The Oscar winners had decidedly different approaches when it came to preparing for the thriller, which offers a deep look at the Batman supervillain’s backstory. Director Todd Phillips recounted the friction between the two actors in Phoenix’s recent Vanity Fair profile, and it all came down to whether or not to do a table read.
As Phoenix explains in the piece, he prefers a looser approach to get inside the head of his characters.
For me, I always thought that acting should be like a documentary, Phoenix told Vanity Fair. That you should just feel whatever it is that youre feeling, what you think the character is going through at that moment.
But De Niro, an iconic figure in the business, likes to read through scripts before shooting and be completely familiar with the material. Unfortunately, Phoenix thought just the opposite.
Bob called me and he goes, Tell him hes an actor and hes got to be there, I like to hear the whole movie, and were going to all get in a room and just read it,’ ” Phillips recalled in the interview. “And Im in between a rock and a hard place because Joaquins like, Theres no f—– way Im doing a read-through, and Bobs like, I do read-throughs before we shoot, thats what we do.
The two eventually worked out their differences, with De Niro even taking a moment to hold Phoenix’s face and give him a kiss on the cheek. But that doesn’t mean they were pals on set, as their characters are adversaries in the movie.
I didnt like to talk to him on set, Phoenix said. The first day we said good morning, and beyond that I dont know that we talked much.
Added De Niro, His character and my character, we didnt need to talk about anything. We just say, Do the work. Relate as the characters to each other. It makes it simpler and we dont [talk]. Theres no reason to.
Joker, which also stars Frances Conroy and Zazie Beetz, is in theaters Friday.