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Joaquin Phoenix Reveals Why He Turned Down a Major Role in a Marvel Film

Gettyimages | Rachel Luna
By Zachary Holt

Joaquin Phoenix has always been an actor who plays to the beat of his own drum, carefully deciding on which roles fit him and what he's looking for in his career. This is despite starring in some of the biggest blockbusters to date including Gladiator, Walk the Line, I'm Still Here, and most recently, Joker.

But for Phoenix, it's not about being a star in a hugely successful Hollywood film. It simply comes down to whether that's what he feels like is right at the right moment. In fact, the actor almost has a predilection for indie films, as he's been taking roles in them for years over some of the bigger opportunities, including for Marvel.

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Phoenix Almost Didn't Take the Role of Arthur Fleck in Joker

Gettyimages | Rachel Luna

Even his participation in Joker didn't happen, ironically. At the time that the actor was reading the script and speaking with director, Todd Phillips, he didn't feel as though he could personally fulfill what Phillips was looking for in the role of Arthur Fleck for Joker.

Phillips, of course, was pursuant of Phoenix, ad nauseum, seeing that the two could make it work and make it work well. He single-handedly convinced the actor to give it a shot. Well, the rest is history, as they say, as the film swept the award season with some of the most prestigious and top recognitions.

Phoenix Felt 'Frustrated' Due to Struggles in Finding Character Foundation

Gettyimages | Rich Fury

Still, the notion that the film almost never starred Phoenix is the main point here. The actor is very strategic when it comes to films he will take roles in, and not because he's difficult, but because it's important for him to feel right about it.

Speaking to USA Today about his struggles with finding the right foundation for the character in Fleck, Phoenix said, "When we were prepping for [Joker], I felt very frustrated because I couldn’t lock on anything that felt like a foundation for the character. And at some point, I realized that was the (expletive) point. He was unstable," he said.

The Actor Turns Down Role of 'Doctor Strange' in Marvel Franchise Film

Gettyimages | Kevin Mazur

Phoenix continued to share that he has to feel right about a role, no matter how successful previous installments have been. "It’s shaky ground as an actor. I enjoy not knowing precisely what a character may do, but you want to have like a couple of moments that you feel solid about. And that never really happened. We just became very comfortable with not knowing," he explained.

This brings us to the Marvel role that Phoenix turned down, even though the franchise has proven highly successful over the years. The role was for the film, Doctor Strange. The actor simply didn't feel comfortable in what was being asked of him, not only in the sense of portraying a character but other demands, as well. Ultimately, the role went to Benedict Cumberbatch.

'There Were Too Many Requirements That Went Against My Instincts for Character'

Gettyimages | Rachel Luna

"There were too many requirements that went against my instincts for character. I’ve been spoiled," he candidly shared about turning down the Marvel role. "I’ve never had to make those compromises. I’ve not met a director yet with one of those films where we go through the script, they say: ‘You know what, f*** this set-piece, let’s focus on the character!’ I understand, but it’s best I don’t do it."

Phoenix has no regrets, though. "I think they make some great, fun movies. There’s nothing wrong," the actor said. "I’m not a snob and I’m totally fine with… I enjoy those movies sometimes, and I think they keep the f****** industry going in some ways, so I don’t have a problem with it at all."

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