An introduction included in the Joker script penned by director Todd Phillips and co-writer Scott Silver definitively answers whether or not the film, set in grimy and gritty early-'80s Gotham City, exists in the same world as other DC Comics films. Phillips earlier revealed Joker was intended to stand separate from any and all other DC universes, and his film was part of a pitch for a side label — tentatively called “DC Black” — where filmmakers could make “character study, low-rent, low-budget movies” acting as a “deep dive” into various DC Comics supervillains. As Phillips said when presenting the film at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier in the year, Joker was “never meant to connect, so I don’t see it connecting to anything in the future.”
Phillips and Silver make it clear the film is a standalone in the second introduction page of the Joker shooting script, writing:
This story takes place in its own universe. It has no connection to any of the DC films that have come before it. We see it as a classic Warner Bros. movie. Gritty, intimate and oddly funny, the characters live in the real world and the stakes are personal. Although it is never mentioned in the film, this story takes place in the past. Let's call it 1981. It's a troubled time. The crime rate in Gotham is at record highs. A garbage strike has crippled the city for the past six weeks. And the divide between the "haves" and the "havenots" is palpable. Dreams are beyond reach, slipping into delusions.
The filmmaker previously revealed he anticipated studio Warner Bros. to express concerns audiences might be confused by multiple iterations of the character existing at the same time, namely Joaquin Phoenix's grounded-in-reality Joker and the more outlandish and comic book-ish gangster clown portrayed by Jared Leto in Suicide Squad.
“I went to Warners because I knew that there would be concerns about, how do you separate it from the movies that they were making?” Phillips told Deadline’s Behind The Lens. “I knew they were going to go, ‘We’re going to confuse the audience if you have this Joker out there in these movies, and then you’re doing this whole other thing.’ So my pitch to them was actually to start a label, which was a little aggressive, I’ll admit, in hindsight [laughs].”
When making his pitch for a villain-centric label, Phillips said DC Black’s “down-and-dirty character studies” would stand wholly separate from the DC Extended Universe, the mainstream line of films home to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa’s Aquaman.0comments
“I said, ‘This will be the first movie, and then we’ll get this director to do that, and this director to do this, and we’ll call it DC Black, and Joker will be the first film,’” Phillips explained. “In a weird way, it gives you two bites of the apple, of these characters. You can do these kind of down-and-dirty character studies over here, and still do the DC Universe over there. To which they said, ‘Okay, calm down, you’re not starting a label here at Warners, but this is interesting. Go write this and tell us what you’re thinking.’”
Joker is available to own on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Jan. 7.