Rewrites on film scripts right before and sometimes even during production of the movie are not all that unusual in Hollywood. But in the case of the upcoming Joker, those overhauls may have been more extensive than usual.
According to actress Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2), who appears in Joker as single mom (and possible Joker romantic interest) Sophie Dumond, the members of the cast and co-writer/director Todd Phillips almost seemed to be making the movie up as they went.
Asked in an interview with MTV News for details on the film, Beetz said, "I can't say anything. It's gritty and dark ... I mean, I haven't seen a cut or anything. Script was great. We rewrote the whole thing while we were shooting it. Literally, we would go into Todd's trailer and write the scene for the night and then do it. ... During hair and makeup we'd memorize those lines and then do them, and then we'd reshoot that three weeks later."
At one point, Armie Hammer, who was being interviewed alongside Beetz at the Sundance Film Festival for their new horror film Wounds, interjected, "Man, the writer of that script is going to be so pissed to hear you say that," to which Beetz quickly replied, "I mean, he was there too. He was helping out."
Beetz did add that part of the reason for the short turnaround time between shooting the scenes and then redoing them -- since reshoots normally occur after principal photography is completed -- was the physical transformation that title star Joaquin Phoenix had undergone for the role: "We had to do everything then because Joaquin had lost so much weight. We couldn't do reshoots later on, so we were figuring it out."
So because Phoenix -- who is known for immersing himself deeply into whatever character he plays -- had dropped so much weight to play the Clown Prince of Crime that it was highly unlikely the production could be reconvened for reshoots months later and have him look the same; thus the need to rewrite and reshoot the movie on the go.
What this means for the final product, of course, remains to be seen. On the one hand, Todd Phillips is a skilled filmmaker working with a superb cast (Phoenix, Beetz, Robert De Niro, Bill Camp, Frances Conroy, Shea Whigham, and others) and the full resources of Warner Bros. Pictures. On the other hand, the last comic book movie that was literally written day by day on the set (that we know of) was Iron Man 2 ... and that's not exactly one of Marvel Studios' shining moments.
We'll find out how this all worked out -- and if Joker has the last laugh -- when the movie opens on Oct. 4.