‘Joker’ Actor Will Never Work With James Cameron, Reveals “Ridiculous” Standards

in Avatar, Entertainment, Movies & TV

Joaquin Phoenix as Joker dancing on the steps

Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

James Cameron is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Lady Gaga and Joaquin Phoenix in Joker: Folie à Deux
Credit: DC Studios/Warner Bros. Discovery

Related: James Cameron Accused of Copying Beloved Franchise After Plot of ‘Avatar 3’ Revealed

2019’s Joker directed by Todd Phillips, co-written with Scott Silver, and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the eponymous Gotham City “Clown Prince of Crime”, Joker/Arthur Fleck, originating from the DC Comic character from the “Batman” rogues’ gallery — managed to clinch Phoenix Best Actor in 2020 (with Best Original Score going to Hildur Guðnadóttir).

The franchise is back on everyone’s minds with the recent Joker sequel announcement regarding Joker: Folie à Deux, coming 4 October 2024 to cinemas. The Joker movie was originally meant to function as a standalone original film outside of the regular DC Universe (now headed by James Gunn and Peter Safran, but its massive box office success cemented a Joker 2 release date. The much-anticipated Joker sequel also stars Lady Gaga, almost definitely as Harley Quinn (and Catherine Keener and Brendan Gleeson in currently undisclosed roles), while first Joker director Todd Phillips returns to the role. The first film starred Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin, Zazie Beetz as Sophie Dumond, and Frances Conroy as Penny Fleck, Brett Cullen as Thomas Wayne, Douglas Hodge as Alfred Pennyworth, and Marc Maron as Gene Ulfland.

Now, it’s come to light that this Joker actor has a bone to pick with bigshot Hollywood director — the Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009) creator, James Cameron.

James Cameron filming Avatar: The Way of Water in front of pool
Credit: James Cameron, Entertainment

It seems the Avatar franchise creator isn’t everyone’s favorite to work with.

Speaking to Josh Horowitz of the Happy Sad Confused Podcast, comedian and actor Marc Maron, who played Gene Ulfnar in the Joker film opposite Robert De Niro, answers an inquiry into his Avatar audition with big-time director James Cameron. Maron describes the experience, saying “that was ridiculous”, and “why would I even want that job, number one?”. Proceeding to explain his experience, Maron recalls:

You drive out to like… Long Beach. Where he uh, owns Long Beach. And, you know, look, he’s not a bad guy… I don’t think. I don’t know.

Gene Ulfland (Marc Maron) (left), Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) (right) in Joker (2019)
Credit: Warner Bros.

Marc Maron recounts being asked to read for the part of a “doctor or scientist who drank” — which turns out to be the role of Dr. Ian Garvin, eventually played by New Zealander Jemaine Clement (yes, of Moana (2016) “Shiny” fame). Maron continues to recount the fact that there was just “this assumption made” that they would “do four Avatar movies” — to which Maron jokingly adds that he does not even remember the first one — before going into detail this “city” that Cameron built, full of:

People working, doing acrobatics there, all the time. Tightropes and cameras and people flying — so it was like Cirque du Soleil down there.

So you go in and he gives you this script, he’s like… you can’t take a picture of this, you can’t, you know — this does not leave the building, this script.

Allegedly, Cameron then says that since Maron is “here”, he “might as well read from it”. Apparently, the rooms he is led through are Cameron’s own “museum of James Cameron”, with an entire room dedicated to a model of the Titanic and, Maron jokes, “some other stuff from the other movies”. He continues to explain that Cameron has a whole host of “people that he just has around down there to read parts and fly and be on dollies or whatever”, and during the audition, is given barely anything to go off of and left “totally untethered… (with) no sense of character”, and told to read the part with these random “unidentified actor people and acrobats”, instead of the show’s actual cast.

Maron does not however, seem fazed that his missed out on the Ian Garvey role — instead he replies “thank god!” when asked how he felt by Horowitz. He then goes on to detail the real clincher for him, and the main reason why he is actually glad he wasn’t picked by Cameron and crew.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in 20th Century Studios' AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. ©2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Credit: Disney

Here, Maron makes it very clear — Cameron expects years of sacrifice and dedication to his movies — at the expense of almost everything else. Maron recalls that he personally doesn’t like “being away from home” for the extremely long periods of time expected of an actor in a Cameron show. He was apparently told by an ex-agent at the time:

‘You’re probably gonna go to New Zealand for four years…’. Ridiculous amount of time. ‘You’re gonna have to go to New Zealand, for you know… a while.’

Maron then says he has “nothing invested in this other than the experience of (it)”, and that he is at the age where he has “no problems saying no”. Curious, he asks Horowitz “how much” Jemaine was actually in Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) — to which Horowitz responds sheepishly, “… not very much”. This clearly cements it for Maron, who replies:

Like I would have had to go to New Zealand for a year, and people be like ‘I didn’t even (recognize)… were you in it?”

Eventually, he recalls Cameron actually sending him a box of cigars as an “apology” for not casting him. Horowitz chimes in here, asking if Maron is “cross(ing) James Cameron off the list of the list of filmmakers” for himself — to which the Joker star says in a drily reluctant tone, “… yeah”.

Overall, it seems like the actor, comedian, and late night show veteran is not too impressed by the glitz of the big budget sets and fancy gear favored by Hollywood directors like Cameron. It appears he prefers things more down to earth, rather than having to act at a 10-foot tall tennis ball on a stick, in front of a blue screen, while harnessed to a tightrope in New Zealand for a mere couple of scenes.

A clip of the interview can be viewed here:

Marc Maron’s 5 minute AVATAR audition story is art.

Watch my full hour long HAPPY SAD CONFUSED chat with @marcmaron
here: https://youtube.com/watch?v=HzotgUK6GQk&t=22s

Are James Cameron’s demands reasonable? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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