Martin Scorsese created a stir earlier this year when he said that Marvel Studios films aren't cinema. Instead, he compared films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to theme park rides. Scorsese was involved in the early stages of production on Warner Bros.'s Joker, a film based on the DC Comics supervillain that opened in October of this year. Scorsese and Joker director Todd Phillips were both participants in The Hollywood Reporter's 2019 directors roundtable, and Scorsese's comments became part of the conversation. Phillips says he understands where Scorsese was coming from, especially after having gone through the process of getting Joker made.
"Marty got a lot of heat for [what he said], but I understand it fully," Phillips said. "We were struggling to get Joker made, which sounds funny because it exists in the superhero world, but it's really not one of those movies. We spent a year at Warner Bros., and I saw emails back and forth, literally, where they said, 'Does he realize we sell Joker pajamas at Target?' I go, 'Didn't movies come first and pajamas come second? Are the pajamas dictating the movies?' Theme park rides. Pajamas. Slurpee cups. Whatever it is that you are selling off the back of movies, you can't make your decisions based on that."
Phillips went on to describe how he had to work through the system at Warner Bros. to get Joker made, revealing how he differentiates Joker from Marvel Studios films. "Yeah, one by one. The problem at Warners was, the regimes changed so often," Phillips said. "You finally get everybody on board and all of a sudden they are gone and now you are starting over. And when you start over, sometimes people don't like to inherit stuff from other people. But luckily, the head of marketing, Blair Rich, really championed it, got that it was an anti-comic book movie, so to speak. And in fairness to Warners, it's a bold swing for a studio to take."
Phillips was just nominated for a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director - Motion Picture, one of four nominations for Joker. In an interview following the announcement, he commented about the news, mentioning that it's too early to talk about a potential sequel. "When I first pitched this movie to Warner Bros., I never thought about nominations or grosses. I was just thinking how we would push this through to achieve a finished product. As for why audiences were drawn to the film, it was a combination of things: obviously Joaquin and his performance, it was so immersive and he really dove into what he was doing. I used to joke with the DP during the shoot that rather than some massive visual effects, Joaquin was that special effect for us. Before we started shooting, I really knew how invested he was in this role and knew we possibly had something very special ahead of us. As for a sequel, it's way too early [to tell]. I swear I haven't even talked to Joaquin about that yet or what that would even be."
Joker is now playing in theaters.