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Joker Makeup Team Totally Exposes Joaquin Phoenix

Is Joaquin Phoenix a difficult actor? Does the Joker laugh a lot?

A presentation by the makeup crew for the smash hit film Joker which was screened for Oscar voters focused heavily on the trials and tribulations of said crew in dealing with their star. Joker is one of ten films being considered for a Best Makeup and Hairstyling statue (via Next Best Picture).

While the short film did go into a fair amount of detail in chronicling the gradual transformation of Phoenix's character Arthur Fleck into the Clown Prince of Crime, the bulk of it seemed to be making the case that the flick's makeup artists should be awarded an Oscar simply for showing up to work every day, so uncooperative was Phoenix. (One of said crew, in fact, stopped showing up, which we'll get to in a moment.) 

There were no prosthetics used in creating Fleck's look, and very little CGI; the only cited instance of its use was in touching up Fleck's bloody smile near the film's conclusion. No, most of the character's look was achieved in the makeup chair — when the crew could actually get Phoenix into it, that is.

Joaquin Phoenix gave Joker's makeup crew trouble

According to the short, Phoenix had been keen to do all of his makeup and hairstyling himself, due to a slight aversion to being touched with the frequency required to work on him. Apparently, the crew was able to work out a compromise by which they would complete their work as quickly as possible, but there was yet another problem: Phoenix's gnawing hunger.

The actor famously lost over 50 pounds for the role of Fleck, and while on set, he was almost always hungry. Now, if you're anything like us, you know that being hungry all the time leads to irritability, which can then lead to a generally uncooperative disposition. We are not famously mercurial actors, and neither (we assume) are you, so you can probably just take the mental state you're picturing and multiply it by a factor of 20 or so.

While in the middle of the makeup and hair dyeing process, Phoenix would be prone to just up and walking out — and it wasn't just for a quick stroll around the set. The crew would often have a tough time finding him to do touch-ups for the next scene, which could cause continuity problems.

This became such an issue that the crew member in charge of continuity (who was not named in the presentation) threw up their hands and quit in the middle of the production. Since Joker didn't arrive in theaters fraught with continuity errors, we can only assume that director Todd Phillips was able to replace the departed crew member with somebody possessed of infinite patience.

How did Joker's makeup crew manage to wrangle Joaquin Phoenix?

Eventually, the crew settled on a no-brainer of a method for keeping Phoenix seated while they did their jobs: bribing him with food. Specifically, they offered him a steady stream of crackers — which was apparently pretty much all he was able to eat — just to keep his butt in the chair.

We know what you're thinking: this is how one goes about getting a hyperactive toddler to sit still, not a 45-year old actor. To this, we reply: hey, whatever works. Joaquin Phoenix might not be the easiest to work with, but there's a reason that every director in Hollywood still wants to work with him — he's freaking brilliant, and his flighty nature is simply part of the price one must pay for getting all of that brilliance on the screen.

By the way, the presentation went over quite well with the Oscar voters. According to NBP, the whole "difficult but amazing actor" angle really seemed to strike a chord, and the audience was said to have a bunch of questions once the screening was over. Apparently, not even one of those questions had to do with whether, in any of the half-dozen or so scenes in Joker in which Arthur gets the crap kicked out of him, his assailants were depicted by makeup artists.