“Joker,” the highly anticipated thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix as Gotham City’s titular villain, snagged the Golden Lion — the Venice International Film Festival’s ultimate prize — Saturday night.
While director Todd Phillips was grateful for the honor, he acknowledged that Phoenix’s menacing portrayal of the consummate evildoer deserved all of the credit.
“There is no movie without Joaquin Phoenix,” beamed Phillips on the awards show stage Saturday. “Joaquin is the fiercest and brightest and most open-minded lion I know. Thank you for trusting me with your insane talent.”
The film, slated for an Oct. 4 release, is a prequel to the “Batman” series. It chronicles the devolution of Arthur Fleck, played by Phoenix, an unsuccessful standup comic who becomes a criminal mastermind with a sadistic streak and macabre sense of humor.
“Joker” also stars Robert De Niro as a talk show host who negatively affects Fleck’s life, Zazie Beetz (“Atlanta”) as a potential love interest and “Six Feet Under” matriarch Frances Conroy playing Phoenix’s mother.
Despite “Joker” copping the Golden Lion, Phoenix didn’t go home with the Volpi Cup for Best Actor. That honor went to Italian actor Luca Marinelli for the historical drama “Martin Eden.”
In a surprise, Roman Polanski was awarded the Grand Jury Prize for directing “An Officer and a Spy,” based on the 19th-century Alfred Dreyfus affair.