first take as the score was playing, Philipps revealed that "as Joaquin is struggling with Arthur's smile, this little tear appears, and we just had the scene and we moved on."
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In August 2018, Hildur Guðnadóttir was hired to compose the film's score. Guðnadóttir began writing music after reading the script and met with Todd Phillips, who "had a lot of strong ideas" about how he thought the score should sound. She worked on the Joker score alongside the score for the drama miniseries Chernobyl (2019); Guðnadóttir said switching between the two was challenging because the scores were so different. She won a Grammy, Emmy, and Oscar for her work on both.
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Joaquin Phoenix was considered for the role of Batman in Darren Aronofsky's canceled "Batman: Year One" movie.
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While being honored for his acting career and for this film at the Venice Film Festival, Joaquin Phoenix stated in his speech that he owes his career to his late brother and fellow actor, River Phoenix. He stated that his brother came home one day from work with a copy of the film, Raging Bull (1980), which starred Robert De Niro, who will eventually become his future co-star in this film. Joaquin goes on to state that he was in his teens at the time and he had quit acting. River had him watch the film that evening and the next day. He stated that River encouraged him to not give up on acting.
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Warner Bros. were initially hesitant in making this film as it was thought to be too dark and violent. They were concerned that it may tarnish Joker for kids who annually buy millions of toys and related merchandise. However, a year later and after some convincing from Todd Phillips, they finally agreed to go ahead with this project. A violent R-rated DC comic book film adaptation is nothing new to Warner Bros. who spent a considerable amount on V for Vendetta (2005) and Watchmen (2009) with the latter costing more than $130m, more than double that of the Joker.
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The two films showing at the theater the Wayne family is shown exiting near the end are Blow Out (1981) and Zorro: The Gay Blade (1981). Both are real movies that were released on back-to-back weekends in July 1981. "Zorro," of course, is traditionally the movie that the Wayne family is supposed to have seen on the fateful night of Batman's origin story.
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Director Todd Phillips stood to earn up to $100 million from this film due to his participation deal as the movie has, as of November 2019, reached a worldwide box office of over $1 billion. In 2020, after some estimation with Warner Bros., Phillips ultimately earned $70 million.
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Speaking at the Venice Film Festival where the film premiered, Joaquin Phoenix stated that he wanted his version of the Joker to be extremely complex, so he did extensive research on various personality disorders so that even psychiatrists would not be able to identify what his character was. He also added that even the filmmaker and Phoenix himself were in the process of discovering new aspects of the character and his personality up until the very last day of the shooting.
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Costing $55 million, this is the least expensive film to gross over $1 billion.
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Taking a page from Sergio Leone, writer-director Todd Phillips asked composer Hildur Guðnadóttir to write the score before filming, something unusual. This was in order to use the music to set the mood on set while shooting the scenes.
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Following the disappointing critical and financial performance of Justice League (2017), in January 2018 Walter Hamada replaced Jon Berg as the head of DC-based film production at Warner Bros. Hamada sorted through the various DC films in development, canceling some while advancing work on others. This film was expected to begin filming in late 2018 with a small budget. By June, Robert De Niro was under consideration for a supporting role in the film. The deal with Joaquin Phoenix was finalized in July 2018, after four months of persuasion from Todd Phillips. Immediately afterward, Warner Bros. officially green-lit the film, titled it "Joker," and gave it an October 4, 2019, release date. Warner Bros. described the film as "an exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale".
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Early footage shows Arthur walking by a sign for Amusement Mile, Gotham City's version of Coney Island, which features prominently in the original Killing Joke graphic novel. Joker co-creator Bill Finger was partly inspired by a sign for Steeplechase Park in the real Coney Island which featured a grotesque grinning face.
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According to Todd Phillips about writing the script: "It was a yearlong process from when we finished the script just to get the new people on board with this vision, because I pitched it to an entirely different team than made it. There were emails about: 'You realize we sell Joker pajamas at Target.' There were a zillion hurdles, and you just sort of had to navigate those one at a time. At the time, I would curse them in my head every day. But then I have to put it in perspective and go, 'They're pretty bold that they did this.'
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In the scene where Arthur is in the audience of a comedy club, the performing comedian is Gary Gulman, who is a stand-up comic. The bit he performs about role-playing with his girlfriend can be heard on Gulman's 2012 album "No Can Defend."
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Todd Phillips spoke of the iconic staircase "We thought it would be a pretty iconic moment for the movie, I didn't know the stairs would turn into sort of New York's version of the Rocky stairs," he said with a laugh.
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Co-writer and director Todd Phillips doesn't see Joker as that big of a departure from comedy. "It's different tonally than a lot of my work, but, ultimately, it's storytelling. I was influenced by the movies I grew up on, character studies of the 70s, so I thought why can't you do genre film like that in the comic book world, a deep dive on a character like Joker. I thought with a great actor we could really do something special."
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By September 2017, Warner Brothers were considering casting Leonardo DiCaprio as the Joker, hoping to use his frequent collaborator Martin Scorsese's involvement to lure him, but by February 2018, Joaquin Phoenix was Todd Phillips' top choice for the role. Padraig Cotter of Screen Rant noted that since the film was a standalone story, Phoenix would not have to appear in sequels as he would have in the Marvel offering. Phoenix said when he learned of the film, he became excited because it was the kind of film he was looking to make, describing it as unique and stating it did not feel like a typical "studio movie". However, it took Phoenix some time to commit to the role, as it intimidated him and he said "oftentimes, in these movies, we have these simplified, reductive archetypes, and that allows for the audience to be distant from the character, just like we would do in real life, where it's easy to label somebody as evil, and therefore say, 'Well, I'm not that.'"
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Todd Phillips actually believes his movie is about kindness and empathy. The filmmaker recently explained this distinction, saying: "If I had to drill down on one overarching theme for me, it's about the power of kindness and a lot of people miss that. I think if you don't see that you either don't have a soul or you're being reductive to make up for your own struggles in that area. But, really, to me, that's where it started from and there are other things in the movie like lack of love, the lack of empathy in society, and childhood trauma, but the power of kindness really runs through this film."
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The film has become the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, unadjusted for inflation, having overtaken Deadpool 2 (2018) (which grossed $785 million) within its first month of release and grossing over $1 billion (which, to reiterate, makes it the first R-rated movie in history to do so). It also overtook the unadjusted global gross of The Dark Knight (2008), which had the most successful modern live-action incarnation of the character up to this point. Due to these high returns and its modest budget, some analysts have suggested that this film may be the most profitable movie based on comic books ever. This is remarkable especially due to the film not only being R-rated but also has never been released in the second-largest movie market in the world, China. It is also the highest-grossing film based on a DC Comics character in France.
