Joaquin Phoenix goes full clown for the first time in new 'Joker' video

Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker. (Photo: @wbpictures via Twitter)

Following months of will-he-or-won’t-he speculation, Joaquin Phoenix has assumed the role of the Clown Prince of Crime in Todd Phillips’s Joker. And while initial images of the actor in character have featured him in pre-villain, average-Joe mode (schlubby clothes, long scraggly hair), Phillips has — as you can see, both above and below — finally given the world a debut look at the star in full maniacal makeup. And the internet is having strong reactions to it.

Unlike the largely vilified first photos of Jared Leto as Suicide Squad’s heavily tattooed version of the Batman nemesis, Phillips’s Instagram post — a “Camera test w/sound” scored, aptly, with the Guess Who’s “Laughing” — proves that Phoenix’s Joker will more closely resemble small-screen Batman legend Cesar Romero by way of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

The brief video clip involves a slow zoom in to Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, his protagonist’s pre-Joker form, who’s described in the official Warner Bros. plot synopsis as “a man disregarded by society.” Flashes of a clownish face are overlaid on Phoenix’s countenance until we finally arrive at the climactic close-up of Phoenix with long hair, a painted red mouth and eyebrows to match his burgundy coat, and a smile that suddenly gives way to a dark expression that’s extremely unsettling.

Response to the post has, so far, been all over the place, with some comparing it negatively to Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning The Dark Knight baddie — or Ronald McDonald — and others excited for this new, demented take on the Caped Crusader adversary:

Co-starring Robert De Niro (as a talk show host), Frances Conroy (reportedly as the Joker’s mom), Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp, Brett Cullen (as Batman’s father, Thomas Wayne), Marc Maron, Josh Pais, and Shea Whigham, Joker — written by Phillips and Scott Silver — will be an origin story that’s “not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale,” according to the show’s producers.

From the looks of Phoenix both in and out of makeup, it’s certainly shaping up to be an intense — and intensely original — take on the famed villain.

Production on the film is underway. It arrives in theaters on Oct. 4, 2019.

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