Joaquin Phoenix Does His Best Joker ... Without Clown Makeup

9/16/2018 12:53 PM PDT

Joaquin Phoenix Seen in Character as The Joker for First Time

Joaquin Phoenix is taking a stab at playing the Clown Prince of Gotham -- and he seems to be doing a damn good job at it so far ... even without any makeup on.

The actor was on set Sunday filming a scene from the forthcoming Joker origin movie in NYC, and it appears he's in pre-clown mode for now. Still, Joaquin looks great as Batman's archnemesis -- creepy, menacing, disturbed ... everything you'd want in a Joker.

He even has a face-to-face interaction with a dolled-up clown ... and it's certainly nerve-racking to watch, especially as hands start to fly between these two.

Joaquin's turn as the Joker is the second film of its kind in the works right now. Warner Bros. is also reportedly developing a standalone Joker movie for Jared Leto's character, who debuted in "Suicide Squad." No official word on who might play Batman for either flick.

Whatever the case ... both Joaquin and Jared have big shoes to fill. As you might remember, the late Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal as the Joker in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight." He died in 2008 before the Academy Awards that year.

Considering Joaquin and Jared are Oscar-caliber actors -- Jared's already got one under his belt -- they could easily turn in award-worthy performances. Fingers crossed.

1:50 PM PT -- Todd Phillips -- the director of new Joker movie -- just posted a close-up shot of Joaquin in character as 'Arthur' ... presumably the real name of the Joker in his film.

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Arthur.

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