Joker producer Bradley Cooper boarded the "bold" DC Comics movie to work with "auteur" filmmaker Todd Phillips, who approached Cooper with the project after directing Cooper across three Hangover movies. An R-rated standalone unfurling the origin of Batman's infamous archenemy, Joker was the opportunity for Cooper and company to explore and humanize the comic book supervillain as downtrodden and depressed wannabe comedian Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix). Phillips approached studio Warner Bros. with a pitch for villain-centric label DC Black — intended to explore "down-and-dirty character studies" starring DC Comics villains — and the pitch was an easy sell for Cooper, who previously produced the Phillips-directed War Dogs.
"Todd called me and said, 'I have this crazy idea for this sort of alternate version of DC, and the first one is the origin story of Joker,'" Cooper says in Joker: Vision & Fury, a making-of featurette included in the film's home release special features. "I thought, 'This is just so bold.'"
Adds Phoenix, "Todd has a very unique way of looking at things. And nobody could have made this movie but Todd."
Joker is a "wonderful exploration" of the character, says Cooper, who years earlier received a drawing from Phillips depicting Phoenix's Joker on the subway — before Phoenix was ever enlisted to star.
"To take, probably, the most famous two-dimensional villain who we've watched just wreak havoc in so many forms — whether it's the comic book, a television series, or various films — to say, 'Okay, what happens if we humanize this person? And let's see what could be the possible causes,'" Cooper says.
And on Phillips, Cooper notes the director is "viciously smart."
"And his willingness to just go outside of any boundary and tell the story that he wants to tell, it's very hard to put him in a box. I mean, the first thing he did was a documentary about GG Allin," he says. "And I think once you become notable as a comedic director, a lot of people definitely see you as just that. But I've always known he's an auteur."
When explaining his own attraction towards Joker, Phillips admits, "I just love bad guys."
"It's fun to say, 'Why is he like that? What made him like that?' And that's ultimately the goal of the movie," he continues. "It's not this gigantic statement on the world today, and there is stuff thematically in there, but really, it's 'What makes somebody that way?' And the Joker, I just liked his sense of mayhem and chaos."
Joker is available to own on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray January 7. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.