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Joaquin Phoenix, who is set to star as the Batman comics villain the Joker in Todd Phillips’ upcoming stand-alone movie, on Saturday dismissed speculation that he had come out of retirement.
“I didn’t work for a while because there was nothing I was really interested in,” Pheonix told a press conference at the Toronto International Film Festival for The Sisters Brothers, which is screening at the fest.
“And then there were four projects that I was interested in. There wasn’t any grand design. It just worked out that way,” he added. After winning the best actor award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival for Lynne Ramsey’s You Were Never Really Here, Pheonix also starred in Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.
In The Sisters Brothers, Pheonix and John C. Reilly play the the titular duo in a Western genre pic from French auteur Jacques Audiard. Reilly and Phoenix are hired assassins searching for Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), who has been accused of stealing from their employer as they travel through Gold Rush-era San Francisco and the Wild West.
Reilly said he was drawn to his own character, and the one played by Pheonix, because both are far smarter than they appear at first glance. “Even though they look like these filthy brutes, murderers for a living, they’re really well-educated and have these somewhat intellectual conversations together,” he told the presser.
“They use that to their advantage, of not to judging a book by its cover, to have the jump on people, because people assume they are less intelligent than they are, kind of like Joaquin and I,” Reilly added, as Phoenix half-grimaced at his side.
Ahmed said a movie set in Gold Rush-era San Francisco echoes with Silicon Valley today. “It was an idealistic moment with lots of people trying to set up communes. It was communism before communism,” he explained.
“There’s a different kind of Gold Rush happening, and these idealistic people, where there’s Silicon Valley saying, ‘We can save the world and make a better tomorrow with our technology,'” Ahmed insisted.
The Toronto Film Festival runs through Sept. 16.
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