Two of the biggest actors of our time squared off in a boxing ring. Well, sort of. It was more like a battle of wits as both actors put on exhibitions of their acting prowess before a packed audience in London. The spectacle was almost as riveting as a good old-fashioned scuffle between real-life opponents. It was a battle of the alpha actors: one trying to shake off his comic book image to become more relatable to mainstream audiences, the other trying to remain as enigmatic as possible while still keeping the fans hungry for more.

Phoenix Challenges Pattinson To A Debate

After the screening of his latest film, Joker, in London, Joaquin Phoenix decided to take the fight to the next level. He challenged his co-star, Robert Pattinson, to a public debate on any topic. Phoenix posted a letter on his Twitter account, claiming, “I’d like to debate any topic with you. Let’s start with Joker. What were your thoughts on the film?”

Pattinson replied, “Sure. Let’s do it. I’m interested in what your take was.”

The debate was set. Phoenix would try to articulate his filmmaking choices while Pattinson would try to knock them down. The two would go head-to-head, exchanging jabs and jokers at will. In the end, it was one of the most entertaining debates of the year. (And let’s face facts: we need more debates like this. We need to hear all points of view. We need to be challenged by those who see things differently than we do. And ideally, we’d like it to be about something that matters. Like, you know, equality or something.)

Pattinson Challenges Phoenix To A Fight

Pattinson wasn’t going to let this debate go without a fight. So he challenged Phoenix to a physical confrontation. In a video posted to Instagram, Pattinson said, “For me, it’s all about who has the bigger sword. So do you think that you have the bigger sword?”

In a dramatic pause, the actor adds, “If we had a duel, I’d win.”

Phoenix had to respond to this provocation somehow, so he did. He tweeted, “That’s very kind of you to say. If we were to duel, I believe you’d win, but thank you for thinking of me. I must decline. I’m not into fighting. But thank you for offering. It’s been a pleasure watching your work over the years. Best of luck in whatever endeavors you choose.”

The response from Pattinson was swift. He followed up with a second video in which he challenges Phoenix to a real-life fight, saying, “I’m not picking a fight with you, but here we go. Wherever you want. When you want. I’ll be there. With my sword drawn. And my tights torn. Because here’s the thing about the Joker: he’s funny, isn’t he? You’re so scared. It’s hilarious.”

The video ends with a dramatic flourish as Pattinson draws his sword and yells, “I declare this contest closed!”

The fallout from this intense round of publicity was phenomenal. Both men received dozens of death threats, and police had to be called in to protect them. (At one point, Phoenix even had to go into hiding.) One of the main issues that arose was about the portrayal of mentally ill characters. Many fans had a problem with Phoenix’s Joker, arguing that he was to blame for the deaths of several characters, including a police officer. (They also blamed him for the severe asthma of another character.) According to Phoenix, the blame should not lie with him. He says that he did his best to give an authentic depiction of mental illness and has stated that he does not feel he should be stereotyped as a comic book villain simply because he plays one on TV.

Why Do Mainstream Hollywood Stars Want To Play Mental Illness?

Aside from the controversy that surrounded Joker, the film starred a number of well-known faces, including Robert Pattinson, Michelle Williams, and Kylie Jenner. So it’s no surprise that Hollywood is trying to capitalise on this newfound interest in mental illness. Many major studio films and TV shows currently airing feature characters with severe psychological problems, with 2019 seeing a wave of high-profile horror movies, including Joker, which is considered to be one of the greatest psychological horror films of all time. (Here’s a fun fact: the 2019 movie Trespass saw Nicolas Cage impersonate Vincent Price – one of the greatest horror movie hosts of all time!) With each new horror movie that comes out, the stigma surrounding mental illness is slowly being replaced by a greater understanding of the connection between mental health and physical health. (Speaking of which, did you know that the physical health of someone with bipolar disorder can vary? Sometimes they need to take medication to regulate their moods, which can have positive effects on their physical health. (1)) It is important to remember that there is no typical Hollywood villain, as most of the characters in these movies are not based on an actual person but rather on common archetypes that have spanned multiple genres and media.

So if you’re an actor looking to break out of the mould, here’s a good opportunity to do so. These days, it’s not just comic books that are about to become a thing of the past. The stigma surrounding mental illness is slowly receding, revealing a greater appreciation for those who struggle with mental health issues every day.