Hi, I'm Todd Phillips, director of "Joker," and today we're gonna do a couple [of] scene breakdown[s] from the opening of the movie.
-Yo, what's up with your shoes bro, if you're going to be a clown the least you could be is a good one, you know that right? -Nice outfit man.
Go go go!
The main job of a director, even all this stuff we talk about, cameras and depth of field and sets and wardrobe, I think really what a director is, is a purveyor of tone and I think the thing I'm most proud about this film is that unsettling tone.
That sort of slow, ramp up into insanity.
It's day 18 of the garbage strike, with 10,000 tons of garbage piling up everyday, even the nicest sections of the city are looking like...
So I always obsess over the opening shots of movies.
My movies, the movies I watch, I think it's a great way... it's a great storytelling device, the very opening of a film.
We have the benefit in this scene of the local news playing underneath it and we meet Arthur there alone at the mirror as he's putting on his makeup.
So this was scene was shot pretty early in our schedule and it's a practical location, meaning it's not a build, we're in a real second floor storage facility up in Harlem on the far west side of Manhattan.
It was a beautiful space with this very sparse view of the underside of the West Side Highway, this sort of structure that holds up the West Side Highways, these things we're seeing out the window there.
And we thought it was a great place for Haha's, which represents the agency that kind of rents out clowns and strippers and magicians and it's where Arthur works and we find him at the beginning of the film.
It affects my business when customers can't get in here because of the garbage situation.
I'm not out there long enough to smell it, but I think to look at it it's terrible.
Everything in the movie is meant to be unsettling.
So anytime we kind of move the camera intentionally, like this, it was always to give off this kind of unsettling vibe of this guy who's pretty much separated from everybody else, even in this locker-room space.
You hear the voices of four or five guys over here playing cards and talking about whatever and Arthur's here, alone, kind of not part of the group, figuring out how to keep a smile on his face.
And one of the themes in the film is smile and the idea of putting on a happy face, his mother told him that he was born to bring joy and laughter into the world.
And is something that Arthur wrestles with throughout the movie.
So in this scene we find him as he's literally pulling up his mouth and putting down his mouth, sort of fighting the comedy, tragedy that is his life.
It was really important to me and Lawrence Sher, my cinematographer, that the movie have a handmade feel.
We wanted it to feel, we thought that would lend itself to the intimacy that we're trying to get with this character study of Arthur.
So you'll see in this scene, you can feel there's an operator there and that's all really intentional, and we also loved these kind of extreme close-ups on Arthur.
The idea of the National Guard moving in and cleaning up is a good idea.
In other news, the building industry and landlords today...
That by the way, right here, that tear, it just happened in one take.
Joaquin has a really interesting process.
He's not as, a lot of people always assume Joaquin would be a method actor and that, people use that term loosely, but where he's lost in the part.
The beautiful thing about Joaquin is we, we were shooting this movie and we'd spend half the time just laughing off set and having a good time.
But he's so amazing that he's able to then sit down, action gets called, and we do this slow push in and if I think I remember it right, in this particular scene I was playing the score for him, in the room, because we had Hildur Gudnadottir who is our composer, I had her write music before we shot the movie, which isn't done very often.
And she wrote it based on the screenplay and I wanted that because I wanted the music to really affect and infect the set in a way.
Really kind of even, the camera operators, the set dressers, the wardrobe, everybody to feel this music, and if I remember correctly we were playing her score when we were shooting this.
And all of a sudden as Joaquin is struggling with Arthur's smile and his frown and figuring out again if his life is a comedy or a tragedy, this little tear appears and we just had the scene and we moved on.
We called this set Gotham Square.
And this is sort of our version of Times Square, the busy kind of market of Gotham in 1981.
And this is interesting because we shot this in Newark, New Jersey and here's Arthur down there, this little clown in this big, imposing world.
I would say pretty much everything from here [to] back here is CG world building.
The only real stuff is what you see here in the foreground.
We put up things like that, you know we built this theater, changed it into a porn theater of this time, practically we did all that, but yeah, all this deep background stuff, even those cars and the buildings, that's all put in later in post.
I always think this shot is particularly beautiful and helps in just setting the stage of Arthur's world.
And this is really where Arthur is at home.
He's got a mask on, he's pretending to be somebody else and he gets lost in his work.
It's also where we learned that Arthur has music in him.
Something I conveyed to Joaquin was that Arthur is a guy that has music in his soul and that will continue when he transforms in Joker.
