The upcoming Joker movie starring Joaquin Phoenix carries an R rating, and director Todd Phillips apparently had to work hard to convince Warner Bros. to allow him to make his more mature vision. He told The Los Angeles Timesthat it was a lengthy process to get the R rating for Joker. Some people within Warner Bros. were apparently concerned about merchandising, among other things related to the content.
“There were emails about: ‘You realize we sell Joker pajamas at Target.’ There were a zillion hurdles, and you just sort of had to navigate those one at a time,” Phillips said. “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.'”
Producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff said in the interview that it was difficult to get the green light for Phillips’ version of Joker, due in part to “concerns about some of the content.” However, after Warner Bros. agreed to a budget, which was reportedly much lower than typical superhero movies at a reported $55 million, everything got underway more smoothly.
“Once we locked and loaded our budget, they really gave us a tremendous amount of space to do what we needed to do,” Koskoff said. “The passion Todd has for this movie is palpable, and when he starts talking about it, he’s hard to say no to. At the end of the day, he got to make the movie he wanted to make.”
This sounds like a similar situation to the Wolverine movie Logan. Star Hugh Jackman reportedly took a big paycut so as to minimize the financial risk to the studio.
Also in the interview, Phillips spoke about his reluctance to make a comic book movie of his own. He said he’s been offered them in the past, but he always said no. “I don’t watch those movies,” he said. “It’s not because I don’t think it’s cool. It’s just like, quite frankly, they’re always so loud. It was just never something I imagined doing.”
It’s not exactly clear what convinced Phillips to sign on for Joker, but for what it’s worth, the film may not be a traditional comic book movie. He explained previously that his movie doesn’t borrow much at all from the source material.
“We didn’t follow anything from the comic books, which people are gonna be mad about,” Phillips, who also wrote the script, said in a July interview. “We just wrote our own version of where a guy like Joker might come from. That’s what was interesting to me. We’re not even doing Joker, but the story of becoming Joker. It’s about this man.”
Joker premieres at the Venice Film Festival this weekend before its wide opening in theatres on October 4. In addition to Phoenix in the title role, the movie stars Robert de Niro, Zazie Beetz, and Frances Conroy.
Joker is something of a change for Phillips, who previously made the Hangover and Old School comedies. He also wrote for Borat, which earned him his Oscar nomination.