Martin Scorsese explains why he passed on Joker
Todd Phillips’ Joker clearly takes cues from classic Martin Scorsese pictures like Mean Streets, The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver. Obviously, Scorsese had a large part in the film’s overall production and was even tapped to produce the pic before ultimately bowing out. But did you know he almost directed the film? That’s right. Martin Scorsese almost directed Joker.
The iconic director revealed as much in an interview with IndieWire, where he was busy plugging The Irishman, his gangster epic starring Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci.
“I know the film very well. I know [director Todd Phillips] very well,” Scorsese said. “My producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff produced it. I thought about it a lot over the last four years and decided I did not have the time for it. It was personal reasons why I didn’t get involved. But I know the script very well. It has a real energy and Joaquin. You have remarkable work.”
Ultimately, his decision to walk away came down to the comic-book elements of the story, which he wasn’t quite able to crack.
“For me, ultimately, I don’t know if I make the next step into this character developing into a comic book character,” Scorsese said. “You follow? He develops into an abstraction. It doesn’t mean it’s bad art, it’s just not for me…It’s different from the superhero films, it’s very different. The superhero films, as I’ve said, are another art form. They’re not easy to make. There’s a lot of very talented people doing good work and a lot of young people really, really enjoy them.”
While it would have been interesting to see the director of Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed tackle a film like Joker, it’s doubtful few at Warner Bros. are lamenting his decision to pass on the gig considering the film is currently killing it at the box office with over $900 million worldwide and counting.
Director Todd Phillips’ original, standalone origin story Joker explores the world of—and according to—Arthur Fleck. Indelibly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, Arthur is a man facing the cruelty and outright scorn of society, along with the indifference of a system that allows him to spiral from vulnerability into depravity. A clown-for-hire by day, he strives to be a stand-up comic at night…but finds that the joke always seems to be on him. He’s out of tune with everyone around him, as evidenced by his uncontrollable, inappropriate laughter, which gains momentum as he attempts to contain it, exposing him to further ridicule—and even violence.
Arthur, who devotes himself to caring for his fragile mother, seeks out every father figure he’s never had, from wealthy businessman Thomas Wayne to TV host Murray Franklin. Caught in a cyclical existence teetering on the precipice of reality and madness, one bad decision brings about a chain reaction of escalating, ultimately deadly, events.
Buy The Joker: A Celebration Of 75 Years here and catch up on the Clown Prince of Crime.
Joaquin Phoenix stars as the titular villain with Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2), Bill Camp (Red Sparrow, Molly’s Game), Frances Conroy (American Horror Story), Brett Cullen (Narcos), Glenn Fleshler (Barry), Douglas Hodge (Penny Dreadful), Marc Maron (GLOW), Josh Pais (Motherless Brooklyn), and Shea Whigham (First Man).
Todd Phillips (The Hangover trilogy) directs from a screenplay he co-wrote with writer Scott Silver (The Fighter), based on characters from DC. The film is being produced by Phillips and MCU mainstay Bradley Cooper under their Joint Effort banner, and Emma Tillinger Koskoff. It is executive produced by Richard Baratta, Joseph Garner, and Bruce Berman.