Movies & TV

Joaquin Phoenix's Joker Laugh Was Inspired By a Real-Life Neurological Disorder

The actor "watched videos of people suffering from pathological laughter."

During the Suicide Squad Joker days (just three years ago, the Jokers start coming and they don’t stop coming), entertainment headlines were full of Jared Leto’s method stunts. He didn’t break characterthroughout all of filming. He sent Margo Robbie a love letter and a live rat, andused condoms, anal beads, and a pig carcass to the rest of the cast.

Now, we’re closing in on a brand-new Joker—Joaquin Phoenix’s take on the character, which will debut with Todd Phillips’ Joker in October. And while there haven’t been any reports of prophylactics or animal carcases, Phoenix apparently put some real research into the role, and used an actual medical condition as inspiration for his Joker.

In an interview with Italian newsmagazine Il Venerdí ahead of the film’s premier at the Venice Film Festival, Phoenix revealed that he’d “watched videos of people suffering from pathological laughter,” a rare neurological disorder that causes sufferers to uncontrollably laugh, cry, or both. It’s sometimes seen in people who have multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's, or have suffered strokes or traumatic brain injuries.

Phoenix’s more restrained approach to the role—compared to Leto, at least—is in keeping with what we know about the film so far. The stark trailer makes Joker seem more akin to the brutal, heartbreaking Logan than to most frothy superhero movies, and the project was reportedly inspired by Martin Scorsese’s early films. (Scorsese was initially slated to produce Joker, but later left the film.)


"We didn’t follow anything from the comic-books, which people are gonna be mad about,” Phillips told Empire last month. “We just wrote our own version of where a guy like Joker might come from. That’s what was interesting to me. We’re not even doing Joker, but the story of becoming Joker. It’s about this man.”

This story originally appeared on Esquire.comMinor edits have been made by the editors.

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