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An early reference for Todd Phillips and co-screenwriter Scott Silver was the silent film The Man Who Laughs (1928). They felt they had "a lot of freedom because Joker never really had an origin story in the comics. We thought it was really liberating because there really were no rules or boundaries, Scott and I just pushed each other every day to come up with something totally insane."
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Joaquin Phoenix's Joker makeup took 15 to 20 minutes to apply. A discarded version of the scene where Arthur does his bathroom dance had him washing off his makeup before leaving. There were approximately 16 takes of the scene, and makeup artist Nicki Ledermann had to reapply it each time in order to keep it consistent.
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On September 22, 2018, a scene depicting a violent protest took place in Brooklyn, although the station was modified to look like Bedford Park Blvd. In late September 2018, filming of robbery scenes took place at the First Central Savings Bank in Astoria, Queens. According to Zazie Beetz, Todd Phillips rewrote the entire script during production; because Joaquin Phoenix lost so much weight for the film, there would not be an opportunity for reshoots. She recalled: "we would go into Todd's trailer and write the scene for the night and then do it. During hair and makeup, we'd memorize those lines and then do them and then we'd reshoot that three weeks later."
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Todd Phillips and Scott Silver wrote Joker throughout 2017, and the writing process took about a year. According to producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff, it took some time to get approval for the script from Warner Bros., partly because of concerns over the content. Similarly, Phillips commented that there were "a zillion hurdles" during the year-long writing process due to the visibility of the character. Phillips said that while the script's themes may reflect modern society, the film was not intended to be political.
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The "super-rats" segment on Murray Franklin's show and in the news references Ratcatcher, an obscure D-list villain who could mind control rats. The character is set to appear in James Gunn's The Suicide Squad (2021).
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Todd Phillips said in interview that first cut of the film was 155 minutes long, and how there were multiple different cuts of it. There are several promotional stills which show deleted scenes, and there are some more which are glimpsed in all the trailers.
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Alec Baldwin was in talks to play Thomas Wayne, but dropped out a day after being announced in the role, due to scheduling conflicts.
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Todd Phillips originally wanted to shoot the film on 70 mm film cameras partially because he prefers film stock. But Phillips had to abandon the idea due to the tight production budget. He ruled out standard RED digital cameras and 35mm film cameras, too, due to the number of close up shots planned, and to give the film an 'intimate', obtrusive feel. Phillips insistence on using large format cameras led cinematographer Lawrence Sher to investigate using Arri Alexa 65 digital cameras as a compromise and in the end, this is what was eventually used.
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In the German, Italian, French, Spanish, Russian and Hungarian version of the movie, all of Arthur's diary entries and his card explaining his illness are in the respective national languages. This is rather unusual for a live-action film since it required producing extra props, and subsequently shooting them.
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Joaquin Phoenix originally only signed on to do this one standalone film, as he did not want to be involved in a movie franchise. However such has the critical feedback it's popularity with audiences been, he has subsequently said (as of November 2019) he is not averse to the idea of considering doing a second film providing he is not expected to join the DCEU and any sequel has a similar feel and look like the first film.
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Director Todd Phillips said that Joaquin Phoenix was the most "nimble" actor that he's ever worked with.
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The reason they edited the movie for so long, according to director Todd Phillips, "Because I think there's 18 trillion versions of this movie just based on the way he (Joaquin Phoenix) would do things so differently every time."
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Joaquin Phoenix named Tim Curry's performance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) as one of his inspirations for his performance in this film.
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It took Joaquin Phoenix a bit to find the version of the character he wanted to bring to the screen. That meant plenty of takes, especially early on, attempting to root out the core of the character, and ironically it really came to fruition with one scene that didn't even make it into the final cut of the movie. Phoenix was accepting Variety's Creative Impact in Directing Award during the Palm Springs Film Festival, and during his speech, he revealed what the scene was and how it really changed his take on the character. "He always encouraged me to fail, which I did a lot. A few weeks into shooting I think it became unbearable for him and we were shooting a scene, it was like the fourth take, and I said well that's about...I don't know what else I can do...that was all the ideas I have', and he said 'I think you should try another one'. I said 'okay', so I tried another one and basically just did some more bullshit, and he said 'I think you should try another one', and he wasn't specific because I think he knew that I had to find it on my own, and I just decided to stop all of my actory stuff and just to listen to the other actor and to just be aware of the space that I was in and we did this take and it felt really good, and he came out and said 'that was a good take'. I said 'yeah, it felt good to me'. He said 'what was that', and I said 'sincerity'. And he said 'well you should be sincere more often'" "It was a scene that was ultimately cut out of the movie but it ended up being kind of the most important scene in the movie because it helped me find sincerity," Phoenix said.
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Film composer Hildur Guðnadóttir performed the cello soloist sections herself.
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Sharp-eyed New York City lovers will recognize the Brooklyn Army Terminal's annex at Arkham State Hospital. The hospital is a recurring touchpoint for Arthur Fleck. Early conversations with his state-provided social worker indicate that he spent time in Arkham State Hospital for undisclosed misdeeds before the film began, and his mother's records there indicate that both members of the Fleck family have drifted in and out of the grim state-run facility.
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The film is Joaquin Phoenix's fourth Oscar nomination for acting (and his first-ever win).
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Co-writer/director Todd Phillips said that Joaquin Phoenix's lighter side came through behind the scenes between takes. "To inhabit the character of Arthur slash Joker in the movie, he had to go to some dark places," the filmmaker said. "And really on this film - we would say 'Cut!' and we'd be off to the side joking around or laughing about something and then we'd get back into it. He's really intense as an actor, but as a guy on set he's actually kind of light."
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The second DC movie featuring the Joker to be R-rated after Batman: The Killing Joke (2016).
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By the sixth week of its release, the film's $1.018 billion worldwide box office earnings had beaten The Dark Knight (2008)'s $1.008 billion worldwide box office record. However, this is not adjusting for inflation.
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Before filming, director Todd Phillips said that Joker's laughter should be almost painful. Joaquin Phoenix practiced many different kinds of laughter and "played" them for the director at his own request. The end result is a catchy as well as disturbing laugh.
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Director Todd Phillips spoke about Joaquin Phoenix acting style, stating, "You would come over to him and give him one line of direction, and it would literally change everything in a great way."
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With his nomination for this film, Todd Phillips is the first director ever to receive a Best Director nomination at the Academy Awards for a comic book film.
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Joaquin Phoenix is now the second actor to win an Academy Award for playing The Joker. The previous winner of the award for the character was that of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008). This is the second time ever when two different actors won an Oscar for playing the same character in different films. The first time was when Marlon Brando won an Oscar for playing Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972), and two years later Robert De Niro also won an Oscar for playing the same character in The Godfather: Part II (1974).
