Scorsese Talks Passing on Joker, Phillips Discusses Follow-Up Motivations

Joker, which is nearing $1 billion at the box office, may have been directed by Todd Phillips but everything about it screams Martin Scorsese. Not only did the film borrow heavily from Scorsese’s early works like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy in terms of it’s story, but Scorsese’s regular collaborator Emma Tillinger Koskoff produced the film alongside Scorsese himself. So, it’s no surprise that when the first rumors of a stand-alone Joker movie began circulating years ago, it was believed Scorsese might direct as well. As it turns out, Scorsese was offered the opportunity to direct and opted out. In a recent interview with The BBC during the press tour for his new film The Irishman, he explains why, ultimately using some of the reasons he recently gave for his distaste for superhero films:

I know the film very well. I know [director Todd Phillips] very well. My producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff produced it. I thought about it a lot over the last four years and decided I did not have the time for it. It was personal reasons why I didn’t get involved. But I know the script very well. It has a real energy and Joaquin [Phoenix]. You have remarkable work.

For me, ultimately, I don’t know if I make the next step into this character developing into a comic book character. You follow? He develops into an abstraction. It doesn’t mean it’s bad art, it’s just not for me…The superhero films, as I’ve said, are another art form. They are not easy to make. There’s a lot of very talented people doing good work and a lot of young people really, really enjoy them.

The irony of course being that, despite this, Joker has been highly acclaimed with buzz around Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, some even thinking he is the frontrunner for Best Actor at the Academy Awards next year. And with the $1 billion marker being approached, it’s also no surprise that in this same time frame, Phillips spoke with The Los Angeles Times recently, confirming that while no official plans have been made, him and Phoenix would return for a follow-up with the usual motivations…a worthwhile story:

We haven’t talked about it a ton. We’ve only talked about the fact that if we ever did one – and I’m not saying we are because right now we’re not – it couldn’t just be this wild and crazy movie about the “Clown Prince of Crime.” That just doesn’t interest us. It would have to have some thematic resonance in a similar way that this does.

I think that’s ultimately why the movie connected, outside of all the noise and mishegoss of the last month and a half. I think the reason why it’s resonating is what’s going on underneath the movie. So many movies are about the spark, and this movie is about the powder. If you could capture that again in a real way, that would be interesting.

For now, there is no official word for a Joker 2 and it’s also been confirmed it won’t link with Matt Reeves’ The Batman. Stay tuned!