Joaquin Phoenix’s interview with Jimmy Kimmel on the October 1 edition of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” has gone viral for featuring exclusive set footage from “Joker” that depicts Phoenix having an on-set meltdown. The actor is seen in full clown makeup in between takes cursing at cinematographer Lawrence Sher for “constantly whispering” during filming. At one point, Phoenix is heard telling Sher to “shut the fuck up.” Following the footage debut, Phoenix is seen visibly uncomfortable on the “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” set.
“Sometimes movies get intense,” Phoenix said. “You have a lot of people in a small space and you’re trying to find something. That was supposed to be private, I’m a little embarrassed by that. I’m sorry you guys had to see that.”
“I should probably publicly apologize to Larry,” the actor added. “The thing is though, I am sorry, but he did whisper constantly while we’re trying to work, and sometimes it’s really hard to find the emotion that you’re after, so it was wrong of me and I’m sorry, but he shouldn’t have done it.”
The footage’s authentic look and Phoenix’s cringing reaction led many online to assume the expletive-filled rant was the real deal, but Phoenix’s representative tells The Wrap it was all a joke for the actor’s “Kimmel” experience. The footage was clearly shot during the making of “Joker” given Phoenix’s weight loss, so whether or not that was real or staged is not known. Phoenix acted like he had no idea the footage would be shown, but his rep suggested otherwise.
Phoenix already has a lot of experience tricking people during late night talk show appearances (see the entirety of “I’m Not Here” as an example), so it’s entirely believable that he would go for a prank of this kind. The footage ends with Phoenix walking off set, which is something “Joker” director Todd Phillips had said happened several times in real life during the making of the film.
“In the middle of the scene, he’ll just walk away and walk out,” Phillips told The New York Times in September. “And the poor other actor thinks it’s them and it was never them — it was always him, and he just wasn’t feeling it.”
Watch Phoenix’s full sit-down on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in the video below. “Joker” opens nationwide October 4 from Warner Bros.