The 2019 DC Comics flick Joker certainly made a big impact with audiences, not to mention The Academy. However, star Joaquin Phoenix had a difference of opinion with co-star Robert De Niro before the production even began. Phoenix recently dished on the details behind it in an interview with GQ.
The issue stemmed from the read-through, where all the actors cast in any given project gather together and read the script, beginning to end. Given that Phoenix had taken an unconventional approach to the role, he didn't want to participate. De Niro was not thrilled to hear about this and didn't hold back when complaining to director Todd Phillips. "Tell him he's an actor and he's got to be there," De Niro told him. "I like to hear the whole movie and we're going to all get in a room and just read it."
However, Phoenix wasn't moved by his requests. The actor, who took an unusual approach to portray the Clown Prince of Crime, telling the director, "There's no f-ing way I'm doing a read-through."
Phoenix, however, eventually relented and agreed to meet with De Niro at his production office to do a make-shift read-through. Although the star hardly seemed committed to the process, and apparently mumbled his way through the script, or walked off to stand in a corner and smoke on occasion. Still, De Niro, who is no stranger to committing himself to a role himself, embraced Phoenix, telling him "It's going to be OK, bubbeleh."
After Joker hit theaters in October of 2019, everything seemed to have worked itself off. The film became a huge hit with audiences and racked up a whopping 11 Oscar nominations — including Best Picture. It won for Best Original Score, as well as a Best Actor win for Phoenix.
During his acceptance speech, the Joker star quoted his late brother, actor River Phoenix, who died of an overdose in Los Angeles back in 1993. He also briefly eluded to his own difficult tendencies when on set.
"I've been cruel at times, hard to work with, and I'm grateful that so many of you in this room have given me a second chance," Phoenix said. "I think that's when we're at our best: when we support each other. Not when we cancel each other out for our past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow. When we educate each other; when we guide each other to redemption."
"When he was 17, my brother [River] wrote this lyric," he concluded. "He said: 'run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.'"