After being questioned about a hypothetical scenario in which the choreographed onscreen violence in Joker would inspire real-life violence, Joaquin Phoenix walked out of an interview being conducted by a film critic for The Telegraph.
That critic, Robbie Collin, had asked Phoenix if he was worried that his new film "might perversely end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it’s about, with potentially tragic results?"
Phoenix reportedly gave a response in which he said “Why? Why would you ... ? No, no,” before exiting the room.
After backstage "peace brokering" took place with a Warner Bros. agent, Phoenix returned about an hour later and told the publication that he panicked because he had not considered that question.
In the movie, which is an origin story about—surprise—the Joker, Phoenix plays a loner with a failing comedy career (Arthur Fleck) who eventually goes on to become the greatest of about the four good nemeses that Batman ever had.
Phoenix's early exit sounds at least somewhat akin to how he behaved on the Joker set; director Todd Phillips previously stated, "In the middle of the scene, he’ll just walk away and walk out. 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."
While it's noted that Phoenix's return to the interview didn't result in him answering the interviewers' question, Phoenix previously addressed Joker's violence in a sit down for SFX magazine. During that sit down, Phoenix said that Joker's violence will be more "visceral and raw" than traditional superhero films like The Avengers.
He also acknowledged that that's the nature of a more gritty story telling experience that doesn't have big budget action/destruction sequences where it seems to be implied that a bunch of people died (presumably, those buildings that get destroyed in blockbuster action flicks have people working/living in them).
“You always want it to feel real, and you want the little violence that we have to have an impact,” Phoenix 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.”
Joker is set to hit theaters on Oct. 4.