Last summer, as comic-book movie fans were still licking their wounds from the flash-band assault of Jared Leto’s Joker in 2016’s Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. announced that it was planning yet another film about everyone’s favorite green-haired Batman villain. The Hangover’s Todd Phillips is set to direct and co-write the script with Scott Silver (The Fighter)—and, for a little prestige flair, Martin Scorsese will produce. Right away, Phillips named Joaquin Phoenix as his ideal candidate to take on the smeared makeup of Gotham’s creepiest clown. Now, according to Variety, Phoenix is close to actually making a deal.
This film would exist outside the existent Justice League universe, which features Leto as a young, glam Joker and Ben Affleck as his Batman. An origin story set in early 1980s-era Gotham City, the Phoenix film will reportedly be inspired by the grim and gritty world of Scorsese’s filmography. Think more Raging Bull and Taxi Driver and less whatever Hot Topic madness Suicide Squad was trying to convey.
Just how method will Phoenix go for this part? Well, there’s already a long history of actors perhaps over-committing to the process of becoming the Joker. It’s a wonder any of Leto’s co-stars on Suicide Squad were even able to perform given the constant stream of frankly disgusting on-set pranks he pulled while he stayed “in character.” The role of the Joker also took its toll on Heath Ledger, though Ledger’s family objects to the apocryphal story that sleepless nights preparing for his Oscar-winning The Dark Knight performance contributed to his eventual overdose. It’s true, however, that Ledger went to extreme lengths—including locking himself away in a hotel for a month and slathering on the unsettling Joker makeup himself—in order to get into the deranged mindset of the Clown Prince of Gotham.
Phoenix, famously, has a long history of method acting himself. Who can forget the two years he committed so hard to the bit of the Casey Affleck-directed mockumentary I’m Still Here that even Ben Affleck and Matt Damon told him to give it a rest? But at the very least, the actor also has a sense of humor about some of the lengths he’s gone to in the past, including insisting everyone on the set of Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line refer to him as J.R.—Cash’s real name. “I’m embarrassed about it now,” he told Entertainment Weekly over a decade ago, referring to himself as a ”fucking idiot” on that set. “It’s not a brilliant method. It’s simply that I don’t know what I’m doing, and I use all the help I can get. It’s an act of desperation.”
(Excerpt) Read More in: Vanity Fair