Joaquin Phoenix has some explaining to do.
The actor, who stars as the Batman super-villain in the upcoming Joker, stopped by Tuesday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! to promote the film when host Jimmy Kimmel surprised him with an outtake from filming. The clip shows Phoenix in character while shooting the film, complete with clown makeup and tangled long hair.
“The constant whispering, just shut the f— up dude. I’m trying to like find something real,” Phoenix says in the clip, talking to a person off-screen. “F— dude. Sorry. It’s not a big deal. It’s not a big deal. Yeah, it kinda is. F—. I know you started the f—- Cher thing, Larry. F— making fun of me. Like I’m a f—- diva. It’s not even an insult. Cher, really? Singer, actor, dancer, fashion icon — how’s that a f—-insult? F—-. I can’t do this, man.”
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Phoenix then seemed seemed surprised by the clip and apologized to the audience for his words.
“Um, this is so embarrassing. Look, sometimes movies get intense, because you’re a lot of people in a small space and you’re trying to find something,” he said, looking uncomfortable. “So it can feel intense. But um, that was supposed to be private. I’m a little embarrassed, I’m sorry about that. Sorry you guys had to see that.”
Joker has been plagued with controversy after starting out strong with a Golden Lion award win at its Venice Film Festival debut last month. The movie has since been criticized for showing sympathy to its murderous titular super-villain, and Phoenix even walked out of a recent interview when asked about the violence in the film.
In an interview with U.K.’s The Telegraph, journalist Robbie Collin asked Phoenix if he was worried the movie might “perversely end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it’s about, with potentially tragic results.”
“Why? Why would you…? No, no,” Phoenix said before leaving the room, according to Collin.
The Telegraph reports Phoenix left the interview for an hour as he talked to a press agent with Warner Bros., the studio behind the Todd Phillips-directed film. The outlet reports the actor returned and explained he panicked because he did not consider the question.
The movie has also faced criticism from victims of mass shootings.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, family members of those killed in the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in 2012 sent Warner Bros. a letter about their concerns as the movie’s October 4 release date approaches.
“We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe,” the letter reads.
Though the group doesn’t propose pulling the movie’s release, it does ask the studio behind the film to “use your political clout and leverage in Congress to actively lobby for gun reform. Keeping everyone safe should be a top corporate priority for Warner Brothers.”
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The studio has since released a statement, according to Indiewire. “Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies,” it reads. “Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic. At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”
Joker hits theaters Friday.