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Joker director reveals the fate of Zazie Beetz's character

Did he, or didn't he?

Joker is a film that challenges its audience to distinguish between fantasy and reality, and the task is never more harrowing than in the final interaction between Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) and his would-be girlfriend Sophie (Zazie Beetz). It's particularly maddening because it's impossible to know for sure what went down — unless you have a voice from on high to clue you in. Please be advised that we'll be getting into massive spoilers for Joker.

The film's director Todd Phillips recently went on record as to whether or not Arthur actually killed Sophie near the film's end, which we'll get to in just a moment. First, though, a little refresher, because context is absolutely key here.

In the movie, failed comedian Arthur slowly transforms into the amoral, murderous Clown Prince of Crime after a series of humiliations, rejections, and outright physical beatings. It seems that the only thing that may be helping him cling to sanity is his burgeoning relationship with his kind, pretty neighbor Sophie, one of the only people in his life who seems to accept him for the extremely odd, troubled man he is.

The final straw comes when Arthur discovers a letter from his extremely ill, unstable mother Penny which indicates that he is the illegitimate son of billionaire Thomas Wayne, who is in the thick of Gotham City's mayoral race. After a confrontation with Wayne (who tells Arthur in no uncertain terms that his mother is delusional), Arthur pays a visit to Penny — a visit that turns shockingly deadly, as Arthur kills his mother and flees the scene.

His next stop is Sophie's apartment, and when he arrives, it becomes clear that the relationship has all been in Arthur's head. Sophie recognizes him as nothing more than her neighbor, and she insists that he leave. He does — but given his state of mind, his extremely recent matricidal activities, and the fact that Sophie is never seen again, fans have speculated that Arthur must have done the poor girl in.

Joker's cinematographer Lawrence Sher has weighed in on whether or not Arthur killed Sophie in the past, and now, Phillips has confirmed Sher's take on the situation. Not only is there a definitive answer, but it turns out that a scene was cut from the film which would have confirmed Sophie's fate.

Did Arthur really kill Sophie in Joker?

The answer: no, Arthur did not kill Sophie. The simple reason: even in his twisted mind, it wouldn't have made sense.

Sher alluded to this when he made his remarks to Slashfilm late last month. "His relationship to Sophie is a fantasy to him," Sher explained. "Some people have asked me, 'Was she killed?' [Phillips] makes it clear she wasn't killed. Arthur is killing people who've wronged him in a certain way, and Sophie never wronged him."

Phillips expanded on this during a more recent conversation with IndieWire. "He doesn't kill her, definitively," the director said. "As the filmmaker and the writer I am saying he doesn't kill her. We like the idea that it's almost like a litmus test for the audience to say, 'How crazy is he?' And most people that I've spoken to think he didn't kill her because they understand the idea that he's only killed people that did him wrong... She had nothing to do with [anything]. Most people understood that, even as a villain, he was living by a certain code... Of course he didn't kill this woman down the hall."

Phillips went on to describe a short deleted scene which was intercut with Arthur's appearance on Murray Franklin's (Robert De Niro) talk show. In it, Sophie was seen at home, watching the proceedings on television with growing horror; while the scene would have unambiguously confirmed that Arthur did indeed leave Sophie alive and well, it was cut for a pretty darn good reason.

"We made a choice in the film to only show everything from [Arthur's] perspective," Phillips said. "We cut out a great scene with Marc Maron and... De Niro that didn't involve [Arthur, for that reason]. Everything was being told through his point of view and perspective, so to suddenly cut to this woman, it would just literally [have changed] the DNA of the film."

Well, that certainly makes perfect sense. We can't help but think, however, that the side effect of leaving Sophie's fate up in the air may have cemented that scene's fate. Joker is a film that is absolutely meant to be open to multiple interpretations, and the question of whether Arthur murdered his fantasy love interest is one of the film's great mysteries upon first viewing.

That mystery, though, has now been solved. We wouldn't expect Phillips to shed much light on any more of Joker's scintillating questions, however — up to and including whether or not any of the movie's events actually happened, or whether they all took place in Arthur's troubled mind, as many fans have speculated. Sure, we now know that Sophie is safe at the film's end... unless, of course, she never existed at all. With a movie like Joker, answers have a way of just leading to more questions.