And this is one of the visual representations of him having that music.
Joaquin probably practiced with this sign for about two or three days.
It was more complicated than it looks.
Go go go!
And then the other complicated thing is running in these giant clown shoes.
Like every movie, you know, we spoke a lot about every element of the movie, and Mark Bridges, who's a fantastic costume designer, designed all the wardrobe in the movie.
And we spoke about this particular outfit for Arthur a lot.
And also these shoes and how big can these shoes be, for him to run through the streets of Gotham and how big can this sign be for him to actually pull off being able to do this, like one of those sign guys you see on the street.
And his costume is inspired a little bit by Charlie Chaplin.
There's a grace to Arthur that if he would just let go and take off the mask, he would find.
And that's kind of what happens when he becomes Joker, ironically, it's Arthur taking off the mask, even though he's putting on white face paint and dying his hair green.
We got the sign!
One of the complicated things about doing a period film is actually all these picture cars.
All these cars have to be of the time.
We basically had to take over this whole street in Newark, so this is what I mean, this is a big shot actually with a ton of real, practical picture cars and it goes pretty deep and again, I would say probably all that is CG back there, it's world building.
A lot of our visual references were movies that were late 70s, early 80s films.
Larry and I really chose to shoot a ton of this really long lens so you have that real shallow depth of field that you see in some of those old school movies.
So something like this shot is a perfect example of how blurry everything is back here in the background and really the only focus is one, two, three, four, where the guys you really want in focus.
Everything else is kind of blurry, and that's one of those things with those old films that used to basically steal shots on live streets, right?
"The French Connection", you know the camera's over here and they're just following a car in real time.
And we tried to give it that look and it gives it a visceral feel.
Joaquin has a great stunt double, named Steve Izzi, we call him Izzi, and Izzi did all of Joaquin's kind of near misses and things like that.
I like the scope of this shot.
Again, this is all live done by Mark Friedberg, except weirdly, because I'm obsessive, I didn't like the blank space, so this building's back here, that's all put in.
Because I wanted it to feel really oppressive and Gotham is always over Arthur and we just didn't love any kind of blank spaces in the skyline, so to speak.
Get out of the way!
I remember when I was making a movie called Starsky and Hutch with Ben Stiller, I wanted Ben running in this opening thing, I forget what it was, and Ben kept saying, why is he running so much?
And I said, I feel like you never really know somebody until you see them run.
And there's something about Arthur running in the opening that really, the way Joaquin runs, cause 99 percent of this running is Arthur, the only thing really that Izzi did there was that slip,
And it's funny because when we tried takes with Izzi running, it just never worked, because he just didn't have Arthur's run.
Joaquin is so specific in the way Arthur's run looked, I thought it was really something.
So the slide, which is tough to do, and impossible for Joaquin to have pulled off, Izzi came in and did, but everything else is really Joaquin.
Beat his ass up!
Come on, this guy is weak, he can't do nothing.
Beat him up!
This shot is very particular because Larry and I felt early on, and we don't do this a lot in the movie.
But we wanted the frame to feel out of a graphic novel, and we don't do this framing a ton, but this felt like a frame of any kind of graphic novel, that you know, you would read and it's not a normal necessarily movie angle, to me it feels very graphic novel.
That was an important shot for us to get.
So this is one of my favorite shots in the whole movie.
And it obviously depicts his loneliness and his pain.
But really the important part of this shot, so first he's trying to reach for the sign, like maybe I can still fix this.
And then he rolls over.
And he pushes that little button and the water comes out of the flower.
Because what we're saying there with the water coming out of the flower, flower, is he's still Joker, he's still there to make people laugh, he's still seeing comedy in this moment of pain.
We shot these titles on film and then filmed them out, and put them back onto the digital negative.
You see this little bleed you get on the edges of the letters and those, you see the grain in the letters as the film moves, you see the grain, because again, we wanted this movie to feel like it could have come out in the summer of 1979.
So little details like that, like going back and shooting it on an animation stand, the way they shot film titles in the old days was really important to us and all the titles were filmed out that way.
Joaquin's performance is so nuanced, so as he shifts from Arthur to Joker, it's not like Clark Kent walking into a phone booth, and he comes out he's Superman, this is something that happens over two hours.
And when you rewatch the film, I think you really get an appreciation for the work that Joaquin did to slowly turn that dial up the whole movie, and I just tried to match it with our directing style.
So "Joker" is that sort of wild stallion running without a rider.