The new comic book movie Joker has generated lots of buzz and controversy since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in July. Now, star Joaquin Phoenix has weighed in on the debate and discussion surrounding one of his most talked-about films, while the movie’s director, Todd Phillips, spoke about what he sees as “woke” Hollywood culture.
He told Vanity Fair that he “didn’t imagine that it would be smooth sailing” as it relates to the reaction by press to Joker. “It’s a difficult film. In some ways, it’s good that people are having a strong reaction to it.”
Phoenix went on to say that he sees both sides of the coin as it relates to how people may interpret Arthur Fleck/Joker and his motivations.
“There’s so many different ways of looking at it,” he said. “You can either say here’s somebody who, like everybody, needed to be heard and understood and to have a voice. Or you can say this is somebody that disproportionately needs a large quantity of people to be fixated on him. His satisfaction comes as he stands in amongst the madness.”
Before this, Phillips reacted to the controversy surrounding the movie. He said he was “surprised” to see some negative reactions to a film that is getting people to talk about gun violence and other important, relevant issues. The director went on to talk about why he thinks people are eager to pile on to Joker.
“I think it’s because outrage is a commodity,” he said. “I think it’s something that has been a commodity for a while. What’s outstanding to me in this discourse in this movie is how easily the far left can sound like the far right when it suits their agenda. It’s really been eye opening for me.”
In the same Vanity Fair story, Phillips spoke about his own personal pivot from making comedies (he directed The Hangover trilogy, Old School, and Road Trip) to more drama-focused stories like Joker and his 2016 film War Dogs.
He said he’s less inclined to try to make comedies today because of the “woke” culture in Hollywood. Making Joker was in direct response to this. He said he wanted to make an irreverent movie outside of the comedy space, and that’s where the idea for Joker came from.
“Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture,” he said. “There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore–I’ll tell you why, because all the f**king funny guys are like, ‘F**k this shit, because I don’t want to offend you.’ It’s hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter. You just can’t do it, right? So you just go, ‘I’m out.’ I’m out, and you know what? With all my comedies–I think that what comedies in general all have in common–is they’re irreverent. So I go, ‘How do I do something irreverent, but f**k comedy? Oh I know, let’s take the comic book movie universe and turn it on its head with this.’ And so that’s really where that came from.”
Earlier this month, the families of victims killed in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theatre shooting reached out to Warner Bros. to ask the film studio to help use their influence to make safer communities with fewer guns. The shooting took place during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises.
In response, Warner Bros. said, “Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic.”
Warner Bros. stands by Joker, and added that it does not endorse violence of any kind.
“Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues,” thew statement said. “Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”
Joker premieres on October 4. For more, check out GameSpot’s Joker review, which awarded the film a 10/10 rating.