Joker doesn't hit theaters until October 4, but the film’s director, Todd Phillips, is already talking about a sequel. In an interview with Total Film Magazine, Phillips said that the decision for a follow-up will fall entirely on whether Joaquin Phoenix wants to put on the face paint for a second time.
“One thing I will tell you: I would do anything with Joaquin, any day of the week,” Phillips said. “There’s nobody like him. If he was willing to do it, and if people show up to this movie, and Warners came to us and said, ‘You know what? If you guys could think of something…’ Well, I have a feeling that he and I could think of something pretty cool.”
Phillips’ glowing endorsement of Phoenix as the titular character happened well before the actor signed on to the film. The man behind The Hangover trilogy admits that he wrote the script for Joker with Joaquin in mind. “The goal was never to introduce Joaquin Phoenix into the comic book movie universe,” he said. “The goal was to introduce comic book movies into the Joaquin Phoenix universe.”
It was all about getting a commitment out of Phoenix, who reportedly turned down offers to play Doctor Strange and to replace Edward Norton as The Hulk. Joaquin says “fear” fueled his apprehension towards taking on these superhero roles in the past.
“There was a lot of fear, yeah,” Phoenix admits. “But I always say there’s motivating fear and debilitating fear. There’s the fear where you cannot make a fucking step, and there’s the kind where it’s like, ‘OK, what do we do? That’s not good enough.’ And you’re digging deeper and deeper. I love that kind of fear. It guides us, makes us work harder.”
Phoenix saw something different with Joker. With Arthur Fleck, the character's real name in the film, he was allowed to explore a character that was more nuanced, and present audiences with shades of grey that would disrupt their understanding of the delineation between good and evil.
“I think 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,’” Phoenix explains.
“And yet we all are guilty. We all have sinned. And I thought that here was this film, and these characters, where it wouldn’t be easy for you as an audience," he adds. "There are times where you’re going to feel yourself connected to him, and rooting for him, and times when you should be repulsed by him. And I like that idea of challenging the audience, and challenging myself to explore a character like that. It’s rare to explore characters like that in any movies, but specifically in the superhero genre.”