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The film stayed on the top of the U.K.'s box office for 6 consecutive weeks which became the first film since Avatar (2009) to do so.
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Frances McDormand turned down the Penny Fleck role.
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When preparing for the role, Joaquin Phoenix studied the movements of iconic silent film stars like Buster Keaton and Ray Bolger.
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Director Todd Phillips stated that what he liked about Joaquin Phoenix was his style and his unpredictability which he felt fits into this character and he was just never locked in to one thing.
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According to a profile by GQ, there was a point of contention between Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro. While Phoenix doesn't like to rehearse or do table readings, it was reportedly a demand by the latter actor. What resulted was a small conflict at the very start of Joker's production. Phoenix uses his anxiety to fuel his film performances, which is why rehearsing and read-throughs are against his process; he wants total spontaneity. Phoenix's refusal to do a table reading inspired a strong reaction by De Niro, as he reportedly told Todd Phillips: "Tell him 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." Meanwhile, Phoenix responded, "There's no fucking way I'm doing a read-through." In the end, the pair came to compromise and Phoenix attended a read-through at De Niro's production office. Phoenix is reportedly a huge fan of De Niro since Raging Bull (1980), courtesy of Joaquin's brother, River Phoenix, but struggled as he "mumbled" his way through Joker's table read. Phoenix said he felt sick and originally declined De Niro's offer for a private talk in his office. Thankfully, it ended on a positive note after De Niro kissed Phoenix on the cheek and reassured him, "It's going to be OK, bubbeleh."
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In Arthur's home, there's a painting above the television, of "The Blue Boy" by Thomas Gainsborough which was also seen in the art museum of Batman (1989).
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This film marks the second time that the character of The Joker has another name besides "The Joker" moniker. In Batman (1989), The Joker's real name is Jack Napier. In this film, The Joker's real name is Arthur Fleck. This shows that the character has many possible identities due to his mysterious past from the comics.
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Joaquin Phoenix disagreed about gravitating towards tormented characters, stating he had been "interested in the light of Arthur for lack of a better word. It wasn't just the torment, it was the joy, his struggle to find happiness and to feel connected. To have warmth and love. I don't think of a character as tormented." Ultimately, Phoenix said of Arthur/Joker, "He was so many different things to me at different times, the more unpredictable it was the more inspiring."
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Director Todd Phillips revealed that he did the movie because he loves bad guys, because as he says, "It's fun to say, 'Why is he like that? What made him like that?' And that's ultimately, really what the goal of the movie is. It's not this gigantic statement on the world today, and there is stuff thematically in there, but really it's like, 'What makes somebody that way?' And with Joker, I just liked his sense of mayhem and chaos."
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Veteran Joker voiceover actor Mark Hamill expressed his utmost praise for the film on his Instagram page. Hamill writes, "The awesome Joaquin Phoenix, Todd Phillips, and Scott Silver brilliantly re-imagine the character as never seen before! 2 thumbs-up from that old school, comic book version...me."
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When Joaquin Phoenix performed his bathroom dance sequence, it was right after he first heard Hildur Guðnadóttir's score played to him by director Todd Phillips from his iPhone.
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Since the film's release, in late 2019, the character of Arthur Fleck/Joker became a symbol of protest in countries all over the world such as Lebanon, Chile, Iraq, and China for government corruption protests. In June and July 2020, the Arthur Fleck/Joker imagery emerged in the George Floyd protests.
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The first film based on a comic book to win the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
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A week after the film's release, Joaquin Phoenix secretly attended a screening of the film at the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater in San Fernando Valley and surprised fans who finished viewing the film. Phoenix ended up answering questions about the film, posing with fans for photos, and shaking hands. He got a little stage fright when asked to do his tormented Joker laugh from the film.
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Production moved to New Jersey afterward. Filming in Jersey City started on September 30 and shut down Newark Avenue, while filming in November (starting on November 9) shut down Kennedy Boulevard. Filming in Newark began on October 13 and lasted until October 16. Shortly before filming in Newark began, SAG-AFTRA received a complaint that extras were locked in subway cars for more than three hours during filming in Brooklyn, a break violation. However, the issue was quickly resolved after a representative visited the set. That month, Dante Pereira-Olson and Douglas Hodge joined the cast. Whigham said towards the end of October the film was in "the middle" of production, adding that it was an "intense" and "incredible" experience. By mid-November, filming had moved back to New York. Filming wrapped on December 3, 2018, with Todd Phillips posting a picture on his Instagram feed later in the month to commemorate the occasion.
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A month after the film's release and days after the film officially made over $1 billion worldwide, there was a brief video of Joaquin Phoenix shooting a scene for the film that went viral. The video shows Phoenix, dressed as The Joker, beginning to dance down the stairs which is the now iconic dancing down the stairs scene. The video was filmed by an unknown person who lived in the Bronx.
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This film was banned from airing in Indian television in 2020 for being "too violent" even after cutting out 58 scenes.
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The 31st highest grossing film of all time.
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Joaquin Phoenix has won nearly every award he has been nominated for his role in this film, including Best Actor at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild.
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The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, the most any film in the 2020 Oscars for the year.
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Joaquin Phoenix was Darren Aronofsky's choice to play Bruce Wayne/Batman in the Batman film he attempted to make in the early 2000s.
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Jackson C. Frank's soulful folk song, "My Name is Carnival", features in the soundtrack and is discussed in dialogue.
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The film's $96 million opening weekend has beaten It Chapter Two (2019)'s $92 million weekend debut for the best opening weekend for an R rated movie in 2019. Both films are also Warner Bros. films.
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After winning the Best Actor Oscar for his role in this film, Joaquin Phoenix's Oscar acceptance speech mentioned treating people right and animal rights. He ended his speech in tears with a musical lyric written by his late brother, River Phoenix, which goes, "Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow."
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When Arthur is dancing in the living room with the gun, Joaquin Phoenix improvises the scene and ad-libbed the line, "Hey Arthur, you're a really good dancer".
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A poster and a short clip of the Charlie Chaplin film 'Modern Times' can be seen at the protest. This film shares a similar theme to Joker where Chaplin's iconic Little Tramp character struggles to survive in the modern, industrialised world, much like Arthur.
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Sharon Washington's character is named Debra Kane as a tribute to Batman's co-creator Bob Kane.
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This film is the first theatrical live-action Batman spin-off since Suicide Squad (2016).
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Director Guillermo del Toro states that he's a huge fan of the film.
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The film was released 30 years after Batman (1989), the second major theatrical film based on Batman-related properties, and the film released 53 years after the first major theatrical film based on Batman-related properties, Batman: The Movie (1966). All three films prominently feature the Joker.
