Martin Scorsese’s mystery role in developing Joker has been revealed, and reportedly he was originally looking to direct. With a $96 million opening weekend, Todd Phillips’ Joker is officially a box office smash. A dark and gritty take on the classic Batman villain, Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix as a new version of the character that is not based on any prior comic book, film or television iteration.
Much indeed has been made about the way Joker deviates from other cinematic takes on the character, veering far away from the super-hammy version presented by Jack Nicholson, and even the mysterious anarchist Joker as played by Heath Ledger (and certainly, it is nothing like Jared Leto’s gangsta-Joker from Suicide Squad). This version of Joker in fact owes more to the cinema of Martin Scorsese than to DC Comics, as Phillips draws upon Scorsese’s films Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy to craft a character who like Taxi Driver's psychotic cabbie Travis Bickle finds himself at odds with society, but ultimately creates a new and empowering persona for himself, who achieves notoriety like King of Comedy's Rupert Pupkin. Indeed, Phillips even recruited Bickle and Pupkin actor Robert De Niro to play a key part in Joker.
As it happens, Scorsese himself was originally involved in developing Joker at Warner Bros., though his exact role in the movie was never revealed. Now though, it’s been reported by THR that Scorsese initially signed on to the project as a producer and was at one time thinking about directing as well, until Phillips came along and took over, at which point Scorsese walked away. However, Scorsese’s reps deny this version of events, saying he never considered directing the project and only contemplated producing. Ultimately, Scorsese’s name was taken off the project entirely.
While clarifying Scorsese’s role in Joker, THR’s report also debunks an early rumor claiming the director was enlisted in an attempt to lure his frequent collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio to the project. Whatever interest Scorsese may have had in developing the movie as a possible directorial vehicle, it’s clear that Warners soon fell in love with Phillips’ take on the Joker and Scorsese was left free to focus on his mob epic The Irishman, which ended up sharing both De Niro and a large chunk of its New York crew with Joker.
That Scorsese might have initially considered getting on board a DC movie is of course interesting in light of his recent comments about superhero movies not being real “cinema,” comments that elicited strong responses from MCU stalwarts Robert Downey Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson (the latter of whom actually worked for Scorsese, playing Stacks in Goodfellas). Regardless of how deep Scorsese’s actual involvement in Joker went, it’s clear his work heavily influenced Phillips' vision. Even without his name on the movie, Scorsese’s fingerprints are all over Joker.
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
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- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
- DC Super Pets (2022) release date: May 20, 2022
- Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022