Joaquin Phoenix calls 'Joker' 'a difficult film' as NYPD will reportedly cover screenings

Joaquin Phoenix isn't surprised by all the controversy surrounding Joker — but he wants to let the new film speak for itself. The actor sat down recently with Vanity Fair to discuss his take on Arthur Fleck in Todd Phillips's psychological comic book drama.

"I didn’t imagine that it would be smooth sailing," he said of press reaction. "It’s a difficult film. In some ways, it’s good that people are having a strong reaction to it."

After Joker premiered at the Venice Film Festival where it took home top honors, reviews of the R-rated movie were divisive. While critics unanimously praised Phoenix's performance, some questioned whether the film was sending a "dangerous" message about the loner Batman villain in the era of mass shootings.

"There’s so many different ways of looking at it," Phoenix, who did research on narcissism and criminology for the role, explained of the Fleck/Joker character. "You can either say here’s somebody who, like everybody, needed to be heard and understood and to have a voice. Or you can say this is somebody that disproportionately needs a large quantity of people to be fixated on him. His satisfaction comes as he stands in amongst the madness."

The interview was released amid concerns of crowd safety at screenings when Joker is released later this week. The New York Post reported NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison directed all the city’s precincts to provide police coverage at theaters showing the film. Sources claim uniformed patrol cops will also be sent to AMC theaters throughout Manhattan.

The police coverage is "until further notice, so every showing time at each theater will be covered until we are directed to stop," one high-ranking police source alleged to the Post.

Joaquin Phoenix attends the premiere for the film "Joker" in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 28, 2019. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Joaquin Phoenix attends the premiere for Joker in Los Angeles, Calif. on September 28, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

When contacted about the report a NYPD spokesperson told Yahoo Entertainment "personnel will be deployed as needed."

"There are no specific or credible threats at this time and these events will continue to be closely monitored," the NYPD said in a statement. "Any additional personnel will be deployed as needed. Members of the public are encouraged to help police in the shared responsibility of public safety. If you see something, say something by calling 911."

The response is similar to the statement LAPD issued last week. Theater chains including AMC, Regal Cinemas and Landmark will show the film as planned, but are enforcing strict costume policies.

Last week, five families of victims of the Aurora, Colo. mass shooting expressed concerns over Joker through the press and in a letter to Warner Bros. In 2012, a gunman opened fire killing 20 people and wounding 70 others at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. They urged the studio to donate to gun-victim charities.

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