It wasn’t supposed to be this way: No Time to Die, Wonder Woman 1984, and Sonic the Hedgehog were all originally scheduled to come out during November 2019 before being moved. “Since nothing of equal or greater value took their place, there was a huge hole in the overall marketplace,” Forbes reports. “Yes, in a skewed way, Wonder Woman 1984 moving from November 1, 2019, to June 5, 2020, is part of what helped Joker cross $1 billion. Ditto the lack of the 007 actioner or the Sonic adaptation.” If Joker had legitimate opposition, not Motherless Brooklyn, its week-to-week hold wouldn’t be as strong it made over $11 million during its sixth week of release, which is very good:
Long before “Joker” became both the highest-grossing R-rated movie in history and the most profitable comic book film ever made, all anyone could talk about was whether or not the film would incite violence among certain moviegoers. The debate became deafening in between the movie’s Venice premiere and October 4 theatrical release. In one infamous interview, “Joker” star Joaquin Phoenix walked out of the room when asked about the film potentially inciting violence because he was not yet prepared to answer the question. In a new interview with the Los Angeles Times, Phoenix admits the controversy blindsided him.
While Phoenix discussed the “Joker” violence debate in an IGN interview published shortly before the movie’s theatrical opening, the actor mostly stayed out of the months-long conversation. LA Times writer Josh Rottenberg reports that “based on [Phoenix’s] own research into the type of people who commit assassinations and mass shootings, he feared that lending credence and media oxygen to the debate might do more to inspire some disturbed would-be killer to try to grab the limelight than a film about a fictional character ever would on its own.”
“It was an awkward position to be in,” Phoenix told the Times. “Because I thought, 'Well, I can't address this because this is the thing that is potentially part of the problem — that's precisely what you shouldn't do.' So it suddenly seemed like I was being evasive and trying to avoid this topic because it made me uncomfortable. But really I was thinking, 'This is the very thing that would excite this kind of personality.'”
Outside of some “Joker” screenings in Los Angeles and Paris that were cancelled or delayed because of suspicious threats and/or activity, the film did not cause the mass violent mayhem some critics feared. Instead, the film has been widely embraced by moviegoers around the world. Phoenix’s Joker face makeup has even popped up at government protests in Chile, Lebanon, Hong Kong, and more.
“It's amazing that a movie that was supposed to inspire, as they put it, mass mayhem really has just inspired a bunch of people dancing down staircases,” “Joker” director Todd Phillips told the Times, referring to the Bronx staircase that has become a popular tourist attraction because of its significance in the film. “I think that speaks more to our times than anything.”
Before agreeing to star in one of the most profitable comic book movies ever made, Joaquin Phoenix famously passed on Marvel’s Doctor Strange and poo-pooed the idea of working in such huge genre franchises. Now, between the Todd Phillips-directed film’s growing list of accolades and all the critical praise that’s been heaped on Phoenix for his performance, it seems the actor has become far less picky - at least when it comes to massive tentpoles based on popular characters from comic books. Hell, he’s even jokingly willing to adapt the Road Runner from Looney Tunes.
In a new interview with the Los Angeles Times, Phoenix opened up about his past aversion to starring in comic book-based properties and where he stands now. “I’m open to anything,” he says. “I will consider a live-action version of Road Runner.” Obviously, the actor is joking - unless he’s not, which would be weird and awesome and potentially give Sonic the Hedgehog a run for its gold coins. Even so, it seems that, in retrospect, Phoenix has come to a far more mature understanding of his craft and the business it’s based in.
“I remember, like eight years ago, I was told, ‘Movies are changing. They’re not making the movies that you want to make, so you’ve got to do one of these,'” he recalls of his mindset prior to accepting Phillips’s Joker pitch. “It makes sense. It probably is a good strategy. But for me, I guess the fear was that you’d get locked into doing something repeatedly that you don’t really care about, that doesn’t motivate you or excite you.”
As for his willingness to “get locked into” doing more Joker films, Phoenix is open to the idea. He and Phillips have spoken about the prospect in previous interviews, and when the Los Angeles Times asked them both about it again, they remained optimistic. “In the second or third week of shooting, I was like, ‘Todd, can you start working on a sequel? There’s way too much to explore,'” the actor recalls. “It was kind of in jest - but not really.” As for the director, he notes it “would have to have some thematic resonance in a similar way that this does.”
Parasite isn’t just one of the best movies of the year — it’s also a box office hit.
Bong Joon-ho’s darkly comedic thriller, which you’ll want to read everything about and then make Ram-Don, has grossed over $11 million in North America, with an expected “stateside endgame” of around $20 million, according to Deadline. That may not sound like much, not when Avengers: Endgame made over $858 million domestically and Godzilla: King of the Monsters remember that movie? is considered a flop because it “only” earned $110 million. But Parasite is working on a different scale, and for a foreign language film from an indie distributor Neon, it’s doing extremely well.