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Before release, the film was initially projected to earn around $50 to $80 million on its opening weekend. The numbers gradually grew as good word-of-mouth became evident despite mainstream media's attack on the film. Ultimately, the film made almost double its initial tracking numbers in its opening weekend by making $96 million.
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When Joaquin Phoenix first stepped into the role of Arthur Fleck/Joker, he had to put all of the other actors who portrayed the character of The Joker out of his mind. This was for him to be less distracted, less doubtful of his own performance, and to make this performance unique.
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The film is the second comic book film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. The first film is Black Panther (2018).
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The film is the third film to earn $1 billion worldwide without being released in China. The first two movies are Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) and The Dark Knight (2008), respectively.
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While Warner Bros. gave Christopher Nolan full backing for his version of Joker in The Dark Knight (2008), Todd Phillips had a much different experience making this film. As Phillips recently revealed during an interview with filmmaker Michael Moore, Warner Bros.' former boss was a major hurdle: "When the regime changed on the Warner side, the regime also changed on the DC side," Phillips told Moore. "They put a guy in charge at DC, Walter Hamada, who had been running a small horror label at New Line. So he didn't have muscle to stop it, and I'm not saying he would have, but he didn't get it. And because On paper, it's crazy. [He] just stepped into this new job, and 'we just made Shazam! and Wonder Woman. We're doing okay; do we really want to mess with the formula?' And so I really understood his point. But in some ways, I had enough weight behind me at that point - not overrule it, because they could have easily said no...but we just kept our foot on the gas, and the squeaky wheel gets the grease as you say. We just made a thing of it for a long time. Truth be told, the budget was so small - and I say so small in relation to other comic book films, not small. We ultimately made the movie for $60 million, but at Warner Bros. or at DC, that's like an independent film to them. So we kept it so under the radar and so small that in some way, it felt like...not a can't-lose, but like, 'okay what could we really lose on this if it's a disaster and nobody wants to see it if it's boring?' So they let us go and do it."
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Fight Club (1999) director David Fincher disliked the film, criticizing it as another corporate Hollywood franchise film that steals from other works. On the film, Fincher said, "I don't think anyone would have looked at that material and thought, 'Yeah, let's take Travis Bickle and Rupert Pupkin and conflate them, then trap him in a betrayal of the mentally ill, and trot it out for a billion dollars." He further elaborated "The reality of our current situation is that the five [major studios] don't want to make anything that can't make them a billion dollars," he said. "None of them want to be in the medium-priced challenging content business. And that cleaves off exactly the kind of movies I make."
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Jack Nicholson's Joker also says, "Put on a happy face!" in Batman (1989).
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One of three movies that were released theatrically in 2019 in which (despite the movies not being musicals) characters sing a song from a Stephen Sondheim musical. In Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story, the character played by Adam Driver sings "Being Alive", and the character played by Scarlett Johansson sings "You Could Drive a Person Crazy," both from Sondheim's 1970 musical Company. In Knives Out (2019), the character played by Daniel Craig sings part of "Losing My Mind" from Sondheim's 1971 musical "Follies." In Joker (2019), the bullies who attack Arthur (Joaquin Phoenix) in the subway sing "Send in The Clowns" from "A Little Night Music".
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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This is the fifth comic book film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, after Ghost World (2001), American Splendor (2003), A History of Violence (2005), and Logan (2017).
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After the film grossed $1 billion worldwide, director Todd Phillips thanked the fans for supporting the film on his Instagram account. Phillips made a 20-second video of various clips from the film with quotes from fans on Twitter in the style of a movie ad with quotes from movie critics.
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Martin Scorsese confirmed that not only has he not seen the finished film, but he has no plans to. This is only in the latest chapter in the journey that launched last year in which Scorsese expressed that he wasn't interested in superhero movies, noting that he doesn't consider them "cinema." As many fans understandably thought it was hypocritical to dismiss all superhero movies while his name was attached to one, it was later confirmed that Warner Bros. merely needed Scorsese's filmmaking crew to pull off production in New York City. "I saw clips of it," Scorsese revealed to The New York Times. "I know it. So it's like, why do I need to? I get it. It's fine."
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The Joker stands at a height of 6'5" in the comics. For this film, at 5'8", Joaquin Phoenix is the shortest actor to play the Joker in a DC film. Jack Nicholson (Tim Burton's Batman (1989)), is 5'10". Jared Leto (Suicide Squad (2016) and Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)) is 5'11". Cameron Monaghan (Gotham (2014)) is 6'. Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight (2008)) was 6'1", and Cesar Romero (Batman (1966) TV series) was the tallest actor to play Joker, at 6'3".
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After the film's success, artist Joe Simko created a Garbage Pail Kid collection card in tribute to Joaquin Phoenix and his character, Arthur Fleck/Joker. The card depicts a Garbage Pail Kid as an Arthur Fleck/Joker caricature falling down on what is now commonly referred to as the Joker stairs in a wacky manner with makeup items scattered around. The card is named, "Walking Joaquin".
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Almost 20 years before portraying Arthur Fleck/Joker in this film, Joaquin Phoenix was director Darren Aronofsky's choice to play Bruce Wayne/Batman in the Batman film he tried to make in the early 2000s.
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Joaquin Phoenix is the fifth person to receive an Oscar nomination for portraying a comic book character, after Al Pacino (Dick Tracy (1990)), Paul Newman (Road to Perdition (2002)), William Hurt (A History of Violence (2005)), and Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight (2008)). Of these five, Phoenix is the only one nominated for a lead performance.
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During pre-production, due to being very hesitant to produce the film, the film's budget was cut by Warner Bros. chairman Toby Emmerich in order to discourage director Todd Phillips. But Phillips was adamant in making the film, and Warner Bros. and Emmerich reluctantly allowed Phillips to proceed with production.
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Before the film was released, there were heavy amounts of skepticism and ire from mainstream media which deemed the film supposedly "too dangerous" and would "incite violence". This controversy had gotten so bad, Warner Bros. banished most mainstream media outlets from attending the film's premiere to avoid any unwanted questions and incidents toward the cast and crew.
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The film's success had partially inspired directors Zack Snyder and James Gunn to create and direct their R-rated DC films, Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021) and The Suicide Squad (2021), respectively.
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When Arthur is speaking with Hoyte in his office, there is a constant shot of a clown directly to the left of his shoulder. This is a shot emphasizing the duality. The proverbial devil on his shoulder as Arthur descends into madness from being belittled.
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The film was the second R-rated comic book film released in 2019. The first 2019 comic book film released is Hellboy (2019).
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The film marks the second time that the character of the Joker has another name besides the "Joker" moniker. In Batman (1989), the Joker's real name is Jack Napier. In this film, the Joker's real name is Arthur Fleck. This shows that the character himself has many possible identities due to his mysterious past from the Batman comic books.
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The film takes place in October 1981. The film itself was released in October 2019.
