One of the most gloriously unsettling sequences in Joker happens right after Arthur Fleck kills three Wall Street punks on the train. Arthur runs to the bathroom in a panic, takes a moment to catch his breath and process what had just happened. Then he starts dancing — Hildur Guonadottir’s chilling score accompanies the scene. It’s a weird sequence that serves as a tiny peephole into the deranged and complicated mind of the soon-to-be Joker. It’s also a scene that further highlights Joaquin Phoenix’s tremendous acting prowess. It wasn’t just a dance, it was an art piece dripping with emotion. In my review I wrote:
Even the music in Joker is used in a unique fashion. Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Han Zimmer-ian score isn’t just deployed to enhance the audience’s experience, they seem to be playing deep inside Arthur’s subconscious. Sometimes, Arthur externalises them by dancing with the graceful flamboyance of a contemporary artiste. They’re art pieces in and of themselves.
But as it turns out, this sequence wasn’t originally a part of the script. Screenplayed posted the scene on Twitter along with commentary from the director of the film, Todd Phillips.
— Screenplayed (@Screenplayed) October 9, 2019
In it, Phillips explains that the original script had Arthur panicking as he came dashing into the bathroom, puking and then staring at the mirror asking himself, “What have I done?” While this could’ve worked just fine, especially since Phoenix is such a terrific performer, it’s nowhere near as interesting as the sequence we eventually got in the film.
Right as they were about to shoot, Phoenix and Phillips agreed that something wasn’t quite right with the way the scene was written — it didn’t feel like something Arthur would do. After about an hour of bouncing around some ideas, Phillips decided to play one of Hildur Guonadottir’s musical scores. The piece inspired Phoenix. Todd Phillips said:
“[Joaquin] just starts doing this dance, and we looked at each other and knew it was the scene. It made sense to us… it’s a little bit of Joker coming out.”
Joker is currently playing in Malaysian cinemas.