Joaquin Phoenix clashed with Robert De Niro over 'Joker' rehearsals

Ben Arnold
Contributor
De Niro and Phoenix in Joker (Credit: Warner Bros)

Joaquin Phoenix doesn't do read throughs. Robert De Niro, however, insists on them.

So before the pair had even appeared in front of a camera together on new movie Joker, the pair clashed, according to director Todd Phillips.

In fact, Phoenix said: “There's no f**king way I'm doing a read-through.”

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Speaking to Vanity Fair, Phillips detailed how the two actors fell out before a milimetre of film had been shot.

“Bob called me and he goes, 'Tell him he's an actor and he's got to be there, I like to hear the whole movie, and we're going to all get in a room and just read it,'” Phillips said.

“And I'm in between a rock and a hard place because Joaquin's like, 'There's no f***ing way I'm doing a read-through', and Bob's like, 'I do read-throughs before we shoot, that's what we do'.

Clearly the pair have different methods when it comes to performance, but eventually Phoenix was brought in to a reading at De Niro's offices in Manhattan, but mumbled his way through it.

Actors Joaquin Phoenix (L) and Robert De Niro (R) attend the "Joker" premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 09, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Geoff Robins / AFP) (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

Sensing the beginnings of an issue between them, De Niro then invited Phoenix up to his personal office to talk things over, but Phoenix refused, saying he 'felt sick', because he hadn't liked doing the read-through.

But after Phillips then encouraged him to do so, De Niro and Phoenix worked out their issues, with De Niro apparently holding Phoenix by the face, kissing him and saying 'It’s going to be okay, bubbeleh'.

“It was so beautiful,” Phillips added.

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However, in other anecdotes about the production it’s revealed that De Niro, who plays talk show host Murray Franklin, and Phoenix, who plays unhinged failing stand-up Arthur Fleck, barely spoke on set.

“The first day we said good morning, and beyond that I don't know that we talked much,” Phoenix went on.

De Niro confirmed this, adding: “His character and my character, we didn't need to talk about anything. We just say, 'Do the work. Relate as the characters to each other.' It makes it simpler and we don't [talk]. There's no reason to.”

The movie, the origin story of how Fleck becomes Batman's nemesis the Joker, lands on October 4.