Joaquin Phoenix receives the TIFF Tribute Actor Award during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival TIFF Tribute Gala at The Fairmont Royal York Hotel on September 09, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for TIFF/AFP

TORONTO, – Joaquin Phoenix said his critically acclaimed role in “Joker” was “one of the greatest experiences of my career,” as the dark and ambitious comic book adaptation sent Toronto’s film festival into a frenzy Monday.

Fresh from scooping Venice’s prestigious Golden Lion prize for best film on Saturday, the “Joker” premiere was the hottest ticket in town at North America’s biggest film festival.

“It seemed limitless, in how you could interpret the character and what you could do with it — it didn’t feel like there were any rules,” said Phoenix of playing the diabolical super-villain.

The film — and Phoenix’s performance — have already drawn breathless Oscar predictions and controversy in equal measure.

Batman’s traditional nemesis has been famously played by the likes of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, but the “Gladiator” star’s interpretation is arguably the most radical yet.

Hailed as “sensational” and “unnerving” by some critics, it has raised concern for others that its depiction of mental illness and violence could prove “incendiary.”

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“There was something that was drawing me towards it, and it just evolved as we worked together,” he told the gala audience in a discussion alongside director Todd Phillips.

“It started becoming something more than I could have anticipated and it was one of the greatest experiences of my career.”

Phoenix also paid tribute to his late brother River Phoenix, telling a separate festival prize-giving gala how River had made him watch Robert De Niro’s “Raging Bull” as a teenager and told him he was going to be an actor.

“He didn’t ask me, he told me. And I am indebted to him for that because acting has given me such an incredible life,” he said.

River, who initially overshadowed his younger brother and played the young Indiana Jones in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” died aged 23 of a drug overdose, with the recording of Joaquin’s desperate call for an ambulance sold to the media.

Phoenix was later joined on the red carpet for “Joker” by co-star De Niro. (AFP)



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