Joaquin Phoenix ‘Joker’ Footage Debuts at CinemaCon

By Rebecca Rubin

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – The Clown Prince of Crime made his Vegas debut.

The crowd of exhibitors at , the annual trade show convention currently unfolding at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, got a first look at footage of Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker.” It looks gritty and very, very, very dark.

The footage shows Phoenix as a failed stand-up slowly losing touch with reality. At one point he stares into a dressing room mirror and slowly pushes his mouth into a macabre grin. While talking to a therapist, Phoenix’s character says “my mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face.” The footage which looks much more grimy than the typical comic book movie, unspooled as Jimmy Durante sang “Smile,” the optimistic lyrics undercutting scenes of an urban hell-scape.

At one point, Phoenix gets assaulted by muggers on a subway, at another he dances in tighty whities in a derelict apartment, apparently untethered from reality. Based on the short look, director Todd Phillips appears to be going for a Scorsese-esque vibe.

“Is it just me,” the muses, “Or is it getting crazier out there?”

The upcoming superhero movie is a standalone film, separate from the DC Universe films that see Jared Leto playing the supervillain. “Joker” looks like a return to DC’s darker days that put the spotlight on a raspy-voiced Batman. More recent titles like “Aquaman” and “Shazam” deviated from that formula, taking a less intense approach to the genre.

“It’s a tragedy,” Phillips told exhibitors of ‘Joker.’ In the trailer, Phoenix’s Joker had a different take.

“I used to think that my life was a tragedy but now I realize it’s a comedy,” he says.

Phillips added, “I don’t have a lot to say about the film because it’s still taking shape. And I want it to be a surprise.”

Warner Bros.’ DC Universe has a slew of films in the works, including Cathy Yan’s “Birds of Prey,” a “Suicide Squad” spinoff with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn; Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman: 1984” starring Gal Gadot; Matt Reeves’ “The Batman;” and James Gunn’s “Suicide Squad 2.”

“Joker” debuts Oct. 4. The footage debuted as part of Warner Bros.’ presentation to exhibitors as part of its upcoming slate. The studio also has “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu,” “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” “It: Chapter 2,” and “The Goldfinch” on deck for 2019.