Joker's Todd Phillips Says Not to Expect 'Anything' From the Comics

The Joker gets his groove on.
The Joker gets his groove on.
Image: Warner Bros.

Well, if you want to nitpick—and what comic book fan doesn’t love a nitpick?—it obviously lifts some elements, but apparently, you’re going to want to go into Joker expecting anything but a straight adaptation of the likes of The Killing Joke.


Speaking to Empire as part of a new cover story, director and co-writer Todd Phillips discussed the comic book inspirations behind his (and Joaquin Phoenix’s) take on the clown prince of crime...or rather, the lack thereof:

We didn’t follow anything from the comic-books, which people are gonna be mad about. 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.

While there might be some parallels comics diehards can find in the film’s backstory—the idea of the Joker as a failed comedian is something that draws from the aforementioned Killing Joke, for example—it’s almost refreshing that this is being pitched as something beyond taking the source material and putting it on the big screen intact. Given the myriad attempts to dive into the psyche and origins of the Joker in the comics, such an attempt in a single movie would be futile, but it’s also—to varying degrees of success—something DC has been doing with its cinematic wing anyway.

Shazam might be the closest WB’s recent movies have come to a faithful adaptation of a particular comic run (specifically the Geoff Johns/Gary Frank origin story for the character in the New 52), but even that adds some elements of its own to the proceedings to pretty delightful effect. Otherwise, the films have mostly taken loose elements and basic beats (like Batman v Superman and Justice League borrowing thematic ideas from The Death and Return of Superman, or Wonder Woman’s basic concept of how Diana first encounters Steve, and so on) and transposed them into otherwise original stories. Joker doing that but a step even further removed, it seems, is not something to be surprised by, even if Phillips expects it to rile people up.

Well, rile them up more than the existence of this movie already has in the first place, that is. Joker is set to hit theaters October 4.


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So what you’re saying is you shoehorned the Joker into a movie as the protagonist for some reason. Great.