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Video The Agonizing Process It Took To Make Joker R-Rated

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The Agonizing Process It Took To Make Joker R-Rated
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  • Joker, the upcoming standalone from Warner Brothers and DC starring Joaquin Phoenix,
  • promises to be a comic book film unlike any other.
  • Inspired heavily by the works of Martin Scorsese and co-starring his frequent collaborator
  • Robert DeNiro, Joker presents the story of Arthur Fleck, a failed comedian with a troubled
  • inner life who becomes the Clown Prince of Crime, the most feared figure in Gotham City's
  • underworld.
  • More character study than superpowered smash-up, Joker is one of the rare comic book films
  • to receive an R rating.
  • With a property as iconic as its main character, getting clearance to push the film beyond
  • the boundaries of your average superhero fare was not an easy task for co-writer and director
  • Todd Phillips.
  • Talking with the Los Angeles Times, Phillips explained why he decided to use the character
  • to tell a different kind of comic book story on the big screen, and what it took to get
  • the green light to pursue his gritty, R-rated vision.
  • Phillips explained that the inspiration for the film came as he was attending the premiere
  • of his 2016 dramedy War Dogs in August of that year.
  • Taking it all in, he couldn't help but be distracted by a billboard for a big-budget
  • superhero movie which loomed over the area.
  • He didn't say which one, but as the Times noted, this was right around the time Suicide
  • Squad opened, which happened to feature a supremely divisive turn by Jared Leto as the
  • Joker.
  • Phillips may be known for comedies such as The Hangover, but he's also a Scorsese disciple,
  • and said he had been disheartened by the last couple decades' lack of in-depth character
  • studies for which the master filmmaker was known such as 1974's Taxi Driver and 1980's
  • Raging Bull, both of which starred DeNiro.
  • As he regarded the billboard, the seed of an idea was formed.
  • Phillips said,
  • "I knew that War Dogs wasn't going to set the world on fire, and I was thinking, 'What
  • do people really want to see?'
  • The movies that I grew up loving, these character studies from the '70s, you couldn't get those
  • movies made in this climate.
  • I'm staring up at this billboard and I said to myself, 'What if you did a movie in that
  • vein, but made it about one of those characters?'"
  • "I'm an ideeaaaaa."
  • Perhaps inspired by the character's Suicide Squad depiction, Phillips became focused on
  • the Joker, and as he discussed his idea with the film's co-writer Scott Silver, the pair
  • were emboldened by the fact that the iconic Batman nemesis had never received a proper
  • origin story in the comics, which was by design.
  • While various depictions of the character including those in Tim Burton's Batman and
  • the TV series Gotham had settled on the "falling into a vat of chemicals while escaping the
  • Dark Knight" tack, Phillips and Silver decided that it would be much more interesting to
  • offer up their own version of the Joker's origin, one far less fanciful and much more
  • grounded in reality.
  • Phillips said,
  • "We wanted to look at everything through as real and authentic a lens as possible.
  • I don't believe that in the real world if you fell into a vat of acid you would turn
  • white and have a smile and your hair would be green."
  • "You idiot!"
  • Instead, Phillips went about reverse-engineering the story, giving the Joker an origin story
  • that was slightly more realistic.
  • It was an enjoyable process.
  • According to the filmmaker,
  • "It was one of the most fun scripts to write, because you were only breaking rules."
  • In 2009, Phillips made The Hangover for Warner Brothers, and since that comparatively low-budget
  • comedy went on to gross an improbable half-billion dollars worldwide, the studio's executives
  • were inclined to hear him out on his vision for Joker, certain story elements of which
  • would require the film to carry an R rating.
  • But there were seemingly a million different objections to the idea that had to be dealt
  • with before Phillips and his team were allowed to proceed.
  • Complicating matters was the fact that a major regime change had taken place at Warner Brothers
  • in the middle of the movie's pre-production.
  • Phillips recalled,
  • "It was a yearlong process from when we finished the script just to get the new people on board
  • with this vision, because I pitched it to an entirely different team than made it.
  • 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."
  • The process was difficult and frustrating, but Phillips said it was worth it, and that
  • he's still kind of surprised that he got away with it all.
  • He 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.'"
  • Bold, yes, but it's shaping up to be a pretty good call: Joker is the most highly-anticipated
  • film of the fall, and Phoenix's performance is generating strong Oscar buzz.
  • It's a radically different approach to the DC Comics properties than producers had been
  • pursuing with their shared universe, and may represent a new way forward for the sometimes
  • embattled brand.
  • This fact isn't lost on Phillips.
  • Midway through Joker's production, he suggested to Warner Brothers executives that they create
  • an entirely new label for gritty character studies such as his take on the Joker: a new
  • banner called DC Black.
  • According to Phillips, they weren't immediately on board.
  • He said the response was,
  • "'Calm down with the label — how about you do one movie?'"
  • Despite the positive reactions, Phillips understands that his interpretation of the Joker might
  • not be every DC fan's cup of tea.
  • That's just fine with him, because he knows that his take on the Clown Prince of Crime
  • will in no way be the definitive one, and it certainly won't be the final one.
  • He said,
  • "This will not be the last Joker movie ever made.
  • It might be the last one Joaquin and I do, but someone else is going to come along and
  • do another one, just like with Spider-Man.
  • So if you don't like this one, don't worry it'll get reinvented again.
  • [...] They've done four or five versions of the Joker in the last 25 or 30 years.
  • So why not do another one that's wildly different?"
  • Why not, indeed?
  • Check out one of our newest videos right here!
  • Plus, even more Looper videos about your favorite movies are coming soon.
  • Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the bell so you don't miss a single one.

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Joker, the upcoming standalone from Warner Brothers and DC starring Joaquin Phoenix, promises to be a comic book film unlike any other. Inspired heavily by the works of Martin Scorsese and co-starring his frequent collaborator Robert DeNiro, Joker presents the story of Arthur Fleck, a failed comedian with a troubled inner life who becomes the Clown Prince of Crime, the most feared figure in Gotham City's underworld.

More character study than superpowered smash-up, Joker is one of the rare comic book films to receive an R rating. With a property as iconic as its main character, getting clearance to push the film beyond the boundaries of your average superhero fare was not an easy task for co-writer and director Todd Phillips.

Talking with the Los Angeles Times, Phillips explained why he decided to use the character to tell a different kind of comic book story on the big screen, and what it took to get the green light to pursue his gritty, R-rated vision.

Phillips explained that the inspiration for the film came as he was attending the premiere of his 2016 dramedy War Dogs in August of that year. Taking it all in, he couldn't help but be distracted by a billboard for a big-budget superhero movie which loomed over the area. He didn't say which one, but as the Times noted, this was right around the time Suicide Squad opened, which happened to feature a supremely divisive turn by Jared Leto as the Joker.

Phillips may be known for comedies such as The Hangover, but he's also a Scorsese disciple, and said he had been disheartened by the last couple decades' lack of in-depth character studies for which the master filmmaker was known such as 1974's Taxi Driver and 1980's Raging Bull, both of which starred DeNiro. As he regarded the billboard, the seed of an idea was formed. Phillips said,

"I knew that War Dogs wasn't going to set the world on fire, and I was thinking, 'What do people really want to see?' The movies that I grew up loving, these character studies from the '70s, you couldn't get those movies made in this climate. I'm staring up at this billboard and I said to myself, 'What if you did a movie in that vein, but made it about one of those characters?'" Keep watching the video to see the agonizing process it took to make Joker R-rated

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