Todd Phillips on Joker’s comic book history: ‘We kind of hold a few things that we liked’

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Although Joker isn’t coming to theaters until October 4th, it has already been the talk of the town. It currently has a 76% Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this writing, and it has been praised by critics as well as causing fear in others due to the subject matter. One thing that had fans worried is that the film would not be inspired by the comics. Nerd Reactor was invited to a media screening of Joker, and director Todd Phillips was present. During the Q&A, he said that the film is very much inspired by the Joker’s comic book history.

“A lot of you guys have probably reprinted something I said in Empire where I was misquoted,” Phillips said. “I’m not going to complain. I like the writer; he wrote a great piece. I said we didn’t take anything from the comic book world. It’s not actually what I said. What I said was that we didn’t take anything from one particular comic. We kind of picked and chose what we liked from the 80-year canon of Joker. We kind of hold a few things that we liked.”

Joker is a film that is a departure from the typical comic book movie, and the director wanted to shake things up a bit.

“To us, could it have been called Arthur and be just about a clown? Maybe,” he continued. “I just thought there was a new way to tell a comic book movie. Maybe I’m wrong, but let’s do it as a character study. A big part of what interested me about it more than making a movie called Arthur was to kind of deconstruct the comic book movie a little bit. That was part of what was exciting about it to me.”

Joker is set in the early ’80s, and one of the many reasons for that is to get Warner Bros. behind on a Joker movie that’s not set in the DC Extended Universe.

“We never say in the movie it’s 1981, but we always say it’s late ’70s, early 80s,” Phillips said. “The reason we set it there, there was a lot of reasons. One reason was to separate it quite frankly from the DC universe. I pitched it to Warner Bros. and handed the script in. To sort of make it clear, ‘This isn’t ****ing with anything you have going on. This is like a separate universe, so much so, it takes place in the past before everything else.'”

Another reason Joker was set in that time period was that Phillips wanted to pay homage to the early character study films.

“Another reason is that tonally the movie is very much of a character study,” Phillips continued. “It’s movies that we’ve grown up on and loved. And you go, ‘God, these movies don’t get made as much anymore.’ They get made, these character studies. Social Network is a great one. There Will Be Blood is probably the best in the last 20 years of character study. But in the ’70s and ’80s, they were much more frequent. In a weird way, it was almost just an homage of that time. We’re making a movie that feels like that, and why not set it there?”

Some actors who have played the Joker have been known to dive deep into the character. Joaquin Phoenix revealed that he mostly laughed and had fun with the project.

“I’m mostly going to disappoint you,” he replied to a question about going deep into the character of Arthur. “I just don’t think I did, and also we had a good time. Honestly, I feel like, ‘Either I’m going to disappoint you, or I’m going to seem like an actor who’s not really committed. ‘Oh, he didn’t really do anything. He had a good time.'”

“We did laugh a lot,” Phillips added.

“We laughed like every day,” Phoenix continued.

The Joker hits theaters on October 4, 2019.

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