From campy clown to terrifying madman, Joker no longer a laughing matter
Jeck Deocampo • October 4, 2019 • 513
There are no capes, no special powers and no battles between good and evil in the new “Joker” movie, whose portrayal of the most famous villain in comic book history is the most chilling twist on the character in 50 years.
The Joker has been depicted on television and in movies since 1966 and has undergone a series of ever darker transformations from his early days as a campy clown with a mirthless laugh.
“Joker,” starring Joaquin Phoenix and opening in movie theaters worldwide this week after winning the top prize at the Venice film festival last month, is the first film where the Joker is the lead character but there is no Batman.
Set in the 1980s New York, the Warner Bros film is a standalone origin story that depicts the man who becomes Batman’s arch-nemesis as an isolated, bullied, delusional, mentally-ill loser who unwittingly inspires a populist rebellion manned by other outcasts adopting red noses and clown masks.
Phoenix, 44, whose performance is seen by awards watchers as a likely contender for the best actor Oscar next year, told reporters in Venice in August, “I didn’t refer to any past creations of this character.”
Phoenix’s take on the Joker is far removed from Cesar Romero, who was the first actor to play the role in the 1960s “Batman” television series, which was mainly aimed at children.
In 1989, Jack Nicholson brought his edgy, maniacal touch to the character in the “Batman” movie but was still largely a prankster.
Ledger reinvented him as unsettling and unhinged in 2008 in “The Dark Knight” in 2008, when the Joker became a terrorist in a post-Sept. 11 2001 era beset by fears of anarchy and chaos.
Phoenix, by contrast, turns in a performance so nerve-wracking that it is difficult to watch at times, said Belloni.
The film has an R rating in the United States, meaning those under 17 need to be accompanied by a parent. (REUTERS)
Joaquin Phoenix won his first Oscar on Sunday (February 9) for his terrifying performance as an isolated loner who becomes one of the world’s best known comic book villains in “Joker,” and invoked his late brother River Phoenix in one of the most emotional acceptance speeches of the night.
Phoenix, 45, won the best actor Oscar after three previous nominations, crowning an awards season that has seen him sweep every major prize for his role in the standalone origin story of Batman’s archenemy.
“I’ve been a scoundrel in my life, I’ve been selfish, I’ve been cruel at times, I’ve been hard to work with. I’m grateful so many of you in this room have given me a second chance,” Phoenix said in accepting his award.
“When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric, he said: Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow,” he said in concluding his speech tearfully to a standing ovation.
River Phoenix died of a drug overdose at a Hollywood night club in 1993 at age 23.
The best actress Oscar went to Renee Zellweger for her portrait of Hollywood legend Judy Garland in “Judy,” a biographical drama exploring the singer’s personal and professional turmoil at the end of her life.
It marked the second Oscar victory in four nominations for Zellweger, 50, a Texas-born performer whose immersion in the role of Garland also earned Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA awards.
Taking the stage to accept her award, Zellweger saluted her fellow nominees in the best actress race – Cynthia Erivo for “Harriet,” Scarlett Johansson for “Marriage Story,” Charlize Theron for “Bombshell,” and Saoirse Ronan for “Little Women.”
She then paid tribute to Garland’s “legacy of unique exceptionalism and inclusivity and generosity of spirit.”
“Ms. Garland you are certainly among the heroes who unite and define us, and this is certainly for you,” she added. “I am so grateful. Thank you so much, everybody.”
Admittedly intimidated at the notion of playing one of America’s most iconic show business figures 50 years after her death, Zellweger embarked on extensive preparations to transform herself for the role.
She took voice lessons for a year and worked with a choreographer to capture Garland’s mannerisms. The movie focuses on a period when “The Wizard of Oz” star struggled with substance abuse, depression, insomnia, financial instability and a custody battle.
Garland arrived in London in late 1968 as part of a sold-out concert tour meant to help regain her economic footing. She died there at age 47 of an accidental drug overdose in June 1969, three months after her fifth marriage.
Zellweger’s co-stars recalled being awestruck by her on-set metamorphosis for the role, while critics marveled at how she convincingly rendered the essence of Garland’s persona and performance style without lapsing into mere impersonation.
Her “Judy” performance was a far cry from the scrappy, plain-spoken farmhand she played in the epic U.S. Civil War romance “Cold Mountain,” a role that earned her an Academy Award for best supporting actress in 2004. (Reuters)
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