When Warner Bros.' Joker first premiered, it was met with immense praise from the Venice Film Festival, only for subsequent weeks to see controversies surround it that it could inspire real-world acts of violence. Despite those theories being rooted in fallacies, that didn't stop theaters from beefing up security for the film's opening weekend and preventing audiences from wearing costumes to celebrate the film. Despite Joker becoming the center of this fabricated controversy, execs at Warner Bros. never thought the film would inspire violence in viewers and instead always viewed the film as what it was, which is a piece of art.
"There were a lot of misunderstandings around the history of the tragic shooting in Aurora, [Colorado, in 2012,] which happened at a [The Dark Knight Rises]," Warner Bros. exec Toby Emmerich shared with The Hollywood Reporter. "And we were certainly supersensitive to it [and the tragedy for the victims and their loved ones]. But that film and that shooting had no connection in any way to the Joker character. So we had to judge our film on its own merits."
He continued, "A lot of the social media comments around the film were by people who hadn't seen the film and didn't know what it was. We looked at the film really closely and did feel that it was a great film. That it was a piece of art. And we didn't think it would inspire violence. We took it to Venice, where it won the Golden Lion. And we felt comfortable releasing the film."
In addition to the Aurora tragedy taking place at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, initial reports claimed that the shooter referred to himself as "The Joker," which included dying his hair bright red. Those claims, however, have never been substantiated.
Likely another reason that the execs never considered that the film would inspire or serve as a commentary on real-world violence is the inherent premise that it was a comic book film, while earlier this year, The Hunt was pulled from release following a number of mass shootings, with Universal Pictures delaying its September release indefinitely. That film focuses on a group of elites who kidnap those with differing political views to stalk and kill for sport.
"We took The Hunt from the release calendar out of sensitivity for the mass shootings that happened over the course of that weekend and we were in a window where we were heavily marketing," Universal exec Donna Langley. "It later got conflated with it being about the movie's subject matter. But remember, nobody has seen this movie outside of the studio."
In the month since Joker has hit theaters, there have been no reports of violence connected to the film.
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