How Joker Homages Jack Nicholson’s Version Of The Character

Joker has been played by the best male actors of their generations. One of them is definitely Jack Nicholson’s version in Tim Burton’s Batman Begins. So it makes sense that he would be given an homage in Todd Phillips’s Joker movie. But there is no grandiose homage, instead it is a very subtle one.
WARNING: Spoilers for Joker

Joker evokes classic movies like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy more than traditionally comic book movies like Aquaman or Avengers: Endgame. Joker is a psychological character study of Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix, who is an aspiring comedian but slowly spirals into madness. Joker is a genuinely chilling movie but it is also one which has smashed the box office records as well. It has a nod to Jack Nicholson’s Joker which makes it even more so.

Joker’s Connection To Jack Nicholson’s Joker

Jack Nicholson as joker in Batman Begins. Pic courtesy:
Jack Nicholson as joker in Batman Begins. Pic courtesy:

There is a very specific nod to Nicholson in the third act of the movie. When Arthur awaits for his long aspired appearance in Murray Franklin’s show, he is mentally preparing himself to perform his “ultimate joke”. There you can see an image being projected behind him. The image is that of the idolized talk show host played by Robert de Niro. De Niro serves both as an antagonizing as well as an inspirational force in Arthur’s life. Later Arthur realizes that Murray tends to further humiliate him which sends him spiralling into madness. As such it makes sense for Arthur to have this version looming over him. Joker as a character is dark to say the least. The movie itself was feared to spark murders and so police were put in the theatres.

But what brings Jack Nicholson to mind is the grin on the face of the talk show host. It bears an uncanny resemblance to Nicholson’s Joker from Tim Burton’s 1989 version of Batman. The whole artwork gives off a very Joker-esque vibe right down to the hair and even the wrinkles around the eyes.

Joker Homages Other Versions Of Joker

Heath Ledger's performance as Joker in The Dark Knight has been paid an homage in Joker. Pic courtesy:
Heath Ledger’s performance as Joker in The Dark Knight has been paid an homage in Joker. Pic courtesy:

Apart from this, Joker shows connections to various other characters. For example, Robert De Niro who plays the talk show host has portrayed a lot of psychotic characters over the years and the movie parallels The King of Comedy very blatantly. This is not to say that Joaquin Phoenix hasn’t given his all to the movie. Phillips has said that things got so intense that Phoenix had to walk off set.

Apart from the above, there are many other connections like the one played by Oscar winner Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. There is a moment in the movie where Phoenix puts on a clown mask even though he is already wearing face paint. This is similar to Ledger’s version when he goes to commit the bank heist. Also, Arthur’s dance right on the city steps is pretty similar to another one of Ledger’s performance in 10 Things I Hate About You. Phillips has admitted that he is a fan of the previous Jokers so it is to be expected that there will be homages.

Do you have a favourite version of the Joker? Do you think that you are you right? check the video below to find out:

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