How Did Joaquin Phoenix Lose Weight For “Joker”?

Joaquin Phoenix Before and After Weight Loss

His hard work is rewarded with an Academy Award.

Joaquin Phoenix is an actor who is most recognized for portraying dark and unorthodox characters in indie cinema. He has won an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Grammy Award, and two Golden Globe Awards, among others, and was voted one of the finest performers of the twenty-first century by The New York Times in 2020.
Photo of the Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Joaquin likewise has a reputation for being one of the most dedicated actors. While losing weight is not always necessary for a film role, many actors go beyond the lengths in order to strengthen their craft. A perfect example is how he lost a substantial amount of weight for the role of “Joker.”

A good film, as we all know, is only as good as its actors. For an actor or actress to create a part that will be remembered for decades, it requires years of hard effort and commitment. Joaquin’s hard work comes off in the shape of an Oscar award and a performance that will be scrutinized for years.

Joaquin Phoenix's Weight Loss Tricks

The main keys to Joaquin’s successful weight loss:

  • He shed pounds before filming “Joker”
  • He followed a strict diet, eating an apple a day, lettuce, and steamed green beans
  • He collaborated with a professional trainer to lose weight safely

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Before the production of "Joker," what did Joaquin Phoenix do?

Photo of the Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Before production began, Todd Phillips, the writer, and director, visited Joaquin’s home numerous times, addressing his innumerable questions about the role and attempting to win him over through sheer perseverance.

In an interview with The New York Times, Todd said: “I asked him to come over and audition me for it. It wasn’t an easy decision, but he kept saying, ‘Let’s just be bold. Let’s do something.'”

“I kept waiting for him to just say, ‘O.K., I’m in,’ And he never did that. You just never get a yes. All you get is more questions.”

During the months Joaquin spent getting into character before filming, the two had more constructive disputes. To provide justice and play the part of his character, it was agreed that he needed to “look hungry and unhealthy,” but the actor, who had downsized for previous roles, didn’t want to go through the process of losing weight again.

“It’s a horrible way to live,” Joaquin explained his side. “I think he should be kind of heavy. Todd was like, ‘I think you should do the real thin person.’”

How did Joaquin Phoenix lose weight before the shooting started?

Photo of the Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Todd disclosed Joaquin’s insane diet to reduce weight on the Blu-ray for Joker. He stated: “It was already like June, and he hadn’t started [losing weight], and we start shooting in September. And he’s like, 180 pounds.”

“He wasn’t fat, but we’re talking about getting to 125 pounds. And he goes, ‘I got it, I got it.’ I go, ‘You know we can hire a guy. I got this thing, this woman who’s a nutritionist, you might wanna…’ ‘No, no, that’s not how I do it.’ I go, ‘How do you do it? ’ He goes, ‘I just stop eating, and I starve myself.’ He just ate an apple a day for the whole summer.”

For his part, Joaquin clarified in a statement to Access Hollywood that it wasn’t just an apple a day, but with lettuce and steamed green beans as well.

The actor further revealed that he collaborated extensively with a professional in order to drop weight safely, saying, “It’s something I’ve done before, and you work with a doctor regimented and overseen and safe.”

When it comes to weaknesses, Joaquin has one, and it’s the pretzels Todd always kept on hand, which doesn’t help him lose weight for the job: “Todd did have these f–king pretzels that I love. And he’d just have bags of them in his office! And that was difficult.”

However, like any other, the actor’s entire weight loss journey also took a toll on his health, to the point where even walking the stairs requires 30 seconds of contemplation.

“In the beginning, you’re exhausted,” he acknowledged in a statement obtained by Insider. “You look at a flight of stairs, and it takes like 30 seconds. You have to talk yourself into it and say, ‘I can do this, I know I can do this.'”

What did Joaquin realize when he had the body he needed for the role in the movie?

Photo of the Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown, New Zealand.
Joaquin Phoenix has received a lot of accolades for his transformational performance as the Joker in the film. Of course, after obtaining the appropriate weight for the role, there will undoubtedly be some realizations.

He described his experience to the Associated Press, noting, “Once you reach the target weight, everything changes. Like so much of what’s difficult is waking up every day and being obsessed over like 0.3 pounds. Right? And you really develop like a disorder.”

“I mean, it’s wild. But I think the interesting thing for me is what I had expected and anticipated with the weight loss was these feelings of dissatisfaction, hunger, a certain kind of vulnerability, and a weakness.”

“But what I didn’t anticipate was this feeling of kind of fluidity that I felt physically. I felt like I could move my body in ways that I hadn’t been able to before. And I think that really lent itself to some of the physical movement that started to emerge as an important part of the character,” he added.

Aside from his weight loss journey, the intricacy of the character, according to Joaquin, ultimately makes the film challenging to nail down.

“It’s not an easy movie. And it’s unsettling and uncomfortable at times. But there are other times where I think you feel ecstatic,” he continued. 

“It’s not always enjoyable, but it makes you feel– a really strong, emotional reaction. I think that’s what I look for in a film, certainly as an actor and I think as an audience member as well.”

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