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When the trailer for Cruella (2021) was released in February 2021, many people compared it to this film and its trailers. This is due to the similar tone and atmosphere. It was even suggested that the trailer made the origin story of Cruella de Vil seem more like an origin story for a Batman villain than a Disney villain. Comedian Matthew Highton combined the audio from the film's first trailer with the footage of the Cruella (2021) trailer and reactions to it supported the notion of the similarities between the two films.
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The scene where Arthur dances in the public restroom inspired hilarious Tik Tok videos of people dancing similar to the character whenever something "bad" has happened. Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir's score was even used in the videos.
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Due to not having very much faith in the film, Warner Bros. enlisted two other production studios to co-produce the film, Bron Creative and Village Roadshow Pictures. After the film had unexpectedly earned over $1 billion worldwide, the profits were split between the three companies.
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In Reno, Nevada, a murder suspect, whose name was later revealed as Juan Carlos Hernandez, was arrested for robbery and murder at an annual Halloween event in 2019. While in custody, the perpetrator claimed that his name was the film's main character, Arthur Fleck. Reports stated that Hernandez was dressed as the film's version of The Joker at the annual Zombie Crawl when he committed the crime.
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Zazie Beetz (Sophie Demond) and Brian Tyree Henry (Carl, the Arkham Clerk) are costars on FX's Atlanta (2016).
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Martin Ballantyne, who portrayed Joker's Henchman in The Dark Knight (2008), expressed a preference to reprise his role for this film.
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Since the creation of the MPAA and the R rating in 1968, for 51 years, there were no films with this rating that earned $1 billion until this film. During that time, the MPAA had introduced the PG-13 rating in 1984 after films like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Gremlins (1984) caused outrage among parents due to both films being rated PG while having gruesome imagery and dark elements, and the PG-13 rating was created in order to appease parents. Unlike the R rating, it took 14 years from its creation for a PG-13 rated film, which is Titanic (1997), to earn $1 billion.
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Due to the film's surprise success and after so much trepidation, Warner Bros. stated that they vowed to take more risks with R-rated film projects.
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In some scenes where Arthur is shirtless, Joaquin Phoenix's tattoo, which is a perfect circle on his left bicep, was digitally removed.
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In an interview on Good Morning America a month before the 2020 Oscars, when discussing the film's success, director Todd Phillips stated, "The audience turned up and it became their movie."
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This is the sixth film grossing over $1 billion nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, after Titanic (1997), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Avatar (2009), Toy Story 3 (2010), and Black Panther (2018).
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Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Arthur Fleck/Joker in this film, is the former brother-in-law of Casey Affleck, who was married to Joaquin's sister, Summer Phoenix from 2003 to 2017. Casey is also the younger brother of Ben Affleck, who portrayed Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), Justice League (2017), and Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021). This marks the first time that an actor who has played the Joker has been related, through marriage, by an actor who has played Batman.
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Blair Rich, who was Warner Bros. marketing executive at the time of the film's release, fought hard for this film when Warner Bros. wanted to cancel the film. Before leaving Warner Bros. and despite several cinematic duds, this film as well as It Chapter Two (2019) became some of Rich's best accomplishments.
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The role of Arthur Fleck/Joker was realized in taking into account the acting characteristics of Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix received the script at the end of 2017. Even his mother had a say in deciding on whether he should join the film's production or not.
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Boris Rehlinger, who dubbed Arthur Fleck/Joker in the French version, also dubbed Bruce Wayne/Batman in the French versions of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), Justice League (2017), and Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021).
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Due to the film's success, director Todd Phillips will write and direct the sequel.
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This is the second Batman-related film that Brett Cullen had starred in. The first film is The Dark Knight Rises (2012). He portrays Congressman Gilley in the former film. And he portrays Thomas Wayne in this film.
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De Niro confirmed that his role was a nod to his earlier performance in the movie The King of Comedy stating "There's a connection, obviously, with the whole thing...But it's not as a direct connection as the character I'm playing being Rupert many years later as a host."
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In 2020, the film became the best-selling home entertainment film in the UK. It sold more than 1.4 million copies across discs (DVD and Bluray), electronic sell-through (EST), and transactional video-on-demand (TVOD).
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The film is director Todd Phillips's second crime film. The first crime film Phillips directed is the dark comedy, War Dogs (2016).
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This is director Todd Phillips's tenth film.
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This film marks the second time that the live-action version of The Joker has long hair. The first time is Heath Ledger's portrayal of the character in The Dark Knight (2008). The second time is Joaquin Phoenix's portrayal of the character as Arthur Fleck in this film. And the third time is Jared Leto's second portrayal as the character in Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021). Leto's Joker previously had short hair in Suicide Squad (2016). Also, as each of these Jokers goes in terms of chronological portrayals, the hair length becomes longer than the last one.
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The film is the first film released in 2019 that starred Robert De Niro. The second film is The Irishman (2019), which was released a month after this film. Both films went on to gain major award recognition and accolades.
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This film is Warner Bros.' seventh film that has crossed $1 billion worldwide with $1.074 billion. The first six films are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) with $1.34 billion, Aquaman (2018) with $1.148 billion, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) with $1.12 billion, The Dark Knight Rises (2012) with $1.08 billion, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) with $1 billion, and The Dark Knight (2008). Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) follows this film with $1 billion when it was released in China in 2020.
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Judging by the radio announcer stating the date as Thursday, October 15 at the beginning of the film, the film takes place in October 1981 since the 15th does fall on a Thursday in that month.
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The film is director Todd Phillips's first drama film.
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By the middle of 2020, the film grossed more than Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)'s $1 billion with $1.07 billion.
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Film debut of Mick Szal.
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The film passed Venom (2018)'s October opening record of $80.25 million with $96 million.
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The film's musical score by Hildur Guðnadóttir become the twelve musical score to win the Grammy, Golden Globe, and Academy Award for "Best Original Score". The other previous winners are Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Jaws (1975), Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Out of Africa (1985), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The English Patient (1996), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Up (2009) and La La Land (2016).
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Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, and Joaquin Phoenix, who portrayed the character of The Joker, respectively, all have tattoos.
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According to director Todd Phillips, the film was initially 155 minutes long. Phillips further stated that there are several cuts of the film. There are some deleted scenes that are briefly glimpsed in the trailers and the promotional stills. Eventually, he decided to cut the scenes that didn't really add very much to the plot and made sure that the final cut had a reasonable runtime of 122 minutes.
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This film marks the third time that an actor who portrayed The Joker in live-action films has a first name that starts with a "J". The first two actors are Jack Nicholson in Batman (1989) and Jared Leto in Suicide Squad (2016) and Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021), respectively. In this film, it's Joaquin Phoenix.
