In the least surprising win of the evening, Joaquin Phoenix was named Best Actor in a Leading Role for Joker. Todd Phillips’s origin story about Batman’s archenemy has been nominated in a record 11 categories, but this is one award that was a cinch ever since Joker was premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2019, where it won the top honour, the Golden Lion.
The competition was strong: Antonio Banderas played a filmmaker revisiting his past in Pedro Almodovar’s Spanish-language Pain and Glory; Leonardo DiCaprio was fading movie actor Rick Dalton in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Adam Driver was a theatre director going through a divorce in Marriage Story, and Jonathon Pryce portrayed the future Pope Francis in The Two Popes.
This is the second Oscar for an actor playing the clown prince of crime. Heath Ledger was awarded a posthumous Oscar for an Actor in a Supporting Role for his version of Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in 2009.
Phoenix has previously been nominated twice for Best Actor – for the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line (2006) and The Master (2013). His portrayal of Batman’s antagonist as a mentally disturbed man who is a product of urban squalor, inequality and domestic neglect has bagged him numerous awards, including at the BAFTAs, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild.
Apart from garnering critical acclaim, Joker has been a global blockbuster, earning over $1 billion despite an adults-only rating. The movie will be re-released in India by producer and distributor Warner Bros on February 14.