Joker Director Todd Phillips on Convincing Joaquin Phoenix, Warner Bros. for His Character Study of DC Comics Villain

Joker Director Todd Phillips on Convincing Joaquin Phoenix, Warner Bros. for His Character Study of DC Comics Villain

Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Joker movie release date in India is October 4
  • Took Phillips one year to convince Warner Bros.
  • Phoenix uninterested in comparisons with other actors

Joker director Todd Phillips had a tough time selling his mature take on the iconic DC Comics villain to Warner Bros., spending a year to convince the studio of the film’s potential, he has revealed in a new interview. It also took him several months to convince Joaquin Phoenix to play the role of the titular Clown Prince of Crime, as the Joker is sometimes called in the comic books. Some of it was partly helped by the fact that Joker cost Warner Bros. only $55 million (about Rs. 394 crores), less than a third of what the studio spent on Aquaman. If Joker can make a third of what Aquaman did at the box office, it will be an achievement.

“It was a year-long process from when we finished the script just to get the new people on board with this vision, because I pitched it to an entirely different team than made it,” Phillips told Los Angeles Times. There was a regime change at Warner Bros. during Joker‘s production process, which is what he’s referring to. “There were emails about, ‘You realise we sell Joker pajamas at Target.’ There were a zillion hurdles, and you just sort of had to navigate those one at a time. […] At the time I would curse them in my head every day. But then I have to put it in perspective and go, ‘They’re pretty bold that they did this.’”

By “bold”, Phillips is talking about how Joker will screen only for adults, as it’s been rated ‘R’ in the US, and will most likely be given the ‘A’ certification here in India. That’s because the film offers a gritty character study of the famous DC Comics character, with Phillips comparing the film to the likes of The King of Comedy, Taxi Driver, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Serpico. Those are nowhere near comic book territory. (Robert De Niro’s character in Joker is a reverse homage to his turn in The King of Comedy.) Joker does draw from comic books, including 1988’s “Batman: The Killing Joke”

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