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Despite the somewhat limited marketing due to the film's R rating, the chaotic media controversy, and without being released in China, the film went on to surprise many by becoming the most profitable comic book film and most profitable R-rated film in history.
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Arthur Fleck, the main character, played by Joaquin Phoenix repeatedly walks up and down the steps as part of his routine are locally now known as the Joker Stairs. They are a step street connecting Shakespeare and Anderson avenues at West 167th Street in Highbridge in the Bronx, New York City.
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The iconic Joker dancing down the stairs scene inspired so many humorous memes, including memes where the character dances to different types of music and songs regardless of music genres.
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Joker''s music score has become the twelve music score to win the Grammy, Golden Globe, and Academy Award for "Best Original Score". The other previous winners are Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Jaws (1975), Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Out of Africa (1985), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The English Patient (1996), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Up (2009) and La La Land (2016).
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This is the second DC Comics film in which the main character's name is Arthur. The first DC Comics film is Aquaman (2018). In the former film, the main character's name is Arthur Curry. In this film, the main character's name is Arthur Fleck.
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The very same step street now locally known as Joker Stairs was used in the 2014 impressive film "A Walk Among the Tombstones" staring Liam Neilson. No Gary Glitter music on that occasion and framed what is a decent watchable film.
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Director Trademark 

Todd Phillips: [popular songs from whatever era the film takes place in are played throughout the film] The film has several songs from the late 1970s and early 1980s being played. Similarly, in some of Phillips' films, The Hangover (2009) and The Hangover Part II (2011), popular songs from the late 2000s to early 2010s are played.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

When Arthur lets himself into Sophie's (Zazie Beetz) apartment, he tells her "I've had a bad day". This is a reference to the iconic comic book "The Killing Joke", in which the Joker's theory is everyone is just one bad day from madness.
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Joaquin Phoenix revealed his favorite part of filming was sassing off Robert De Niro's character Murray Franklin, he stated: "It was one of my favorites, saying 'Murr-AY.' ... Todd loved that too. And when I did that I thought: Is De Niro just going to throw an ash tray at me?"
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In most of Batman canon, Batman's parents are killed by an average mugger named "Joe Chill". However, in Batman (1989), Thomas and Martha Wayne were murdered by a man named Jack Napier who would later become the Joker. In this film, an unidentified man dressed in a Joker mask murders the Waynes during a riot, making it the second film to imply the Joker is linked to the Waynes' deaths, and thus the creation of Batman.
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During the film, the seeing of giant rats in Gotham is mentioned. If you pay attention, you can see at least three CGI giant rats running fast through the streets in key scenes, adding a disturbing element to the already dark mood of the movie: when Arthur is talking in the phone booth; when Arthur is chasing the last yuppie outside the subway; when Bruce is crying over his parents' corpses.
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The unnamed woman on the subway that was harassed by the 3 Wall Street men that Arthur unintentionally "rescued" is shown later at the rally wearing a clown mask (the one in the taxi that Arthur passes) who were inspired by his murders of the three.
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In a deliberate attempt to keep the budget down there are almost no CGI effects shots in this film. One of the very few is the scene where Arthur Fleck walks towards the building named Arkham Asylum in his attempt to look at his mothers medical records. This scene was CGI enhanced but otherwise most of this films effects were either practical or created in camera.
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While Arthur's mother is legitimately delusional, a freeze-frame shot in her psychiatric file reveals she was lobotomized.
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Towards the end of the film when Arthur looks at the picture of his mother smiling, as you will see on the back of the photo is the phrase "I've always loved your smile", what you may have missed is that it's initialed TW (Thomas Wayne). Adding to the mystery of whether he truly is the joker's father, considering his power and influence it could have been easy to forge adoption papers, then again it could have been just as easy for Penny to sign the photo herself given her mental state.
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Joaquin Phoenix revealed an unexpected challenge he faced during filming and rehearsals he revealed: "But a really transformative moment was after the Subway when he's in the bathroom," He elaborated, "That was something that we really hadn't anticipated. We talked about that scene all throughout rehearsal. When I really kind of struggled to find something that I felt really made sense to kind of illustrate the change from Arthur to Joker. There were things like that every day up until the last scene I shot where we did multiple versions of it, It just was the nature of the character. When Todd [Phillips] and I became comfortable with that, it really began to emerge. That was a really unexpected, strange, and unique process for me. But, it was enjoyable," Phoenix concluded.
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The scene where Arthur punches the clocking-in machine off the wall was not in the script. Leigh Gill (Gary) stated in an interview that during one take, Joaquin Phoenix suddenly decided to make a joke about punching out and then punched the machine clean off the wall.
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The film's opening news snippets discuss a garbage strike. NYC's garbage collectors went on strike in 1981. The 80s were also alive and well in Joker's fellow talk-show guest Dr. Sally, a clear nod to 1980s sex-talk-show personality Ruth Westheimer, who was known as Dr. Ruth. Having a radio talk show and later a television show, she became a household name in the 80s, advising viewers and radio listeners on sexual health and pleasure. She made a number of appearances on various talk shows.
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Another element from the leaked script that didn't make the cut was a scene where Arthur originally told Sophie a story during a date, explaining that he cut a slight smile onto his face as a child to scare off bullies. The scene would get a call-back at the end of the film, where Arthur, now the Joker, would have used a glass shard from the car wreck to carve those wounds open again and spread them even wider in front of the crowd. Instead, he paints a smile on his face with his own blood in the finished film.
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Director Todd Phillips said that he intentionally left it ambiguous as to whether Arthur becomes the actual Joker as seen in traditional Batman stories or inspires a separate character. Joaquin Phoenix has said that he does believe that Arthur is the actual Joker.
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There is a reference to 1986's "The Dark Knight Returns" graphic novel during the scene where Joker appears on the Murray Franklin Show. In this film, he walks up and kisses Dr. Salley. This is similar to the scene wherein the comic he appears on the David Endochrine show and kisses Dr. Ruth, infecting her with joker toxin embedded in his lipstick.
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An earlier version of the script had a different story arc in mind for Sophie. Arthur originally did go out with her a few times, but she only did so out of pity, and she was romantically involved with someone else. When Arthur discovered this, he went on an extended rant to her face, before telling her to watch Murray Franklin's show on that fateful night. This version of the story makes it clear that he didn't kill her, as she's shown watching the show with her child.
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On Arthur's adoption papers, it is written that he was abandoned and has no actual birth name. Possibly alluding to the comic books that The Joker has no canonically recorded name.
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The original script leak had a slightly different ending. After Arthur kills Murray, he escapes the studio. The riot occurs but in this version the rioters break into Wayne Manor, dragging out Thomas and Martha Wayne and executing them. Bruce, while this occurs, hides from the rioters and is found by Alfred the next day. Arthur eludes the police for a few days until he shows up at the Waynes' funeral and he is immediately seen. Arthur is chased and tries to flee but during the process is hit by a car and captured by the police.
