Director Tom Phillips' upcoming solo Joker film will follow Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck, an aspiring comedian who has dreams of making it big, but is ultimately doomed to give in to the worst side of himself. Combine that with the fact that Robert De Niro also has a prominent role in the film, and comparisons between Joker and Martin Scorsese's 1982 film The King of Comedy were basically inevitable.
While doing interviews for the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival, De Niro addressed the connection between the two films. He explained that while it certainly isn't a shared universe situation, there is a definite link between Murray Franklin, the talk show host he plays in Joker, and Rupert Pupkin, his character in The King of Comedy. (That being said, he would have been open to properly reprising his classic role, had that been on the table.)
"There's a connection, obviously, with the whole thing," said De Niro. "But it's not as a direct connection as the character I'm playing being Rupert many years later as a host. If they would've proposed that to me, I would've said, 'That's interesting, maybe we'll try to do that.' But by making this type of film, it is connected in a way, as you'll see."
Of course, The King of Comedy isn't the only Robert De Niro-starred Martin Scorsese film that Joker is evoking memories of, as the upcoming character study of the Clown Prince of Crime has apparently also taken its cues from such classics as 1976's Taxi Driver and 1980's Raging Bull. That's no accident either, as Scorsese himself is attached to Joker as an executive producer.
At any rate, it will certainly be interesting to see just how much Murray Franklin channels Rupert Pupkin, not to mention exactly what role he plays in Arthur Fleck's downfall and subsequent transformation into the infamous makeup-clad Batman villain.
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.