Joker director Todd Phillips says he was inspired by a crop of mostly 1970s-era character studies that made him want to take a “deep dive” into the fractured mind of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix).
“There’s a ton of specific inspirations we had for this movie,” Phillips said. “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.” In addition to the aforementioned Scorsese-helmed movies, the director cites such character-driven ’70s films as Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sidney Lumet’s Serpico.
“Movies from these great character studies that they don’t do as much nowadays as they did in the late ’70s, whether it was Cuckoo’s Nest, or Taxi Driver, or Serpico, or Raging Bull, of course, King of Comedy,” Phillips continued. “Marty was doing a ton back then. And even things like The Man Who Laughs [from 1928]. I mean, we were watching a lot of musicals, [co-writer] Scott [Silver] and I, when we were writing [Joker].”
Phillips, who is best known for helming the blockbuster comedy Hangover trilogy, said later he “never really saw [Joker] as that big of a departure for me, personally.”
“It’s different tonally than a lot of the films I’ve done before, but ultimately to me, it’s kind of all storytelling, it’s all a beginning, middle and an end,” Phillips said. “But I was definitely influenced by the movies that I grew up on, these great character studies of the ‘70s. And kept thinking, ‘Well, why can’t you do a genre film in the comic book world like that, and really do a deep dive on a character like Joker?’ And if you get a great actor and great people behind it, we could really do something special.”
Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Douglas Hodge, Marc Maron, Josh Pais and Shea Whigham. The film arrives in theaters Oct. 4.