Joaquin Phoenix’s Gladiator Role Inspired One of the Most Hated Characters of All Time in Game of Thrones

Actor Jack Gleeson's portrayal of the cruel King Joffrey Baratheon, one of the most hated characters in GOT, was influenced by Joaquin Phoenix's performance in Gladiator.

Joaquin Phoenix’s Gladiator Role Inspired One of the Most Hated Characters of All Time in Game of Thrones


  • Game of Thrones' Joffrey Baratheon was one of the most hated characters in the entire HBO series.
  • Played effortlessly well by actor Jack Gleeson, it seems as if he was heavily inspired by an iconic Joaquin Phoenix role.
  • The actor revealed that his characterization of Joffrey took a leaf out of Phoenix's portrayal of Commodus in Gladiator.
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Joaquin Phoenix has portrayed numerous intricate and captivating characters on the big screen, which has earned him the highest recognition from movie enthusiasts. You may find it fascinating that one of his complex performances inspired a cruel yet unforgettable antagonist that thousands of Game of Thrones fans vehemently disliked during the series’ run.

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Joaquin Phoenix as Emperor Commodus in Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000)
Joaquin Phoenix as Emperor Commodus in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000)

Read also: Major Reason Why Joaquin Phoenix Refused to Play Doctor Strange in MCU


Actor Jack Gleeson, the talent behind the sadistic and vicious Joffrey Baratheon, revealed that one of the most influential impacts to his characterization of King Joffrey stemmed from Phoenix’s portrayal of Emperor Commodus in the 2000 film Gladiator. The two villains have stunned audiences with their layered and compelling arcs.

Jack Gleeson Based Joffrey Baratheon On Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus

Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon

Joffrey Baratheon is undoubtedly the most loathed character in Game of Thrones history. Despite being widely disliked by fans for his heinous acts, he remains one of TV’s most compelling villains. This can be further corroborated by how he ranked #4 in Rolling Stone‘s list of ’40 Greatest TV Villains of All Time.’ Jack Gleeson‘s performance helped elevate the role and allowed him to garner international critical praise. 


But it wasn’t only the talent’s impeccable embodiment that helped shape the insufferable King Joffrey. As an actor, finding inspiration to base a character around is crucial. For Gleeson, Joaquin Phoenix was precisely that. In a 2014 interview with Entertainment Weekly, the In the Land of Saints and Sinners alum was asked to reveal which Hollywood villains impacted him.

Joaquin Phoenix and Jack Gleeson
Emperor Commodus and King Joffrey Baratheon

Read also: Ridley Scott Dubs Joaquin Phoenix As The “Most Sympathetic Person” In Gladiator!


Following was the star’s response:

“Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus in Gladiator; certainly for my characterization of Joffrey, that had a big impact, the smirk.”

In a separate interview with GQ, Jack Gleeson affirmed the following:


“A big influence was Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator. Sometimes, when I’m sitting on my throne, I think of Phoenix sitting on his, with that smirk on his face.”

Despite having several distinct traits and qualities, the two characters have catapulted to the top of fictional history as the most unforgettable villains.

George R. R. Martin Was Amused By Jack Gleeson’s Wicked Performance

Jack Gleeson's performance was astounding
Jack Gleeson’s performance was astounding!

The boy-king’s ruthless behavior highlights his lack of empathy, making him a captivating antagonist portrayed by Gleeson. King Joffrey, unlike the many grey characters of GOT, remained irredeemable. This resulted in critical praise but a collective resentment towards the role from die-hard fans. The creator of the heinous villain, author George R. R. Martin, was well aware of this phenomenon. And it’s safe to assume he found it amusing.


According to IMDb, Jack Gleeson, after the airing of the show, received a letter from the acclaimed novelist that detailed the following:

“Congratulations on your marvelous performance. Everyone hates you!”

Fans despised Joffrey
Fans despised the character

Read also: “I don’t think he needs to defend himself”: Joaquin Phoenix Gets Much Needed Support Amid Backlash Over Many Flaws in Napoleon


When even the audience finds themselves forced to despise you for your role, you know you did a fantastic job portraying an unhinged, erratic, and unredeemable character. Joaquin Phoenix and Jack Gleeson are both exceptional actors who were not hesitant to take on the difficult task of portraying nuanced, villainous roles.

Gladiator (2000) is available for streaming on Netflix, while Game of Thrones (2011-2019) can be viewed on Max.


Written by Debdipta Bhattacharya

Debdipta Bhattacharya is a content writer at FandomWire, where she has written more than 500 articles on various topics of interest. She possesses a sincere passion for popular culture, anime, film production, and the evolving world of YouTube and streaming culture which has allowed her to be a devoted and well-informed writer. Debdipta holds a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication. She has honed her skills and expertise in content writing with over two years of experience and strives to learn and grow daily.