“ Parasite’s current haul is the year’s highest for any non-English-language film in the US,” reports the Guardian, which notes that although it won’t come close to the all-time record Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which made an insane $128 million, “the milestone is enough to seal the Palme d’Or winner’s status as an international arthouse phenomenon.” Parasite has earned an additional $103 million internationally, including Joon-ho’s native South Korea, good for a box office haul of $115 million. And counting.
So, if Parasite is a criticial and financial hit, that means it’s going to do well at the Oscars, right? About that: a South Korean film has never been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, now called Best International Feature Film, let alone Best Picture, where it’s extremely tough for an international film to be recognized only 11 have been nominated, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and they all lost. But Alfonso Cuarón’s exquisite Roma made the cut earlier this year, even if it eventually lost to Green Book, and it’s possible Parasite, the “most 2019 film of 2019,” could be next.
Give Jessica the Academy Award for Best Original Song, at least.
Knock like you own the place. #Parasite star Park So Dam teaches us the Jessica Jingle, now available to download at https://t.co/uN1olvIz56. pic.twitter.com/4FNHS76o0S
If there’s one thing you can say for certain about Joker, it’s that it certainly looks cinematic. Director Todd Phillips and cinematographer Lawrence Sher drew inspiration from several classic ’70s films to form the look and feel of their villain origin story, particularly Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. But one thing they could not imitate from that era was the celluloid film the movies were shot on. However, Sher reveals that the original plan for Joker was to shoot the film in 70mm film — before those plans were shot down by Warner Bros.
Like the majority of films produced today, Joker was shot on digital — which makes the plans to re-release the Joaquin Phoenix-starring film in 70mm across the country a little awkward. But if Sher and Phillips’ original plans had originally gone through, that theatrical re-release would make a little more sense.
In an interview with Variety, Sher revealed that he and Phillips originally planned to shoot the film in 70mm, emulating the ’70s films that are such a major inspiration on Joker. But Warner Bros. executives “quashed” those plans, Variety reported.
However, Sher and Phillips didn’t give up on their celluloid dreams. According to IndieWire, when Sher and Phillips’ 70mm plans were shot down, they eyed a 35mm shoot — keeping Joker on film, even if they lost the large format scope. “Todd was really adamant about shooting film, convinced we’d just shoot 35mm like we did on his previous films,” Sher told IndieWire last month. “We drove around to three or four different places around [New York City] and captured imagery with no lighting in both [35mm film and Arri Alexa 65 formats]. And when we looked at them side by side, we really loved the large-format aspect of the 65.”
However, these 35mm plans didn’t pan out either, and Sher and Phillips ended up settling on the digital Alexa 65 for their desired look. It ended up being a success for Joker, which recently set box office records as the most profitable comic book movie of all time.
Another popular “Joker” fan theory has been solved, kind of. In a new interview with the Los Angeles Times, Joaquin Phoenix shares his belief that his version of the Joker character is the real Joker that ends up becoming the infamous Batman villain. Many fans have questioned whether or not Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck is the Joker as seen in decades of Batman mythology. “Joker” director Todd Phillips stoked the fan theory earlier this year by telling the Times, “Maybe Joaquin's character inspired the Joker. You don’t really know.”
“Joker” fans took Phillips’ comment and searched for clues in the film to figure out whether or not Arthur Fleck actually becomes the Batman villain. Some follow-up theories claim the “real Joker” was part of the violent riot that broke out in Gotham after Arthur shot Robert De Niro’s Murray Franklin dead on national television. Other theories allege the real Joker arrives years later as a copycat admirer of Arthur. These theories are not true as far as Phoenix is concerned, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable.
The LA Times reports: “For the record, Phoenix says, he does personally believe that Fleck is the actual Joker. ‘But I don't know,’ he adds with a wry smile. ‘It's just my opinion.'”
For Phoenix, watching “Joker” fans dive into the story’s ambiguities has been one of the best parts about the movie’s overwhelming reception around the world. “It's been super interesting how people react to the movie and what they see — and to me, all of those answers are valid,” he said. “Normally you have to answer those questions. But this really is participatory and interactive. It's up to the audience.”
Phoenix continued, “That's so rare, especially with a big studio movie, and I don't want to ruin that by saying, 'No, this is what it is.' To me, there are so many different ways to view this character and his experience that I don't think you can come up with a particular meaning.”
“Joker” is nearing the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office and has already become both the highest grossing R-rated release in box office history and the most profitable comic book film ever made. Phoenix says he didn’t expect the movie to be this successful with audiences.
“I don't know if I had any expectation,” Phoenix said. “Honestly, Todd and I were just trying to make something that didn't end our careers.”
“Joker” continues to play in theaters nationwide. Head over to the LA Times’ website to read Phoenix’s latest interview in its entirety.