The Joker movie is its own beast in every way. The film is a dark, twisted, thrill ride which takes a deep dive into the life of Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill character portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix. Beat after the beat, the film looks further into Arthur's spiral into complete madness as he approaches becoming the full-on character referred to as Joker, the best known villain in comic book history. While the film exists on its own, isolated from other DC Comics movies which have been releasing in recent years, director Todd Phillips did pull some elements from the comic book source material for the standalone movie.
"For us we never say in the movie it's 1981, but we always say it's late seventies early eighties, mainly because we don't want people to be like 'Wow that car wasn't out in 1979', so late seventies early eighties," Phillips said during a Q&A with ComicBook.com after an advanced screening of Joker. "But the time for me...one reason was to separate it quite frankly, from the DC universe. When I pitched to Warner Brothers, and handed the script in, to sort of make it clear, this isn't f---ing with anything you have going on. This is like a separate universe. So much so, it takes place in the past, before everything else."
Still, despite being misquoted in reports ahead of the screenings, Phillips did use comic books as a loose inspiration for his Joker. "What I said was that we didn't take anything from one particular comic," Phillips says. "We kind of picked and chose what we liked from the 80-year canon of Joker and we'd say 'oh, that's interesting This is kind of...' We kind of pulled a few things that we liked."
"Yes, could it have been called Arthur and it just be about a clown? Maybe," Phillips admits. "I just thought, there's a new way to tell a comic book movie and it maybe I'm wrong but and let's do it as a character study. I guess a big part of what interested me about it more than making a movie called Arthur was to deconstruct the comic book a movie a little bit. That was part of what was exciting about it to me. For [Joaquin Phoenix], it might be different because [Phoenix] had a lot of reticence being in a comic book movie and you know, doing that kind of thing."
Joker hits theaters on October 4.