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Brett Cullen strongly believes that Arthur is indeed Thomas's son, and played the role with this fact in mind.
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Director Todd Phillips confirmed that Arthur did not kill Sophie nor her child after she asked him to leave her apartment. Phillips revealed a cut scene where Sophie is watching Arthur on The Murray Franklin Show. He added that he was surprised that some people thought that Arthur had killed her.
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Joaquin Phoenix improvised the bathroom dance scene on the spot. In the script, Arthur simply runs into the bathroom, hides the gun, washes his face, and talks to himself while looking at the mirror.
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An alternate ending intended for the film had Arthur revealing to his therapist on Arkham that the joke he was thinking was that he had killed Thomas and Martha Wayne himself and left Bruce Wayne to cry before turning back and killing the boy. The ending was cut because Bruce's death would mean that Batman will never come to exist in the film's universe.
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In an interview with The Cutaway, editor Jeff Groth talks about cutting during those flashes of darkness on the train by saying, "Not every cut happens in a flash. The reason those flashes were there was to disorient the viewer and make this whole sequence become something of a fever dream for Arthur." Groth then says, "A lot of times with a cut, you'll anticipate where you want to see next, and we'll take you there. In a situation like this, when you're cutting in the black, you anticipate that when you come back out of black, you're going to see the same thing. But in our version, when we're cutting [in the black], you see something different. So we're jumping perspectives before you as a viewer are necessarily ready for it. It was meant to evoke anxiety and build tension." Groth then talks about how this scene gives the audience the feeling that they are losing control, saying, "When [Arthur] starts that laugh, that's something he can't control. That's another thing we're trying to evoke is that feeling of we're not in control anymore." This film is constantly going back and forth between Arthur's fantasy and Arthur's reality without the audience knowing it. The feeling that we aren't in control is foreshadowing the reveal that Arthur is the unreliable narrator of his own story and the audience never knew what was really happening.
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The only scene where Arthur Fleck isn't present is during the scene where Thomas and Martha Wayne are shot and killed by one of the protestors during the riot towards the end of the film.
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According to director Todd Phillips, a certain scene had to be cut in order for the film to avoid getting an NC-17 rating. That scene involves Arthur in the bathtub. Phillips calls the scene "amazing" yet opted out of leaving it in the theatrical cut due to concerns of the MPAA's reaction to the scene that might've cost the film its intended R rating. The scene was one of the many scenes shot yet ultimately deleted from the theatrical cut. He states, "I don't think we can actually include it in an R rated movie and it's not because it was pornographic, it was just insane." This sparked a lot of curiosity over the scene.
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Even though it's never mentioned in the film yet it's heavily implied through the optics, it's speculated that Arthur Fleck suffers from an eating disorder. The eating disorder he may be suffering from is believed to be anorexia nervosa, which is a disorder that mainly affects women and some men. Arthur's skeletal appearance is similar to that of a person suffering from anorexia. He is never shown eating anything at any point during the film. The very few times he's seen dealing with food was the scene where he was preparing and bringing a meal to his mother and the scene where he was removing the few food items from the refrigerator before climbing into it. During the scene where he gives her her dinner, Penny even mentions to him that he should eat more. Furthermore, as it's revealed later in the film, as a child, Arthur was severely starved by his mother's abusive boyfriend which most likely caused him to develop starvation habits that carried over into adulthood. Not to mention, his frequent smoking further adds to his frail physique.
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This film showcase Thomas Wayne as a cold-hearted man who's possibly an adulterer. Depending on the possibilities and interpretations, it's implied that Wayne had an affair with Penny Fleck decades ago. In the 2018 DC Black Label three-issue comic series, "Batman: Damned", Thomas Wayne was also portrayed as cold-hearted and an adulterer. During a flashback in the first issue, young Bruce sees his father with another woman that's not his mother, and it appears as if Wayne brought his son along with him on his tryst with his mistress, not caring how it'll affect the boy.
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In The Playlist podcast in early 2021, directors Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright discuss the film and its social impact. At one point, Tarantino states the talk show scene towards the end of the film successfully manipulated the audience into overly disliking Murray Franklin to the point of being fine with Arthur Fleck murdering him.
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The card that Arthur gives the lady on the bus explaining his laugh states that it's a condition that stems from mental disorders or brain injuries. This foreshadowed the revelation that his condition stems from a brain injury due to the physical abuse he suffered as a child. This situation also most likely caused his mental issues.
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When Arthur goes to Sophie's apartment after finding out the painful revelations of his childhood and Sophie fearfully asking him if he needs help, he mournfully responds to her, "I just had a bad day." This line is a reference to the 1988 DC Comics graphic novel, "The Killing Joke", the comic on which this film is partially based on.
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Joaquin Phoenix improvised the scene where Arthur climbs into the refrigerator.
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The argument in the bathroom between Arthur and Thomas Wayne was improvised by Joaquin Phoenix and Brett Cullen.
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After Arthur discovers his mother's affair with Thomas Wayne, Penny yells during an argument with him that he's going to kill her. Sure enough, he, later on, does just that.
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When the therapist looks in Arthur's journal, he wrote about people just walking over a dead guy in the street. At the end, when the crowd are booing him on The Murray Show, he says, "If it was me dying on the sidewalk, you'd walk right over me."
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Body Count: 8 (Possibly 9 if the Arkham Asylum therapist is added.)
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Though this film has taken strong inspirations from films like Taxi Driver (1976) and The King of Comedy (1982), it also shares similarities with the film, Carrie (1976). Carrie White and Arthur Fleck are both tragic characters that were driven to madness by awful familial histories and a toxic society. For example:
  • Both characters are loners who are unnecessarily looked down upon by society.
  • Both characters have abusive, mentally unstable mothers.
  • Both characters are continuously bullied by others.
  • Both characters eventually ended up killing their abusive mothers.
  • Both characters are later publically humiliated after being invited to a public event and getting a false sense of acceptance from their peers.
  • Both characters end up snapping and unleashing violence that ultimately affects the society they live in.
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In the 1988 DC Comics graphic novel, "The Killing Joke", it was said that it took one bad day for the man who eventually became The Joker to snap. In this film, it took a lifetime of bad days for Arthur Fleck to snap and become The Joker. This film is partially based on "The Killing Joke" comic book.
