Spoilers ahead for Todd Phillip’s Joker
Todd Phillips’ Joker has been in theaters for a few weeks, making a ton of money for Warner Bros. in the process. The psychological drama is dark and unsettling, showing Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck descent into madness and murder. Phoenix has been universally praise for his transformative performance, with his name already being thrown around for potential award nominations. Arthur’s dancing is one of the unique aspects of this performance, but it turns out that his big dance scene in the bathroom originally went down very differently.
Around the second act of Joker, Arthur Fleck commits his first murders. He shoots two Wayne employees in self-defense, before hunting down their third friend and executing him. He then promptly flees the scene, eventually collecting himself in an abandoned bathroom. Arthur spends the scene dancing, seemingly embracing his darker side in the process. But Todd Phillips recently opened up about the making of that scene, and how it changed the day of filming. As he put it:
- In the script, Arthur was to come into the bathroom, hide his gun, wash off his makeup, staring at himself in the mirror and saying, ‘What have I done?’ When we got to the set on the day, Joaquin and I stood around and this didn’t seem very much like Arthur. Why would Arthur care to hide his gun? We tossed around a million ways to just do something different.
Well, that’s surprising. Arthur Fleck doesn’t show a ton of remorse during his time in Joker, even when killing for the very first time. Instead, he gains power and confidence, especially as Gotham City begins rallying around the killings. So it makes sense that Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix would collaborate to change the scene.
Later in his conversation with ScreenPlayed, Todd Phillips goes onto explain how Joaquin Phoenix began dancing in the bathroom as Arthur. As he put it:
- It was an hour into it and I said, ‘Hey I got this music from Hildur Guðnadóttir, our composer,’ and I wanted to play Joaquin this piece of music. He just started to dance to this music. It was just me and him alone in the bathroom. There was 250 people on the crew waiting outside. He just starts doing this dance and we looked at each other and knew it was the scene. It made sense to us. When I first met Joaquin I told him Arthur is one of those people who has music in him. Music and dance became a theme in the film. This is the second time we see him dancing and it’s a little bit of Joker coming out.
Arthur’s bathroom dance is a terrifying and fascinating sequence, as we see the him begin to transform into the Clown Prince of Crime. His dancing is the first major hint at the character’s fate in Joker, eventually becoming the villain we know when he appears on Murray Franklin’s talk show.
Todd Phillips’ comments show how methodically the filmmaker approached Joker, including going off script when the time calls for it. Joker wasn’t based on any tales from the comics (which you can access here), allowing for a unique vision to drive the movie forward. Furthermore, it highlights Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, and how much he was truly able to bring to the part. Arthur Fleck’s dancing in that scene came directly from his mind, in an organic conversation with the film’s director.
Joker is in theaters now. Be sure to check out our 2019 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.