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Todd Phillips: Why Depiction of Realistic Violence in ‘Joker’ Is ‘Very Responsible’

Joaquin Phoenix and Todd PhillipsNYFF57 New
Dave Allocca/StarPix/Shutterstoc

Joker” director Todd Phillips insists that the realistic depiction of gruesome violence in the film is anything but irresponsible.

“Isn’t it a good thing to put real-world implications on violence?” he said on Wednesday after the New York Film Festival screening of the controversial Warner Bros. movie starring Joaquin Phoenix as the iconic DC Comics villain. “Isn’t that a good thing to take away the cartoon element of violence that we’ve become so immune to? So I was a little surprised when it turns into that direction, that it seems irresponsible because to me it seems actually very responsible to make it feel real and make it that weight.”

After the movie’s world premiere last month at the Venice Film Festival and then another big showing at TIFF, family members and friends of the Aurora shooting victims — a mass shooting that occurred at a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in 2012 — wrote a letter to the studio expressing concern about the movie’s gun violence. In the letter, they asked the studio to get more involved in the gun control movement while also asking them to refrain from donating to politicians who also accept money from the NRA.

The studio responded with its own statement, which said the movie is not intended as an endorsement of violence and that the filmmakers do not consider the Joker a hero.

At the post-screening panel on Wednesday, Phillips also said, “It’s a complicated movie and I’ve said it before that I think it’s okay that’s it’s complicated.”

However, he added, “I didn’t imagine the level of discourse that it’s reached in the world honestly. I think it’s interesting. I think it’s okay that it sparks conversations and there are debates around it. The film is the statement and it’s great to talk about it but it’s much more helpful if you’ve seen it.”

He went on to criticize people who have attacked “Joker” without seeing the film, although he didn’t think the criticisms would ultimately affect the movie’s performance.

“I don’t know that it’s hurt the movie,” Phillips said. “It probably has helped and it’s good to have people talking.”