Joker is in the middle of scooping up awards, but there are still numerous conversations about the controversy surrounding the movie popping up. On 60 Minutes this weekend, Joaquin Phoenix talked to Anderson Cooper about a number of topics. Of course, the topic turned to the movie’s reception and how the depiction of mental illness and societal issues played with critics. But, despite the swirling conversations around the film, the staggering box office for Joker shows that audiences were much more accepting of the narrative. Media controversies regularly come up when talking about the film in interviews. The cast and the director have tried to distance themselves from any and all strange stories that go alongside the film. But, that has been hard to do. For, the movie’s star, their reaction to the film says more about them than it does about his work.
“I’ve described it as, like, a Rorschach Test,” Phoenix began. “It says something about the person viewing it and what they think that it's about. That's really rare for a film to kind of have that effect on people. So in some ways, I welcomed it.”
Even with that said, Phillips has had to talk about how the criticism leveled at his movie. Joker is not a welcoming film at all, and the director said that’s by design.
“We didn’t make the movie to push buttons,” Phillips said to The Wrap. “I literally described to Joaquin at one point in those three months as like, ‘Look at this as a way to sneak a real movie in the studio system under the guise of a comic book film’. It wasn’t, ‘We want to glorify this behavior.’ It was literally like ‘Let’s make a real movie with a real budget and we’ll call it f******* Joker’. That’s what it was.”
Families of those killed in the Aurora, Colorado shooting during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises wrote a letter to Warner Bros. before the movie premiered and the studio responded.
"Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies," the statement began. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic. At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero."