See the Makeup Test of Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker

September 24, 2018

Todd Phillips just released a makeup test via Instagram of Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker! And it’s rather disturbing! In the highly anticipated DC film, which is currently in production, Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian who goes on a psychopathic rampage which eventually pits him in a life-or-death struggle with the Batman himself.

The story, the plot, and the details of the film are on the hush-hush, but if the Instagram post is any indication, horror and thriller fans could be in for a Mister Toad’s-style wild ride. The clip is made all the more sinister as it features the beguiling and mesmerizing track “Laughing” by The Guess Who.

“I should laugh, but I cry because your love has passed me by, you took me by surprise, I didn’t realize that you were laughing…”


Comic Book aficionados and those of the superhero universe are split over the recent news. For the devotees who believe Heath Ledger is the be-all and end-all of the Joker character, Arthur Fleck is nothing short of blasphemy–an affront to the memory and legacy of the one-and-only Joker. For others, the combination of Todd Phillips’ wicked directing style and the classic, Pagliacci-inspired makeup is something to celebrate and to make 2019 a year to remember. There are those who point out that Heath Ledger so immersed himself in the role that it drove him crazy and led to his early demise. This kind of performance, they argue, can never be duplicated or even challenged, and to do so is destined for failure. That may be true, but Joaquin Phoenix seems kind of crazy his damn self; see I’m Still Here. So who knows where this role could take the Walk the Line, Her, and The Master star. Besides, he admits, the role scares himHe said that an actor’s next project “might as well be the thing that scares you the most.”

It has been argued that Todd Phillips has directed and/or produced some of modern cinema’s most memorable and influential comedies. Who could forget Frank “The Tank” in Old School shooting himself with a tranquilizer gun and wrecking a four year old’s birthday party? Or the mentally and emotionally challenged Alan Garner played by Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover partying hardy with an infant strapped to his belly? Or how about the juvenile nihilism and unconscionable mayhem of Project X? Todd can certainly spin an ordinary tale down a rabbit hole of lunacy and madness. So who better to actualize the Joker as a real person careening headlong into carnage and chaos?

However, there is a concern that the character of the Joker is so fascinating precisely because we don’t know much of his backstory. Is he an abused and abandoned child? Is he an escapee of a mental institution? Did a life of crime eventually lead him to paint his face red, white, and blue and commit crimes no sane man would ever contemplate? Did he suffer some kind of chemical or industrial accident? Up until now, the Joker’s character was seen primarily in relation to his interaction with the Batman; but now, for better or worse, the demented clown is taking center stage. It’s always a trick pulling back the curtain on archetypal villains as the mystery can be more intriguing than reality.

Nonetheless, Joker is coming to a theatre near you starting October 4, 2019–and there’s nothing you can do about it!

What do you think of Todd Phillips’ Instagram clip? Is it inspired dementia or rank commercialism? Please share and please don’t be cruel; leave that to the Joker!


Reflecting on Heath Ledger’s ‘Joker’ Diary

September 4, 2015

How do actors get into character? The possibilities are endless! But we can get a glimpse into the techniques Heath Ledger used to get into character of the nefarious Joker from The Dark Knight Rises. Indeed, Ledger kept a diary entitled, “The Joker” to help him fully commit to his iconic role. Although he was known to fully immerse himself in each of his parts, according to his father, Heath took it up a notch for The Joker. Locking himself up in a hotel room and then his apartment for about a month, he used the diary to “inhabit his character.” Heath once stated that by the end of those weeks he landed “in the realm of a psychopath.”

A clip from the German documentary titled Too Young to Die reveals Heath’s father, Kim Ledger, sharing some of the charismatic actor’s Joker journal. It contains handwritten notes, scrawled-out dialogue, as well as sources of inspiration including Batman comic book clips, playing cards, photos of Alex DeLearge from Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, and even a hyena which may have inspired the Joker’s style of disturbing laughter.

Heath explored how his dimented character would look by playing with Francis Bacon-inspired makeup to get the right look, and adding the made-up photo of himself to his diary.  Before the final days of the shoot, Heath wrote “BYE BYE” on the last page of the diary. His father said, “It was hard to see this.” Sadly, Heath passed too soon after playing The Joker due to accidental intoxication from abusing prescription drugs at the age of 28. Of course, the late Ledger won an Oscar for his terrifying portrayal of the villainous Joker.

For those of you who’d like to watch the whole Too Young to Die documentary, it’s available through Vimeo.

Soul-Crushing Roles

September 17, 2012

Mandy Patinkin, Criminal Minds

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut

During a recent interview with New York Magazine, Mandy Patinkin came clean about his abrupt exit in 2007 from the CBS crime drama Criminal Minds after only two seasons. “The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place,” Patinkin said. “I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality. After that, I didn’t think I would get to work in television again.”

Heath Ledger reportedly lived by himself in a motel room for a month to prepare for his role in Batman as the maniacal criminal mastermind, the Joker. In the dingy hovel Ledger gave birth to the deeply disturbed and psychologically unhinged monster by studying dark Batman comic books and endlessly watching Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Heath purportedly used the ultra-violent Alex as his inspiration for the Joker. He later talked about the strain of the role saying, “Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night. I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.” Ledger’s deceased body was discovered in his New York City apartment on January 22, 2008, after The Dark Knight had finished filming and was in post-production. It was later discovered that he had died from an accidental overdose of prescriptions drugs, including sleeping pills.

These two guys, along with scores of other dedicated actors, agreed to take on roles that were very demanding and unusually intense–not to mention shockingly gruesome. If you, dear actor, are excelling in your job, there may come a time when you’re asked to play a serial killer, a rapist, a pedophile, or any number of indecent reprobates. And you may abhor the characters you’re asked to breathe life and personality into. Your personal beliefs, and possibly your moral or political beliefs, may be in stark contrast with these characters. So whether you decide to take the role, be sure to go into it with open eyes and know these decisions are not to be taken lightly. And keep in mind that art is not a safe place. Never has been; never will be. Cave wall paintings depicted brutal scenes from archaic life. Ancient Greek theatre dealt with murder, incest, and genocide. The great Shakespeare himself never shied away from the darkness.

Have you ever committed to a role that started to wreak havoc on your personal life?