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Joaquin Phoenix spoke about a deleted scene, which he initially felt was one of the best scenes of the film. Director Todd Phillips said that he thinks deleted scenes are called that for a reason. Phillips stated, "I hate fucking extended cuts. I hate deleted scenes. They're deleted for a reason." He added that he would not be showing any deleted scenes from the film. "The movie that exists is exactly the movie I want it to be and I will never show a deleted scene," he said. In an interview with Collider, Phoenix said, "There was a scene that, that during the shoot we thought was one of the best scenes and we loved his behavior in the scene, and I'd always really liked the scene. And Todd told me and said, 'We're cutting that scene out.' And at first, I thought, like, 'Wait a minute, what do you mean you cut that scene out?' And then of course I saw it, and it was very obvious. It has to go." Describing the scene in question, Phoenix said that it was a second meeting between Arthur Fleck and his co-worker, Randall, after Arthur is let go from his clown agency job. In the final cut, Arthur exits the building after messing with a sign, and 'punching out', literally. Phillips said that cutting out the scene was "a heartbreaker" and that it "might've been the last scene I cut out." Phoenix added, "That's just what's so cool about movies, right? You can have a great scene, it's something that makes sense, but the movie is the collection of all of these scenes and they have to work together to tell the story, and it actually made that whole sequence so smooth."
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Both Murray Franklin and Thomas Wayne die hearing their killers scream at them, "You get what you fucking deserve!"
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A clear giveaway that Arthur and Sophie's relationship is all in Arthur's head is when Sophie appears at his door she refers to him by name. When they first met they never introduce themselves to each other.
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Despite his frail and skeletal appearance, Arthur Fleck has shown to have surprising feats of strength. The Joker has shown to have surprising feats of strength throughout the character's history. For example:
  • When Arthur leaves his job after getting fired and while Randall was taunting him, he states in a sarcastic manner, "Oops! I forgot to clock out!" and proceeds to literally punch the clock off the wall. Even though the clock was large, he was able to destroy it with one hand.
  • When Arthur visits the Wayne Estate to talk to Thomas Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth confronts him and then insults him. This angers Arthur to where he grabs and strangles Alfred through the gates until he stops when he sees how frightened Bruce was. Judging by Alfred's frightened expression and the way Arthur grabs him, Arthur is strong enough to manhandle someone.
  • When Randall and Gary visit Arthur at his apartment, Arthur ends up killing Randall by stabbing him and bashing his head into a wall several times. Despite Randall being a physically bigger man, Arthur was able to grab him in a somewhat sneak attack and fatally harm him.
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During the scene where Arthur is being beaten up by the three Wayne Enterprises employees on the train, they're telling him to "stay down". In the riot scene towards the end when he comes to after being knocked unconscious in the car accident, the protesters are urging him to "get up".
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After Arthur kills Randall and is on the subway on his way to appear on The Murray Franklin Show, one of the subway's stops is Bedford Falls. Bedford Falls was the town in the movie, It's a Wonderful Life (1946).
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Some people have hypothesized that the reason why Arthur was laughing at the end of the film was due to him knowing that Bruce Wayne, due to witnessing the murders of his parents, will grow up with a somewhat similarly messed up childhood like him and become a troubled individual like him. Others have also hypothesized that the final scene takes place in the future after Bruce has become Batman and this scene shows Arthur realizing that he was indirectly responsible for the creation of his nemesis.
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It is hypothesized that Thomas and Martha Wayne's deaths in this film were a form of Bad Karma. This film shows Thomas Wayne as a cold, uncaring, elitist individual who looked down upon those less fortunate, like Arthur Fleck, than them in society and treated Arthur horrendously during the theater restroom confrontation. After Arthur Fleck had snapped and eventually killed Murray Franklin on national TV which caused a major riot in Gotham, the protester, who saw Arthur do what he did, decides to punish The Waynes by killing them for allowing Gotham to turn against its poor, hence the phrase he screams at them before shooting them. Unlike most variations of their murders, in hindsight, Thomas and Martha Wayne's deaths were more in line with some form of retribution due to how Arthur Fleck and others living in destitution were rejected by society. Furthermore, the seizing of Martha Wayne's pearl necklace this time around was more of obtaining a souvenir than specifically stealing it outright like in most variations. Not to mention, the necklace was seized after the couple was shot and killed, as opposed to the other variations where the killer was attempting to take it before the couple was shot and killed for trying to stop the theft.
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After Arthur suffocates his mother with a pillow in her hospital room, he stands near the window and closes his eyes. The light from the window is shining on him and he looks as if he's at peace. This shows after killing his mother for lying to him all his life and allowing him to endure so much abuse, he feels free.
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The subway scene where the three Wayne Enterprises employees beat up Arthur and the riot scene where the three protesters rescued an unconscious Arthur after the car accident toward the end of the film mirror one another. The subway scene shows three men demeaning and beating up Arthur. Whereas the riot scene shows one of the protesters who hit the cop car that Arthur was held in and two other protesters, once they had recognized him, helping him out of the wrecked car.
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In the film, Thomas Wayne was running for mayor. In the original draft of the script for Batman (1989), Thomas Wayne was originally going to run for mayor. Furthermore, it was rumored that that was the real reason why he and his wife were murdered.
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During the scene where Arthur murders his mother by suffocating her with a pillow in her hospital room, he says, "I used to think that my life was a tragedy. But now I realize, it's a fucking comedy." This statement paraphrases Charles Chaplin's quote who once said, "Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot."
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When Arthur is on the train after being fired, the three Wayne Enterprises are harassing a woman. He starts to laugh uncontrollably which caught the attention of the three men. When they surround him and before assaulting him, one of them starts singing, "Send in the Clowns", which is from Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music" play. During the end credits, there is a reprisal of the song by Frank Sinatra.
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During the talk show scene towards the end of the film, Arthur becomes increasingly frustrated once he realized that Murray Franklin was humiliating him and the audience was harshly judging him. Right before he kills Murray, he exclaims, "I'll tell you what you get!" If you look closely as he says this, Arthur has tears in his eyes. This shows Arthur's pent-up sadness.
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The scene where Joker shoots Murray Franklin in the head may be a nod to the Joker character in the 2008 video game Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe where Joker's fatality is to first pull out a pistol which turns out to be a bang flag gun before pulling out a real pistol and shooting the opponent in the head.
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Before he kills Murray Franklin on live television toward the end of the film, Arthur was originally supposed to say, "What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a system..." Instead, he says, "with a society..." in replacement of "with a system..."
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Some people have noticed similarities between the latter half of the film concerning Arthur Fleck's transformation into The Joker and The Weeknd's music video for his song, "Blinding Lights". In The Weeknd: Blinding Lights (2020), after going through a hallucinatory experience after previously licking a frog in the music video for the song, "Heartless", the singer starts to lose sight of reality. In the latter half of the film, Arthur dances down the stairs and eventually gets into some trouble which ultimately leaves him injured yet satisfied. Similarly, in the music video, The Weeknd starts dancing and gets into some trouble that leaves him injured yet satisfied. Other major similarities are the burgundy suits and the bloody smiles.
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