Didn't imagine smooth sailing for 'Joker', says Phoenix

US actor Joaquin Phoenix (AFP Photo)

Joaquin Phoenix says he always knew "Joker", the Todd Phillips-directed 'character study' of iconic DC villain, won't be having a smooth run as he believes it is a "difficult" film to process.

His comments come amidst a troubling press tour with the actor facing tough questions regarding the extreme themes of the film, which has been rated R for "strong bloody violence, disturbing behaviour, language, and brief sexual images".

Along with sharp response to the movie's treatment, there is a strong Oscar buzz for Phoenix's masterful portrayal of a lonely man who turns to violence.

In a profile interview with Vanity Fair, the 44-year-old actor said he understands the "strong reaction" the film has received.

"I didn't imagine that it would be smooth sailing. It's a difficult film. In some ways, it's good that people are having a strong reaction to it," he said.

Phoenix maintained he wanted the audiences to either "sympathise or empathise" with The Joker.

"It's like because that's what we have to do. It's so easy for us to -- we want the simple answers, we want to vilify people. It allows us to feel good if we can identify that as evil. 'Well, I'm not racist 'cause I don't have a Confederate flag or go with this protest.'

"It allows us to feel that way, but that's not healthy because we're not really examining our inherent racism that most white people have, certainly. Or whatever it may be," the actor said.

Phoenix believes the viewers are capable of taking the good of the character with the bad.

"Whatever issues you may have. It's too easy for us and I felt like, yeah, we should explore this villain. This malevolent person. There's no real communication and to me that's the value of this. I think that we are capable as an audience to see both of those things simultaneously and experience them and value them," he added.

"Joker" also features Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz and Brian Tyree Henry.

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