Joaquin Phoenix’s failed comedian Arthur Fleck can’t help but laugh in three new Joker critics TV spots, above, released after the Todd Phillips-directed drama premiered to rave reactions late last month at the Venice Film Festival, where the DC Comics-inspired film was awarded the prestigious Golden Lion. Fresh footage, not seen in either theatrical trailer, shows Fleck — who suffers from a neurological disorder that makes break out into uncontrollable laughter — heckled and assaulted by Wall Street types on the subway before the makeup-wearing “freak” relishes in the madness unleashed on Gotham City, stirred by its rebellious new icon: the Joker.
“There’s a ton of specific inspirations we had for this movie. Taxi Driver, obviously, is one of my favorite movies, but it’s not directly that. I think it’s more a time period of movies,” Phillips said at the festival when detailing the mostly ‘70s-era character studies that inspired Joker. “Movies from these great character studies that they don’t do as much nowadays as they did in the late ‘70s, whether it was [One Flew Over the] Cuckoo’s Nest, or Taxi Driver, or Serpico, or Raging Bull, of course, King of Comedy. [Martin Scorsese] was doing a ton back then. And even things like [1928 silent film] The Man Who Laughs — I mean, we were watching a lot of musicals, Scott [Silver] and I, when we were writing it.”
Phillips later said a difference in philosophy is the biggest point of separation between Phoenix’s Joker and Heath Ledger’s take on the famed Batman villain in 2008’s The Dark Knight.
“I don’t think it was this Joker’s goal to watch the world burn. This Joker had an entirely different goal in mind,” Phillips said in Venice. “In the beginning of the movie he’s sitting here doing this [forcing himself to smile and frown] in the very first scene, and it’s a guy searching for identity.”
“I think he becomes, mistakenly, a symbol, and really what he was looking for was adulation. He was never looking for the world to burn, this Joker,” Phillips continued. “As for the past ones, that’s a different thing. But our guy, that wasn’t his goal.”
Following strong reviews, early box office tracking has Joker pacing for an opening in the neighborhood of $90 million, according to Deadline. If reached, that number would top Sony’s Venom as the highest October opening of all time; the PG-13 Spider-Man spinoff won $80.2 million when it opened October 5 in 2018. Weeks later, Universal and Blumhouse’s R-rated Halloween won the second-best October debut with $76.2 million.
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy and Robert De Niro, Joker opens October 4.