Back to IndieWire

‘Joker’: Here’s the Original Bathroom Scene Joaquin Phoenix Threw Out With His Improvisation

Joaquin Phoenix was never supposed to dance during that now-infamous "Joker" bathroom scene.



Warner Bros.

One of the most defining scenes in Todd Phillips’ “Joker” takes place right after Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) murders three Wall Street workers who have taunted him on a subway ride. Arthur runs into a disgusting bathroom and begins cleansing himself by dancing alone. The disturbing dance movements come to define the Joker’s emergence, but they’re not the reaction Phillips originally scripted with his co-writer Scott Silver. A new video from Screenplayed puts Phillips’ commentary over the bathroom scene as it appeared in the script, revealing the written sequence was entirely tossed out during filming.

“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?'” Phillips said. “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.”

Phillips added, “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.”

The “Joker” script makes it clear the scene was originally conceived to show Arthur having a full on panic attack and meltdown. Arthur was supposed to talk to his reflection in the mirror and even hold the gun to his head and pull the trigger, only to discover there were no bullets left. Instead of having Arthur second guess his decision, Phillips and Joaquin improvised to have the scene represent Arthur’s first emotional break into becoming Joker.

Watch Phillips’ commentary in the video below. “Joker” is now playing in theaters nationwide.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox