It’s been over a decade since Joaquin Phoenix last graced the big screen in his iconic role as The Joker. Since that time, he’s become a father, a husband, and a respected member of the community. Though he’s kept busy with appearances on shows like El Rey and Game of Thrones, he’s slowly been transforming himself into the man he always wanted to be—a jovial, cheerful, and optimistic man. Now, he’s back in theaters as the titular character in the upcoming Joker movie, and it appears that all of that transformation paid off.
In preparation for the movie’s premiere next week, we were curious about just how much weight Phoenix lost to play the part of the Clown Prince of Crime. We knew that he had to go through some dramatic changes to play the role, and while he hasn’t revealed how he changed physically, he has addressed the issue of his mental and emotional transformation in interviews. So, we reached out to Dr. Jennifer Berman, a NYC-based psychologist and weight-loss expert, to get her take on Phoenix’s remarkable transformation, as well as how to navigate your own personal transformation should you choose to accept the challenge.
How To Navigate Your Own Transition To Being Bolder
As someone who’s studied body acceptance and eating disorders for over a decade, I can definitely say that playing the role of The Joker was a major life-changing event for Joaquin Phoenix. Not only did he have to go through a dramatic weight-loss regimen, he also had to learn to love and accept his body as it is. Though he’s kept busy since then, appearing on shows like El Rey and Game of Thrones, he’s slowly been transforming himself into the optimistic person he always wanted to be. The role of The Joker isn’t something that you easily walk away from, it requires a serious transition to another person, which Phoenix has been slowly and carefully going through.
In an interview with Vogue, Phoenix discussed the importance of the character and the impact it had on his life, “When I read the script, I nearly fainted. It was one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever had to portray. Not only do you have to lose a lot of weight, but you also have to change your whole demeanor and become this completely different character. It was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. When I think about the Joker, I think about the quote by William Blake: ‘The limits of my life are the limits of my speech.’ That’s such a beautiful way of putting it. When I read that line in the script, I was like, ‘Yes, this is who I want to be. This is my vision of happiness. This is my vision of pride.’ I worked hard to embody this character and bring something different to the table.”
As someone who’s studied body acceptance and eating disorders for over a decade, I find it remarkable that Phoenix chose to tackle such an intense role at such a young age. Though he’s become a father and a husband over the past decade, perhaps these experiences have only made him more empathetic towards the struggles of others. Perhaps this is why he’s chosen to tackle such an emotionally challenging role at this point in his life.
The Mental And Emotional Transformation To Play The Joker
In an interview with Variety, Phoenix discussed the mental and emotional transformation he had to go through to play the role of The Joker, “It was all about the process of breaking down my anxieties and insecurities. I isolated myself for weeks at a time, going through therapy and exercising regularly. When I first started, I was so stressed out about my weight that I’d eat when I was nervous or uncomfortable. That’s why I’d gained the weight in the first place. Once I started acting, my therapist said it was the best thing I’d ever done for my mental health. It was a tough process, but it was necessary. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
So, it was all about the process for Phoenix. Not only did he have to lose a lot of weight, but he also had to learn to love and accept his body as it is. In an interview with Vogue, Phoenix discussed the importance of working with a therapist, “The biggest thing I learned from [therapy] is that we are all human and we all make mistakes. It’s about owning up to those mistakes and learning from them. It doesn’t mean that you’re weak or that you’re not lovable. It just means that you’ve got a past and you’re working through it. That’s what therapy is for.”
Though it’s been over a decade since Phoenix last portrayed the Joker, his transformation into a more mature, happy, and content person is still apparent. In the years since his last appearance in The Dark Knight, Phoenix has become an advocate for body positivity and has worked hard to show the world his new, healthier side. With the Joker slated to grace theaters on September 12th, we’ll get to see just how far he’s come.