During the interview, Phoenix mentioned he and the crew “had a good time” making Joker, which gives a different kind of origin story to the famed Batman comic book villain. Kimmel responded by revealing an outtake reel he claimed to have received from director Todd Phillips.
The reel, which Phoenix’s publicist told EW “was a joke outtake,” showed Phoenix in character on set and cussing out a cinematographer named Larry for whispering and seemingly calling him Cher. (Lawrence Sher is the credited cinematographer on the film who often goes by Larry.)
“The constant whispering, just shut the [bleep] up, dude,” Phoenix is shown saying. “I’m trying to find something real.”
Elsewhere, he’s heard saying, “I know you started the [bleep] Cher thing, Larry. [Bleep] making fun of me. Like I’m a [bleep] diva. It’s not even an insult. Cher, really? Singer, actor, dancer, fashion icon — how’s that a [bleep] insult?”
No other context for the joke outtakes were provided, but Phoenix pulled a similar stunt during his infamously whacky David Letterman interview in 2009. (Phoenix returned to Letterman’s show a year later to apologize and explain his behavior was part of a character that was then used in the film I’m Still Here.) Joker does deal with exaggerated representations in the late-night comedy space.
Phoenix, really selling the ruse, appeared flustered after Kimmel screened the reel. “This is so embarrassing,” the actor said.
“Sometimes movies get intense ’cause you’re a lot of people in a small space and you’re trying to find something, so it can feel intense,” he said. “But, um, that was supposed to be private. I’m a little embarrassed and I’m sorry about that.”
Phoenix then said he should “offer a public apology to Larry” and teased his publicist would offer a formal statement in the morning.
Earlier in the interview, Kimmel and Phoenix talked about the actor’s dancing in the film — something that’s become memes involving Tobey Maguire’s dancing Spider-Man from Spider-Man 3 — and his family’s reaction to seeing the movie.
On the former, Phoenix said his moves were a product of him and Phillips “just trying to figure out what to do with that scene and he started playing that music [from the score]… We wanted something that illustrated this transformation into Joker that was nonverbal and that’s what we came up with.”
On the latter, he mentioned, “My sisters got into a heated discussion about what the movie was about, what it meant, what was real, what wasn’t. It was really fun to watch that. I think they were really engaged in a way that they haven’t been with other movies of mine. They haven’t seen my other movies, but they wouldn’t have been as engaged if they had.”