The Dark Knight has spoken, and he apparently can’t wait to get a look at the latest incarnation of his most iconic foe. At this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, both Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker and Christian Bale’s upcoming car racing biopic Ford v Ferrari were screened. Bale’s latest film premiered mere hours before Joker was shown at TIFF 2019, and Entertainment Tonight took the chance to get the former Batman actor’s take on Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker when he walked the red carpet.
Like most of the world, Bale himself hadn’t yet seen Phoenix’s work in Joker. He did, however, take the opportunity to throw some love in Phoenix’s general direction, and note he finds it admirable that Phoenix is following in the footsteps of the late Heath Ledger.
“Joaquin is one of the best actors around, you know, and obviously I worked with Heath, and, you know, it’s a brave thing to follow up that performance.”
Bale went on to say he thinks Phoenix “always makes interesting choices” and he wished the filmmakers the best with it. The world is also dying to see what maniacal delights Phoenix and director Todd Phillips have conjured with their standalone Joker flick. According to most critics who caught the film at TIFF, Phoenix and Phillips have redefined the character for a new generation of Bat-fans, delivering a gritty, wickedly insightful version of the Joker the world didn’t know it needed. Many also agree that Joker could change audiences’ perception of what comic movies can be when it hits theaters this October. As for Bale’s kind words for Phoenix, they’re certainly high praise from an actor of his stature. Given Bale’s past experience with the Clown Prince of Crime, that praise is perhaps the most meaningful kind Phoenix can receive for playing the Joker. Ledger’s work with Bale in The Dark Knight as the bullet-, gasoline-, and anarchy-loving Joker truly is the stuff of legend; the brave actor pushed the character beyond the frames of any comic book, film, or television version of the Joker we’d seen before.
Purely from a legacy standpoint, most fans believed the Joker would remain off-limits indefinitely, with Ledger’s performance continuing to cast a long, dark shadow over the role. But eight years passed before the Joker made his big-screen return. The Clown Prince of Crime came back with Jared Leto’s wildly over-the-top take in the 2016 comic book misfire Suicide Squad. While that movie does have its fans, Leto’s turn as the twisted gangster clown of Gotham City ended up not exactly being what fans were looking for in a big-screen Joker. In the wake of the Suicide Squad debacle – and with Cameron Monaghan delivering an equally divisive version of the Joker on Fox’s series Gotham – many believed it would be an even longer wait to see Joker in a feature film again. But then it was announced that Martin Scorsese was helping to produce a standalone Joker movie to be directed by Todd Phillips, who’s probably best known for The Hangover. To most people, it was unexpected news.
Scorsese left Joker during production to focus on other projects, but his movies certainly left their mark on the film Joker would become. As news about the movie trickled out, it became clear that Joker would spin an original take on the character not beholden to any version that came before. After months of speculation about who would claim the coveted role, Phoenix officially boarded the project, an unexpected casting choice leaving reason to believe that Joker might actually turn into something special. As Bale noted in his remarks to ET, it was indeed “a brave thing” to follow in Ledger’s clown-shoe-sized footsteps and bring Joker back to the big screen. Notably, Bale seemingly ignored Leto’s take on the character entirely.
If the largely positive early reviews are any indication, Phoenix’s bravery is more than paying off. In fact, many are tapping Joker to be a major player come awards season. Though Bale may soon be facing off against the Joker for an Oscar instead of, you know, the soul of Gotham, it appears Phoenix’s Joker already has a fan in the former Batman actor. Phoenix’s Joker is set to bring some chaos to moviegoers on October 4th, and Bale’s Ford v Ferrari will race into theaters on November 15.