Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) makes his living as a party clown. He lives with his mother, has serious mental health issues and dreams of being a Comedian. But a set of circumstances will set him down a different path – one that involves becoming Gotham City’s greatest villain, The Joker.
With Joker, Co-Writer/Director Todd Phillips (of The Hangover and Old School) set-out to create a dark, gritty, intense and disturbing take on the legendary character. And for the most part, he succeeds. Phillips draws on Martin Scorsese classics like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy to visualize Gotham City and its inhabitants, building an urban dystopia so vivid you can smell the grime and filth. And instead of making just another Comic Book movie, he turns the genre and formula on its head and gives us a passionate, unapologetic and viciously violent character study. He leans too hard into Batman lore and relies a bit too much on slow motion, but this is easily his most ambitious project to date.
And at the centre of it all is a blisteringly brilliant performance from Phoenix. His physical and mental transformation into The Joker is eye-opening, and the little nuances he brings to the character are simply terrific. He is featured in practically every scene, and the way he commands that camera is a masterclass all in its own. Some have already started calling this take sympathetic, but make no mistake: this Joker is just as much of a depraved, homicidal maniac as you remember and any sympathy you may gleam at the beginning will be completely gone by the end. He is still The Joker after all.
JOKER screens during TIFF at the following times:
Monday September 9, 9:00pm @ Roy Thomson Hall
Tuesday September 10, 2:30pm @ Princess of Wales
Friday September 13, 9:45pm @ Scotiabank Theatre
“I suppose you’re wondering why I called you here today”, Ken Jeong says as he settles into his seat before a room of Journalists today on the rooftop of his über-chic Toronto Hotel. “I’m here today to update you on my Facebook Status: it’s complicated.”.
The youthful-spirited Funnyman’s Career has blossomed in recent years, becoming in his own right a Pop Culture Icon for his Role in The Hangover Franchise as the fearless, volatile and mostly funny, Leslie Chow. His brazen nude scenes forever have been ingrained in the Moviegoing Public’s Psyche, his remarks so funny because well, they’re painfully true for the most part. Jeong is in-town to promote the Finale to the Box Office record-breaking, Golden Globe-winning Franchise, also known affectionately to Fans as The Wolfpack Trilogy. Without a wedding, this Installment has The Wolfpack on a goose chase to find Mr. Chow from Mexico to Las Vegas.
Anyone expecting an alignment between his public and private personas just might be in for a bit of a shock. Jeong is demure and actually v. articulate – an observation I made earlier in the day watching him greet some Fans on a morning stop of his Toronto Press Tour. One Journalist tells him, “I admit I’m having a hard time reconciling Mr. Chow and Ken Jeong!“. Even he agrees with her observation.
Many don’t realize that the Funnyman known also for his work on NBC‘s just-renewed Sitcom Community as Señor Ben Chang, abandoned a flourishing career as a Doctor over ten years ago. “I actually keep in touch with some of my patients. They tell me, ‘I’m just so happy that you have an outlet because you’re so intense and serious most of the time'”, he reveals about his Doctor Days. “I never showed up in Clownsuit. I’m not Patch Adams, that’s for sure.”.
Although maybe bordering inappropriate to make mention about Race, it is undeniable that Asian-American Actors are scarce in Hollywood today. What Jeong has done with his Career as both a Comedian and an Actor has been nothing short of astonishing, paving possibilities for an under-seen type of Face in Film and Television. He admits, “Chow is a Meta-Joke, how he makes fun of the Asian Accent. All along, I was poking fun at Stereotypes and Archetypes in Movies.”. He adds, “Chow is one of those Characters you can go as over-the-top as you want with but still be within the confines of the Character.”.
I ask him about his own personal Comedic Heroes, being an Inspiration to many himself. First and foremost he lists Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and David Letterman. “For some reason they stick out. They’re Geniuses, which I’m not. They have a sense of fearlessness which I admire.”. On his Contemporaries, he pays respect to the likes of Dana Carvey, Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen, pointing-out their endless commitment to scenes. “Zach Galifianakis and I have been friends for over 15 years. I’d say he’s the funniest Actor-in-work right now and that’s not only because we’re friends. When I’m having a bad day, I can just go on Funny or Die and watch Between Two Ferns“, he laughs. “I’ve worked practically with everyone in Comedy. Nobody makes me laugh like him.”.
His praise for Co-Stars isn’t exclusive to just Galifianakis. He raves from a genuine place about Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper also. “I can’t say enough good things about them. They are the three most ego-less diva-free Leads you could work with. We’re low-key and really save it all for the Camera”, he recalls his experience with the Trilogy. “There was a free-flowing of ideas. I felt by the third Movie, I could say anything and had no inhibitions – that is what I’m gonna miss most. This third Movie is the most fun I’ve had making any of The Hangover Movies.”.
Perhaps his most physically-challenging role to date, Jeong reveals that he conquered his greatest fear during the filming of The Hangover Part III. “I can say there’s a point in the Movie where Chow does a thirty-foot Free-Fall Drop with hundreds of gallons of water behind him. I’m massively afraid of heights and worked for six weeks with Stunt Coordinator Jack Gill who week-by-week would desensitize me.”. After a short pause he proclaims, “Physically, that was the greatest day of my Acting Career!”.
Jeong might appear shyer in person than on-screen but he certainly isn’t shy about his deep affections for Chow. In comparing Chow to his Chang Character on Community, he jokes, “Chow would eat Chang in a fight. He lives large. A Villain who can make me laugh is something I’m instinctively drawn to.”.
But is a Spin-off of sorts in-the-cards for our beloved Leslie Chow? “I would love to do that, making sure it was a completely different thing from The Hangover. I have absolute confidence in it.”, says Jeong. “I quit my Dayjob to pursue Imagination and Chow is the widest spectrum of Imagination. I love that Character. He is the one Character I could play for life.”.
Warner Bros. releases The Hangover Part III on May 23, 2013. Fans will savour Chow‘s expanded presence in this emotional and fitting end to the iconic Wolfpack Trilogy.
See my Snaps of Jeong below:
In the meantime, we’ve got an official Signed Photo from Ken Jeong to give away, but only Fans of Mr. Will Wong on Facebook can enter! Details here.
We spotted Jeong out and about earlier. Click here for more on that!
I’ve just returned from my Trip to New York City, capturing the 2013 Met Gala and after being told my Concierge I’d have to borrow a Cart to transport a large package I received, I didn’t know what exactly our Friends at Warner Bros. had in store! After a bit of effort rummaging through some packaging foam, what surfaced was an amazing The Hangover Part III Gift Basket, complete with a T-Shirt, Nachos, Salsa, Sombrero, Goblets and get this, a Giraffe Pinata! Even Billy watched in awe as I opened the Parcel!
See it below:
We’ve also caught wind that one of the Actors from the Franchise just may be coming to Toronto shortly to promote this final installment of The Wolfpack Trilogy! Reuniting Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis, Director/Writer Todd Phillips is sure to bring forward the laughs again as The Wolfpack venture to Las Vegas, only to find themselves in trouble once again.
In case you’ve missed it, here’s the official Trailer:
Warner Bros. releases The Hangover Part III on Friday, May 26, 2013!