Joaquin Phoenix Had Real-Life Help to Put on That Happy Face

It’s close to two months away and Todd Phillips’ depiction of the Clown Prince of Crime’s origins are gaining a head of steam in buzz — not just among nerds, but critics also.

And that’s because of Joaquin Phoenix.

People know Joaquin is a full-on method actor. He often stays in character on and off the set, completely absorbing the role of his focus at the time. Sometimes, at his own peril, having to go to therapy just to escape the role.

Naturally, he is fully engrossed into becoming Arthur Fleck. What would be in Fleck’s psyche? How does he devolve into Joker? Why does he discard who he was to embrace who he will become?

“We didn’t follow anything from the comic-books, which people are gonna be mad about,” Phillips told Empire last month. “We just wrote our own version of where a guy like Joker might come from. That’s what was interesting to me. We’re not even doing Joker, but the story of becoming Joker. It’s about this man.”

Todd Phillips is up to something incredible with this movie, but it turns out, some of Joaquin’s role is taken from real life.

Put On That Happy Face

joker smile joaquin phoenix

Phoenix recently sat down with Italian publication Il Vernerdi, where the two-time Oscar-nominee admitted that a condition known as Pathological Laughter and Crying (PLC) was the foundation for Arthur’s signature–and creepy–cackle.

I started [with the laugh],” he said. “I saw videos showing people suffering from pathological laughter, a mental illness that makes mimicry uncontrollable.”

As you might imagine with someone who deals with pathological laughter, there is often laughter at inappropriate things or instances not traditionally tied to amusement – perfect for the Joker’s twisted fascinations.

In the trailer, we see his roots with his mother in the 1970s, a path toward a failed stand-up comedian, and then, a bullied and abused clown in 1981.

The laugh goes from grin to giggle to that signature creepy cackle. No word on Joker actually shining a light on this neurological disorder, what with the footage of the Arkham Asylum, but we will be clearly becoming the sociopath before our eyes in this anticipated film.

That path could be a creative risk, but with Joaquin at the helm, the only risk is not having something to establish a foundation. With this unfamiliar PLC disorder, we’ll see.

Joker premieres in competition at the Venice International Film Festival on August 31, before hitting theaters nationwide on October 4.

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