Another popular “Joker” fan theory has been solved, kind of. In a new interview with the Los Angeles Times, Joaquin Phoenix shares his belief that his version of the Joker character is the real Joker that ends up becoming the infamous Batman villain. Many fans have questioned whether or not Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck is the Joker as seen in decades of Batman mythology. “Joker” director Todd Phillips stoked the fan theory earlier this year by telling the Times, “Maybe Joaquin’s character inspired the Joker. You don’t really know.”
“Joker” fans took Phillips’ comment and searched for clues in the film to figure out whether or not Arthur Fleck actually becomes the Batman villain. Some follow-up theories claim the “real Joker” was part of the violent riot that broke out in Gotham after Arthur shot Robert De Niro’s Murray Franklin dead on national television. Other theories allege the real Joker arrives years later as a copycat admirer of Arthur. These theories are not true as far as Phoenix is concerned, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable.
The LA Times reports: “For the record, Phoenix says, he does personally believe that Fleck is the actual Joker. ‘But I don’t know,’ he adds with a wry smile. ‘It’s just my opinion.'”
For Phoenix, watching “Joker” fans dive into the story’s ambiguities has been one of the best parts about the movie’s overwhelming reception around the world. “It’s been super interesting how people react to the movie and what they see — and to me, all of those answers are valid,” he said. “Normally you have to answer those questions. But this really is participatory and interactive. It’s up to the audience.”
Phoenix continued, “That’s so rare, especially with a big studio movie, and I don’t want to ruin that by saying, ‘No, this is what it is.’ To me, there are so many different ways to view this character and his experience that I don’t think you can come up with a particular meaning.”
“Joker” is nearing the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office and has already become both the highest grossing R-rated release in box office history and the most profitable comic book film ever made. Phoenix says he didn’t expect the movie to be this successful with audiences.
“I don’t know if I had any expectation,” Phoenix said. “Honestly, Todd and I were just trying to make something that didn’t end our careers.”
“Joker” continues to play in theaters nationwide. Head over to the LA Times’ website to read Phoenix’s latest interview in its entirety.