As 2019 comes to an end, Joker will be remembered as more than just a risky film venture that DC and Warner Bros. pulled off - it was a bonafide cultural phenomenon, for better and for worse. Now that Joker is the most profitable comic book movie of all time - and an awards season contender - the film is definitely getting a second look. As fans (and newcomers) take a deeper look at everything director Todd Phillips fit into the film, we're getting a lot of new and interesting reveals of Easter eggs and other references.
One particular theme in Joker that DC fans have been pretty keen about, it's the multiple references to other Joker performances. Of that esteemed tradition, Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning turn from The Dark Knight still reigns as the most iconic, and Joker honors that multiple times. Fans have already applauded moments like Joaquin Phoenix's cop car ode to Ledger's Joker, but this latest one is something that most viewers definitely missed:
As you can see, Todd Phillips (ever the comedian himself) managed to sneak in more than a few imagery odes to Ledger's Joker. This one is especially good, as it not only references Ledger's Joker makeup, but also references the iconic scene where Ledger's Joker demolishes Gotham General Hospital, while dressed as a nurse.
While Warner Bros. gave Chris Nolan full backing for his version of Joker in The Dark Knight, Todd Phillips had a much different experience making Joker. As Phillips recently revealed during an interview with filmmaker Michael Moore, Warner Bros.' former boss was a major hurdle:
"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."
As stated the gamble paid off, and now Joker and Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck / Joker character are the ones becoming the iconography that fans flock to and invoke in cosplay, art, etc. At this point, it almost wouldn't be right if Matt Reeves' upcoming Batman reboot The Batman didn't make reference to Joker in some way!
Joker is now in theaters. Upcoming DC 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. The Flash is set to go into production in 2021.