The Pestle


Ep 91: “Joker”

November 05, 2019

We cackle through Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker” and discuss:

  • cinematography;
  • story;
  • performances;
  • and other such stuff and things and stuff.

Remorse for what? You people have done everything in the world to me. Doesn’t that give me equal right? – Charles Manson

Notes & References:
Denis Villeneuve IMDB

Short Spotlight:

This Week’s Recommendations:


  1. Scott Graham says:

    Great episode for one of the more important films of our generation! The one thing I would have liked to hear was the origin of the film score. Hildur Guðnadóttir wrote the entire score prior to any filming. She was given the script and maybe a general direction but that’s it. And the scene in the bathroom after jokers first killings was directly influenced by her music. They weren’t exactly sure what to do for that scene so the director just started playing Joaquin the music and he just started hypnotically moving in what would later become the signature Tai-Chi like dance movements. Chills. Anyway, great stuff per usual.

    1. wes says:

      Whaaaat! That’s an awesome story I hadn’t heard! So damn cool to let the music inspire a scene instead of the inverse, so rare and probably rarely as effective in adding to the story.

  2. Joe Howes says:

    Loved this episode and loved the analysis!

    Just wanted to add that one very cool thing about the craft of acting is that it’s your job to write everything that is not on the page. One of my coaches would talk about the less text you have to work with, the more important it is for you to “write the rest”. For commercial auditions she’d have us think about why our character wants this cookie like it’s the most important thing in the world, what we were doing before we entered frame, and what will we do after we exit. Really interesting exercise and really cooling seeing what other actors come up with in that space.

    I’m certain the reason Ledger’s Joker was so successful in spite of having so little depth in text is that Ledger himself wrote all that backstory as part of his performance prep, and then he played in it like the badass he was. I’m sure he would’ve worked with Nolan on it, but writing the world outside the lines and doing the private work is one of the absolute joys of acting. On your own, playing in the world you’ve made and letting the performance you practice in your living room also breathe new unexpected life into that world. Watching the great actors play that on screen is amazing.

    So yeah it’s cool to know that Ledger’s Joker role would’ve had zero depth had he just “worked up a funny way of talking and some physicality”. Dude put in some serious craft!

    Thanks for another great episode guys!

    1. wes says:

      Dude, I love this!! I haven’t heard of that exercise about the cookie, such a cool idea. Having such a simple action and seeing how a lot of people approach it is a great way to show that one character can have limitless ways to process and demonstrate how their inner world. Extrapolating that to an entire character really says a lot about how much an actor affects a performance and the story as a whole. Talking props indeed, hmph.

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