Joker Director Todd Phillips Says DC's Walter Hamada "Didn't Get It"

During an interview with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore, Joker director Todd Phillips said that the movie may have benefited from a management shake-up at Warner Bros., since then-recent changes to the hierarchy at DC Entertainment meant that he was able to make the movie even though Walter Hamada, the man Warner had put in charge of the DC brand, didn't understand what they were trying to do. Speaking on an episode of Moore's new Rumble With Michael Moore podcast, Phillips explained that part of why he tried to get Joker made when he did was some advice that the goodwill he had built up with a decade of big hits at the studio had an "expiration date" since regimes change so often at Hollywood studios.

The tumult at Warner in recent years proved that to be good advice, and between when he started writing the Joker screenplay and when they were ready to take meetings with the people at Warner Bros. and DC who had the final say, things had changed around again. And while some of the Warner changes hurt his odds of getting the film made, Phillips thinks that it's possible the changes at DC helped grease the rails for him.

"When the regime changed on the Warner side, the regime also changed on the DC side," Phillips told Moore. "They put a guy in charge at DC, Walter Hamada, who had been running a small horror label at New Line. So he didn't have muscle to stop it, and I'm not saying he would have, but he didn't get it. And because On paper, it's crazy. [He] just stepped into this new job, and 'we just made Shazam! and Wonder Woman. We're doing okay; do we really want to mess with the formula?' And so I really understood his point. But in some ways, I had enough weight behind me at that point — not overrule it, because they could have easily said no...but we just kept our foot on the gas, and the squeaky wheel gets the grease as you say. We just made a thing of it for a long time. Truth be told, the budget was so small — and I say so small in relation to other comic book films, not small. We ultimately made the movie for $60 million, but at Warner Bros. or at DC, that's like an independent film to them. So we kept it so under the radar and so small that in some way, it felt like...not a can't-lose, but like, 'okay what could we really lose on this if it’s a disaster and nobody wants to see it, if it’s boring?' So they let us go and do it."

A sequel to Joker is supposedly in the works at Warner Bros. now. In the film, which just hit digital video on demand services, Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, who descends into madness and emerges as the clown-faced killer known as the Joker. The film also stars Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, and Marc Maron.

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The film proved polarizing with critics. ComicBook.com's Brandon Davis calls the film a masterpiece is his 5-star review, writing, "Whether or not Joker is a social commentary on issues such as poverty or mental illness, a new and mysterious take on the best known DC Comics villain, or just another unforgettable piece of cinema which producer Martin Scorsese [was] attached to, you’ll need to see to believe it and, even then, you still might not believe it."

Upcoming DC Films movies include Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) on February 7, 2020, Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5, 2020, The Batman on June 25, 2021, The Suicide Squad on August 6, 2021, and Aquaman 2 on December 16, 2022.

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