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Saturday, Nov 23, 2019

Wondering why Joker did what he did? Joaquin Phoenix, Todd Phillips discuss controversial talk show scene

Wondering why Joker did what he did? Actor Joaquin Phoenix and director Todd Phillips break down the film’s controversial talk show scene.

hollywood Updated: Oct 13, 2019 20:17 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in a still from Joker.
Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in a still from Joker.
         

Actor Joaquin Phoenix and director Todd Phillips have spoken about the hotly debated talk show scene in Joker. Spoilers for the film follow.

In Joker, the central character Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) transforms into a murderous psychopath. Towards the end of his film, he establishes his transformation into the iconic Batman villain Joker by murdering popular talk show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) during a live telecast. The scene has been hotly debated with regard to the violence it depicts and its possibly sympathetic portrayal of a deranged murderer.

Phillips told Collider in a recent interview that Arthur decides to kill Murray during the show itself, having previously deciding to commit suicide during the telecast.

He said, “It sends a message out there in a way, as f**ked up as it is. If you watch the movie, you do get the feeling like..you get the feeling he is going to kill himself on TV, that that’s where it’s headed. And Arthur changes his mind in the moment. He was going to do that, if you ask me, and then he sort of changes his mind.”

Marc Maron and Robert De Niro in a still from Joker.
Marc Maron and Robert De Niro in a still from Joker.

Phoenix, who conducted extensive research about people like Arthur, added, “It’s also that particular personality type. It’s somebody that is seeking recognition and all of these personality types are suicidal, and yet they want their death to mean something. He has that part in his journal, where he says that, ‘I hope my death makes more sense than my life.’ So we’d remember talking early on about the sequence in which somebody wants to take their own life, but they want the biggest audience possible because in some ways they feel like that will fulfil the feeling that they need, this need for recognition.”

Joker talks about unchecked mental illness, and other societal issues. Phillips continued, “We don’t really talk a lot about what Arthur’s symptoms are, we don’t want to speak like psychiatrists. I didn’t want even to tell him what we think Arthur has. The one thing we all had agreed on was Arthur has intense narcissism. Outside of that, his other mental conditions or what have you, we’re not really sure what he suffers from, but I’m just thinking about the narcissism of, he wants to kill himself but wants to do it in front of… you know like do this idea that it should mean something.”

Phillips had previously discussed the film’s ambiguous ending in an interview to the Los Angeles Times. “There’s a lot of ways you could look at this movie,” Phillips said. “You could look at it and go, ‘This is just one of his multiple-choice stories. None of it happened.’ I don’t want to say what it is. But a lot of people I’ve shown it to have said, ‘Oh, I get it — he’s just made up a story. The whole movie is the joke. It’s this thing this guy in Arkham Asylum concocted. He might not even be the Joker.’ ”

Despite divisive reviews, Joker has been a massive box office success, having collected over $400 million worldwide in a little more than a week of release. The film has made close to Rs 50 crore in India.

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