Joker director Todd Phillips has made no secret of the fact that his R-rated DC film largely takes its cues from the various character studies released in the late 1970s and early '80s - most notably, such Martin Scorsese films as Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy and Raging Bull. While speaking at Joker's premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Phillips further opened up about the old school movies that informed his new take on the Clown Prince of Crime.
"There’s a ton of specific inspirations we had for this movie," Phillips said. "Taxi Driver, obviously, is one of my favorite movies, but it’s not directly that. I think it’s more a time period of movies.” In addition to the aforementioned Scorsese-helmed movies, the director cites such character-driven '70s films as Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sidney Lumet's Serpico.
"Movies from these great character studies that they don't do as much nowadays as they did in the late '70s, whether it was Cuckoo's Nest, or Taxi Driver, or Serpico, or Raging Bull, of course, King of Comedy," Phillips continued. "Marty was doing a ton back then. And even things like The Man Who Laughs [from 1928]. I mean, we were watching a lot of musicals, [co-writer] Scott [Silver] and I, when we were writing [Joker]."
Furthermore, while Phillips is known for directing the Hangover comedy trilogy, he explains he does not consider the psychologically dark Joker to be "that big of a departure" for him. "It's different tonally than a lot of films I've done before, but ultimately to me, it's kind of all storytelling, it's all a beginning, middle and an end," he said. "But I was definitely influenced by the movies that I grew up on, these great character studies of the ‘70s. And kept thinking, ‘Well, why can’t you do a genre film in the comic book world like that, and really do a deep dive on a character like Joker?’ And if you get a great actor and great people behind it, we could really do something special.”
Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Douglas Hodge, Marc Maron, Josh Pais and Shea Whigham. The film arrives in theaters Oct. 4.