'Joker' director reveals 'hurdles' he faced making it R-rated film as final trailer lands

Ben Arnold
Contributor

Persuading family-orientated major studios to make adult-rated superhero movies is every bit as tricky as you might think.

Todd Phillips, who's made the forthcoming Joker movie with Joaquin Phoenix - watch the new trailer above - has revealed that it took him a whole year of negotiations to convince Warner Bros to let him make his dark 'vision'.

He told the Los Angeles Times: “There were emails about: 'You realise we sell Joker pyjamas at Target'.

“There were a zillion hurdles, and you just sort of had to navigate those one at a time… At the time I would curse them in my head every day. But then I have to put it in perspective and go, ‘They’re pretty bold that they did this.’”

Joaquin Phoenix as Joker. (Warner Bros.)

Producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff added: “There were some hiccups trying to get the green light and there were some concerns about some of the content.

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“But once we locked and loaded our budget, they really gave us a tremendous amount of space to do what we needed to do. The passion Todd has for this movie is palpable, and when he starts talking about it he’s hard to say no to. At the end of the day, he got to make the movie he wanted to make.”

Director Todd Phillips speaks during Warner Bros. Pictures "The Big Picture" exclusive presentation during CinemaCon, 2019. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/WireImage)

Though there are increasing numbers of R-rated comic book movies, pioneered by the likes of Sam Raimi's Darkman in 1990, through Zack Snyder's Watchmen to Deadpool, studios seriously limit their audience - and in turn profits - by making them.

According to the advisory information from the Motion Picture Association of America, the movie is rated R for ‘bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and sex’.

The final poster for Joker. (Warner Bros.)

Meanwhile, Phillips, known for making mostly comedy movies, including the Hangover trilogy, said that his references for the Joker film were movies including Taxi Driver, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Serpico and The King of Comedy.

“The movies that I grew up loving, these character studies from the ’70s, you couldn’t get those movies made in this climate,” he added.

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“I said to myself, ‘What if you did a movie in that vein, but made it about [comic book] characters?’”

Featuring Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy and Marc Maron, and starring Phoenix as failing comedian Arthur Fleck, it lands in the UK on 4 October.